The Beatles wanted take us on a magical mystery tour. On Feb. 8 the WVU Department of Mathematics would like the public to join in a musical mystery tour of its own.

The opening chord to “A Hard Day’s Night” is famous because, for 40 years, no one knew exactly what chord George Harrison was playing. It took mathematician Jason Brown, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Dalhousie University, to figure out the exact notes and instrumentation using a formula called Fourier transform.

Brown is currently using math to determine which Beatle really wrote “In My Life.” Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon claimed authorship, and Brown aims to use mathematics to prove which musician actually composed the song.

Brown will take a break from this research to present “The Mathematics behind the Music” on Monday, Feb. 8 in Ming Hsieh Hall, room G21.

“Brown’s work really shows that mathematics and music are truly universal languages,” said Eddie Fuller, chair of the WVU mathematics department.

“He makes math accessible and fun for people of all ages and walks of life,” Fuller added.

Brown’s work on more than 60 research articles and his book, “Our Days Are Numbered,” has garnered him media attention on both a national and international stage in such well-known media outlets as CBC, BBC, Guitar Player Magazine, NPR radio and the websites of Wired and the Wall Street Journal.

In his lecture, he will be discussing different types of mathematical techniques that are relevant to musicians. This includes derivation of the blues and graph colorings, the musical art of being ambiguous (or not), and musical and mathematical transformations among others.

“The ancient Greeks elevated both [mathematics and music] to the same level,” said Brown. “And even the most unschooled rock musician uses more mathematics than he or she realizes.”

For more information, contact Eddie Fuller, chair of the mathematics department, at 304-293-2011×2322 or via e-mail at



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