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Ragged University: Music, Mathematics and the Harmony of the Spheres by Hugh Peters

5th June 2018 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
The Castle Hotel
66 Oldham St
M4 1LE
Ragged University: Music, Mathematics and the Harmony of the Spheres by Hugh Peters @ The Castle Hotel

You are invited to the open event at The Castle Hotel  (66 Oldham St, Manchester, M4 1LE) on the 5th June 2018 from 7pm to 10pm to enjoy a talk, some food and some music.  It is an open door event, no tickets required; just come along, put your feet up and bring your friends.  Hugh Peters will be taking us on a journey through the history of music…


Music, mathematics and the harmony of the spheres by Hugh Peters

The Scientific Revolution, occurring in very broad terms between 1550 and 1750, is generally regarded as leading to the replacement of ‘magical thinking’ by the ‘scientific method’. This can however be seen as a much more ambivalent process, in which beliefs fluctuated and co-existed with each other, even in the minds of major scientists such as Newton and Hooke. Both these thinkers were profoundly influenced by the traditions of alchemy, astrology and the idea of sympathetic resonances throughout nature.

While mathematics certainly came to the fore in this period as the ‘language’ of science, this happened partly because of the ‘mystical’ belief persisting from the time of Pythagoras that numbers underlay the structure of everything in the cosmos. Further, music, in the form of ‘harmonic theory’, was a major factor in both practical investigations of and theorising about matter and material phenomena.

In this entertaining and non-technical talk, Hugh Peters explores 16th and 17th century thought, drawing on the work of Newton, Hooke and others and addresses the subjects of the ‘music of the spheres’ and the origins of Newton’s Principia. The speaker is an accomplished musician and will illustrate some of the concepts on the classical guitar.



The talk will cover:

  • The transition from ‘magical thinking’ to ‘empirical science’ 16th to 18th centuries.
  • The role of ‘harmonic theory’ in stimulating scientific practice and theory.
  • How innovation in music paralleled scientific developments.
  • How tuning and temperament, harmony and dissonance work.
  • Major scientists like Newton and Hooke dallied with music, and magical thinking informed Newton’s magnum opus, the Principia Mathematica.


A few paragraphs about Hugh:

I am a musician and mathematician who has worked for some time in community arts, further and higher education and as a gigging musician in the northwest of England. I am based in Manchester. I have performed with my own projects at the Manchester Jazz Festival in 2010 and 2016, the latter project being called Zamani. I currently work as an academic support tutor in the school of computing and engineering at the University of Huddersfield.

My interests include many kinds of music, the arts in general and science past, present and future. I am very interested in the common ground between artists and scientists in terms of observing nature accurately and applying creativity to what we observe. I am interested in promoting better public understanding of science in general and awareness of climate change in particular.

I am an experienced guitarist in various styles, especially classical guitar and jazz. Favourite guitarists include Julian Bream, George Benson, Pat Metheny and Jonathan Butler. I also play electric bass and piano. I compose music which combines elements of jazz, contemporary African influences and orchestral music.