Playing with numbers and finding the music in math

All music students learn the basics of quarter notes, arpeggios and chords, while tagnets, cosines and waveforms remain in the real of math. Math professor and independent musician Gerry Kamin sees the two as interchangeable.

“There is a very deep relationship between math and music going to the heart of both of them,” Kamin said. “In music, the fundamental thing is the note, and what is a note but a wave form, it’s a sign wave so in the most fundamental sense math and music have a deep deep relationship.”

Kamin has been teaching math for twelve years now and has been involved with music since he was 4-years-old. He is originally from Windsor, Ontario, but grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.

While currently a math professor at Pierce and an independent musician at home, Kamin has had an obsession with both of his passions at an early age, but it was when he was working on towards his neuroscience that he really saw how the two were intertwined. 

“I was fascinated by mathematical models of how the brain works including when you listen to music,” Kamin said. Your ear literally dissects the music into its component sign, wave, and cosine waveforms, in studying the brain, I got very interested in mathematical models.”

However, Kamin first wanted to get into music when he was a child, after seeing a special broadcast of The Ed Sullivan show.

“The first appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show back in the 1960’s, believe it or not that was the reason a lot of people became musicians,” Kamin said. “At the time it had a massive impact on people, including me as a very young kid.” 

But it wasn’t only has Kamin’s passion for music that pushed him to start playing instruments, but also his parents. 

“I come from a family where you were just expected to learn instruments at a very early age, it was a requirement,” Kamin said. “So I learned through taking lessons that I was forced to do, then as I got into my teenage years I started pursuing music that I loved rather than was I was forced to play.” 

Kamin started off playing the piano, but then took an interest in playing guitar when he was 17. The Detroit area itself may have also supported his passion for playing music. 

“I was in the Detroit area which was a really big music town back in those days, thats where Motown was so a lot of the great artists of that era came out of that area,” Kamin explains. “Detroit was really the musical center and was considered the rock n roll capital of the world back then.”

Kamin creates rock music like he believes many musicians do, by creating music that relates back to the era they grew up in. 

“Listening to my music, you definitely get the feel of 70’s kind of psychedelic , Hendrix, Led Zeppelin type of rock n roll,” Kamin said. “That’s the era I came out of and that was the music I was into at that time.” 

Aside from the drums, Kamin plays all the instruments that are included in his music. Many of his pieces include vocals but he says he rarely sings his own stuff so usually other people are doing the vocals. But when he isn’t recording, Kamin is happy to  just play his guitar everyday. 

“I play every night and that’s really the highlight of my day,” Kamin said. “It’s at the end of the day to get my guitar out and play for an hour. Some nights you play better than others and some nights when you’re really just feeling like you’re on fire is an amazing feeling just to participate in the creative process.”

While he may play a lot, Kamin also spends a lot of time listening to other artists’ music as well. He has a youtube channel that acts as a sort of library of bands and artists that he likes. 

“I really love the era from 1966 to 68’, however I think there’s an amazing amount of good music right now and there has been for the last 4 years,” Kamin said. “I’m as much a music listener as I am a player. I love music, I love seeing live music and I love listening to it and I continue to do so.” 

As dedicated as Kamin is to music, teaching is also incredibly important to him. Math department chair Edouard Tchertchian talks about how passionate Kamin seems to be about teaching. 

“He seems to like teaching a lot, I’ve walked by his room before and he’s always very enthusiastic,” Tchertchian said. “ Always very energetic he’s keeping the students engaged, moving around and doing all kinds of things, I think he really enjoys what he does.”

Tchertchian does not understate Kamin’s value to the math department, and considers him a very passionate professor. 

“I think he’s a very dedicated instructor who cares for his students and an instructor that likes trying different things and staying up to date so it’s good to have him in the department,” Tchertchian said. 

Kamin didn’t always think he would end up teaching, but he’s developed a love for working with all kinds of different kids. 

“I was planning on a music career but things don’t always work out as planned,” Kamin said. “I needed to make money and I love teaching and I love interacting with kids so it was natural thing to start teaching.” 

Nerissa Cambel, a student of Kamin’s, has also noticed how Kamin has discussed the relationship between math and music in the classroom. 

“He’s a really funny teacher and great at teaching,” Cambel said. “He says that math is like music because with music you need to learn it with your own fingers just like math. How you have to do it over and over again in order for you to memorize it.” 

Kamin’s music is currently available on all streaming sites including Spotify, Apple Music, GooglePlay etc. under Gerry Kamin, as well as his website www.gerrykamin.com