Jon Trevelyan, University of Durham........ | Home | Teaching | Research | Publications | Personal | Links |

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When I’m away from the office I’m usually to be found doing one of the following:

Being with the family - Karen, David and Sally
Playing the guitar, banjo, piano
Doing the Guardian crossword (especially Saturday's)
Recreational C coding
Collecting mathematical puzzles

I play a steel-strung acoustic guitar, jumbo sized. It’s a Gibson copy called a Cimar I’ve had since I was 17. I play fingerpicking style, and do all the things music teachers tell you not to do, i.e. rather too frequently playing a familiar repertoire and too infrequently trying new pieces. I’ve enjoyed playing pieces by the talented Algerian/French guitarist Pierre Bensusan for a lot of years. I especially like his early material. I came across him almost by accident when I bought a cassette one day because the cover looked interesting. The drawback is that he usually uses the Celtic DADGAD tuning, which means I have to keep retuning the guitar if I don’t want to annoy the family by playing the same tunes over and over again. This in turn means a regular trip to buy top E strings because of fatigue failures in the string at the head key. More recently I have started playing a couple of pieces by the Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, at least the easier parts of the easier pieces. The pieces I play too frequently are…

Handel’s Water Music (the Bourrée, arranged for guitar by Pierre Bensusan)
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (Bach, arr. Pierre Bensusan) – just the opening part
Why Not? by guitarist Peppino d'Agostino, from one of Pierre Bensusan's tab books (but I need to use both hands!)
May You Never – a John Martyn classic (in drop D tuning) from an excellent tab in his book
Somewhere Over The Rainbow (arr. my good friend Joe Yarmus)
If You Only Knew - from Pierre Bensusan's Altiplanos album - the tab is not too difficult and is available for download very reasonably priced from his website
Heartsong (Gordon Giltrap – the open G tuning is fun but it’s quite difficult to keep flipping in and out of fingerpicking style)
Field of Eternity (Anthony Phillips – rather rare from a member of the embryonic Genesis – I picked this out from the Private Parts & Pieces album)
Willow Weep for Me (a lovely Billie Holiday song)
Silent Passenger - from Pierre Bensusan's Intuite album - the book is available
Angelina - lovely Tommy Emmanuel piece, for which the tab is available in the Endless Road book
Sanatarium Shuffle - Tommy Emmanuel piece; I can only tackle the first part

It’s interesting that the ‘muscle memory’ I have developed playing these pieces totally deserts me when playing in front of people. This came as an unwelcome surprise when I attempted Heartsong as an illustration of harmonics in a 3rd year lecture on vibrations of stretched wires. They call it performance anxiety. I’ve since tried a short recital each year I give the lecture – you have to face your demons. It varies from bad to poor, which is disappointing as I play pieces I can play fine (to my standards) maybe 98 times out of 100 in my living room.

As for other people’s recorded music, I enjoy a wide selection of all types with the exception of Country & Western, which I find tremendously bland. My Desert Island Discs would be as follows (for various reasons, both musical and sentimental). They are in no particular order.

1. Hymn to freedom, Oscar Peterson, from Night Train
2. As, Stevie Wonder, from Songs in the Key of Life
3. Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto
4. Fauré’s Requiem
5. The truth will always be, Pat Metheny, from Secret Story
6. Seven on Charlie, John Pizzarelli, from Naturally
7. May you never, John Martyn, from Solid Air
8. Match of the Day theme
…of which, if I had to choose only one, well, it has to be Hymn to Freedom – the ultimate in mastery of the keyboard from the best of jazz pianists. It’s not one of Peterson’s faster pieces, but it’s still technically challenging and played with complete control throughout. A lovely piece of music.

Books I have particularly enjoyed recently make up quite an eclectic list, including:

English Passengers, by Matthew Kneale
Travels with Alice, by Calvin Trillin
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter
Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula, by Paul Nahin - a friendly and fun trawl through complex numbers, Euler's formula and Fourier series/transforms/integrals

The mathematical puzzles thing came about from avidly devouring Martin Gardner’s columns in the back of Scientific American in my youth. Since I started lecturing, I’ve included a puzzle in the half-time break of each lecture I give. It went down so well I’ve started collecting more so that at least I have one for each lecture I have to give during the year. Examples I like include:

1. Simplify the expression (x-a)(x-b)(x-c)….(x-z)

2. Solve the following for x: x^(x^(x^(x^(x^…..)))) = 2

3. How many zero’s does the factorial 111! end in?

Q1 – well, you either see it or you don’t. Please don’t get bogged down in 26th order polynomials.
Q2 – think about the term in the outermost pair of parentheses
Q3 – no hint here – this one’s much easier.