SF State teacher mixes math and music
May 4, 2010 5:12 PM
In the year 2378, the world will be completely overcome with global catastrophe and climate change. Life is scarce, yet there's one unlikely place on Earth where the fight for survival is ongoing: Antarctica.
Under these cruel circumstances, women have been cryogenically frozen to preserve and protect their reproductive organs due to the extra saturation of gamma radiation. It's up to one man, Erik, to run climate simulations to find habitable locations on Earth and save mankind. The story may be fiction, but his name just happens to be the same as the creator.
This isn't an early synopsis of James Cameron's next record-breaking feature film full of social commentary, but a musical and theatrical conception written by SF State graduate teaching associate Eric Miranda, who is most likely more notable around campus for teaching than making science fiction concept albums. Yet behind his thick black-framed sun glasses and fervent affection for mathematics, Miranda is also the hand on the synthesizer for electronic duo Pistols Will Air. Their latest project, "Antarctica," aims to intertwine film, music and mathematics in an original way for the electronic music world.
"The past two years, our time's been really taken over by a project I conceived. It started off with 45 minutes of music that was thematically ice-driven," Miranda said. "I thought about it when I listened to it, and I felt that I was in the Arctic. I ended up writing a 45-minute synthesizer opera."
Resisting conventional instruments like a guitar or piano to compose his pieces, Miranda usually takes the more technological road with complex synthesizers and computer programs. The rehearsal process obviously becomes a little trickier than your typical rock band, but once a progression or melody is set, it's up to him and band mate Brodie Giles to add any final touches. Creativity is a grueling process, but Miranda is certainly excited to premiere the long-time project this June in Berlin.
"Rehearsal is me at home with analog synthesizers and I have a mini face into my computer," Miranda said. "If I set out to write a song, I'll start off a chord progression or a beat, and then I'll put the beat on. I'll email it to Brodie and he'll send it back to me and we'll play off each other. A lot of the writing process is our rehearsal."
Pistols Will Air started in 2006 and -like any band or group- is very much a time-consuming creative responsibility. But Miranda has proven that balancing his two passions of music and mathematics is a definitive reality, even if that means teaching at Skyline College, finishing up his master's thesis and applying at University of California, Berkeley for a doctorate.
"They are parallel processes," Miranda said. "I never considered being a musician and if that fails being a teacher. I was always very passionate about music and very passionate about mathematics. Throughout my life, it's been a running parallel."
Since 2004, Miranda has been teaching remedial math courses including algebra and calculus at SF State, where he has earned the respectful attention of his students for turning math into an interest rather than a nuisance. Those who sat down with the intention of rolling their eyes or yawning at every little tedious math refresher, developed a new found appreciation for numbers.
"I left the class with a different outlook on a subject that had previously left a poor taste in my mouth," junior Russell Salerno, 21, said. "This had to do with the love and enthusiasm that he applied towards his teaching method."
Students previously unaware of Miranda's artistic side find his musical venture fascinating and believe it rightfully challenges any preconceived notions of professors being one-trick ponies.
"Learning that he invested a lot of his time to making music and making films, I was pleasantly surprised," third-year student, Samantha DeSurra, 21, said. "It made him seem more well-rounded and not as detached from the world (as I've thought about most of my previous math professors)."
The relationship between math and music has long been considered legitimate and undeniably connected. Musicians have often been said to have a more natural affinity to mathematical systems. The same goes for Miranda, who simply believes that distinguishing his two passions aren't all that much different, but one in the same.
"I really believe in the processes and neurons in my mind that are affected by a mathematical thought are almost identical to that same exact path as when I listen to music," Miranda said. "When I engage in math, I can't be drunk. But when I engage in music, the drunker the better sometimes."
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University