March 2015 - Focus on Liverpool’s Dynamical Systems Group

Dynamical Systems Group March 2015

Back row: Stephen Worsley, Alexandre DeZotti, Dierk Schleicher, Lasse Rempe-Gillen, Liangang Ma
Front row: Mary Rees, Nada Alhabib, Emily Howard

I have been spending a lot of time with members of Liverpool’s Dynamical Systems Group, and in particular Lasse Rempe-Gillen and Alexandre DeZotti. Lasse is the lead co-ordinator for this Leverhulme Residency and it was his idea to invite me to the DMS in the first place. As well as being Professor of Pure Mathematics, he is also a good violinist and played with the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra in the world premiere performance of my work for solo piano and orchestra Mesmerism. Alexandre works with Lasse and is a Research Associate in Pure Mathematics at Liverpool. When I asked him if he could give me a very brief overview of dynamical systems he responded with the following: ‘You could say that dynamical systems theory aims to model systems which evolve in time. Their study through mathematics explains why natural phenomena such as weather and biological processes are so complex and relatively unpredictable. Also, the study of some specific theoretical dynamical systems can help solve problems in other branches in mathematics’.

On 27th March 2015, the Dynamical Systems Group held a seminar with Dierk Schleicher (Professor of Mathematics, Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany) who spoke about new research regarding an ancient procedure known as Newton’s method. Often, I find that lunch is the best place to catch some of the most rewarding exchanges, and I enjoyed being part of a conversation between Mary Rees, Lasse Rempe-Gillen and Dierk Schleicher concerning whether mathematics is exploration or creation, and particularly because the views were so divided. It is an age-old debate, but somehow experiencing it live between three leading mathematicians within the same field feels more beneficial to me than just reading about it.

Dierk also asked me directly how I create music, specifically from Lasse’s research. Now that is a really good question, and a very difficult (if not impossible) one to answer precisely. It is certainly true that already some of the ideas that I am discussing regularly with Lasse and Alexandre are being reflected in my own current work (see Leviathan Project page). However, I was keen to point out that whilst my music is often heavily informed by ideas from science and mathematics, it is never simply a sonification of these ideas. There are always many other threads of thought involved: examples that I am conscious of include ideas from poetry, the experience I have gained from writing previous compositions, help with practical ideas from instrumentalists and singers, situations in history, music that I know, books that I have read. It is the resulting collision and union of disparate ideas from diverse sources that interests me, and is essentially the crux of my creative process. 

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