I made a playlist for Shape, which is coming out in just five days!
All these songs have something to do with geometry or with the book. A few notes:
- “Shape,” BaLonely — a great band from Spokane, a guy who plays guitar and sings and his mom who plays bass.
- “Pythagorean Theorem,” The Invisible Cities. A terrific kinda-dormant-now band from San Francisco. The bass player dated somebody I knew a long time ago and one time I ran into the band at the Ferry Terminal Market and they invited me to a party at their apartment where there was a giant whole roasted pig on the table that everybody ate out of with a fork, and I talked to the bass player about how much we both admired the bassline on “Radio Free Europe.”
- “The True Wheel,” Brian Eno. Sometimes I feel this to be the greatest rock song ever made. The lyric “looking for a certain ratio” appears in Shape as a section title and Eno shows up a few other times too. “Let’s get it understood” might be a kind of motto for math itself. The topologist Benson Farb introduced me to this song.
- “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” Sylvester. Because James Joseph Sylvester appears several times in the book. Also this song can be read as a commentary on the Platonist view of geometric entities. (Is it for or against?)
- “Feed The Tree,” Belly. There’s a whole chapter about trees, and a tree on the cover. “I know all this and more.”
- “The Distance,” Cake. I don’t even like Cake that much but their ridiculous shtick worked perfectly this one time. The idea that you have to pay attention to what you mean by “distance” is central to Shape.
- “Circles,” Post Malone. Once you know what distance is you know what a circle is.
- “The Globe,” Big Audio Dynamite II. And you also know what a sphere is, and what a ball is. (“gonna have a ball tonight / down at the Globe.” “Axis spins so round and round we go” might have something to do with the quaternions.
- “Headache,” Frank Black. A lot of this song is somehow about the book. Starts out “This wrinkle in time, I can’t give it no credit / I thought about my space and it really got me down,” goes on to “I was counting the trees” as if he’s about to invoke Kirchhoff’s theorem.
- “Spiraling Shape,” They Might Be Giants. Unsurprisingly a band that has a lot of geometry songs (like the one about Triangle Man) but this is the one that’s specifically about a shape.
- “Diagonals,” Stereolab. From an album called Dots and Loops.
- “Circle,” Miles Davis. Starting a run of shapes in the plane.
- “Triangles & Rhombuses,” Boards of Canada. More shapes in the plane.
- “Meet Me In St. Louis,” Judy Garland. Written for the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, where a lot of action in the book takes place, and where Ronald Ross, Ludwig Boltzmann, and Henri Poincare all speak (but don’t all meet.)
- “Perfect Circle,” R.E.M. More shapes in the plane. “A perfect circle of acquaintances and friends” seems to refer to the social networks I talk about in chapter 13.
- “Shape of Somethings,” Moving Targets. A little punk rock right before the end of a playlist cleanses the palate.
- “Once In a Lifetime,” Talking Heads. Co-written by Eno. Quoted in the book as a depiction of gradient descent. I listened to Stop Making Sense pretty much non-stop during the training program for Math Olympiad in 1987 and it still feels joyously like math to me. Maybe only me.