The Apples in stereo's Robert Schneider Left Music for Math
February 25, 2018 5:09 PM   Subscribe

The Apples in stereo's Robert Schneider Left Music for Math. Schneider’s domain these days is a small cubicle in the math department at Emory University, where he is a researcher, a teacher, and a sixth-year graduate student. Shortly after I first met him, he showed me around his workspace. Books with titles like Riemann’s Zeta Function and Fermat’s Last Theorem sat neatly in a tall stack with a few comic books. Photos of groundbreaking mathematicians—Srinivasa Ramanujan, G.H. Hardy, Leonhard Euler—were thumbtacked to a partition, just above a shot of Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson.

Two pages of dense mathematical proofs were taped above Schneider’s computer monitor alongside a red sticker for the Elephant 6 Recording Co., the Athens musical collective that he cofounded in 1991. On his desk sat a Texas Instruments calculator that dates back to 1973 and a TRS-80 computer from 1980, the same kind Schneider had as a kid. Both still work—though neither gets much use.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me (37 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
hopefully this doesn’t impact the perpetually delayed final Olivia Tremor Control album he’s been producing, the way elephant 6 works that album could take ten more years to make WITHOUT a full time professorship in the mix.
posted by JimBennett at 5:15 PM on February 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


...and that might appear sort of callous to robert himself. i’m super happy he’s found something that means so much to him, and the whole “musical genius/math genius” dynamic is cool as hell.
posted by JimBennett at 5:32 PM on February 25, 2018


So excited to read this. I was wondering about him a few weeks ago and wound up checking out his rateaprofessor page. LOVE HIM.
posted by armacy at 5:34 PM on February 25, 2018


The Apples (in Stereo) were Denver's Official Opening Band for a big stretch of the 1990s. When bigger indie bands would come through town (Pavement! Sebadoh! etc, etc.!), they would always open. A lot of my hipper friends scorned them, but I always thought they were great -- they had a level of happy in their music that stood out in the cynical 1990s. I occasionally ran into Robert and other members of the band walking around Denver, and they were always nice and really pleasant to talk to. I'm glad he's still doing things that are awesome and meaningful.
posted by heurtebise at 5:37 PM on February 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Here is Robert writing about his math idol in The Believer.
posted by armacy at 5:37 PM on February 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Sorry, and here in 2001 and where we learned he was a telemarketer...
posted by armacy at 5:44 PM on February 25, 2018


I had trouble parsing this headline since I assumed Music For Math must be his new side project... such a great name....
posted by miyabo at 6:30 PM on February 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Woah

I just was sorting old parts of a hard drive and was listening to Tone Soul Revolution for the first time in years. Shivers

(and great poppy music)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2018


I was wondering about him a few weeks ago and wound up checking out his rateaprofessor page.

"Class was alright, but not quite."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:40 PM on February 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


My brain jumped to *Rob* Schneider, and that headline made absolutely no sense to me. Seems like a cool guy, new to me - thanks Rev.
posted by threecheesetrees at 7:45 PM on February 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


actually do go to his ratemyprofessor page, it's just dozens of students saying how they always struggled with math, but thanks to his excellent teaching and care for his students, they were able to understand and even come to enjoy calculus.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:58 PM on February 25, 2018 [15 favorites]


It's funny; I was listening to some Apples in Stereo the other day and wondering what, if anything, was in the works. I knew that Schneider was in grad school for math but this was a good follow-up.

I saw Apples in Stereo live in 2010 and it was amazing.
posted by dhens at 8:26 PM on February 25, 2018


There's a great Australian podcast about maths - called Sum Of All Parts - that did an episode with Robert late last year.
posted by filmvisuality at 8:56 PM on February 25, 2018


I’m never not thinking about apples in stereo and elephant 6 at least once a week. Good times. Great music.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:56 PM on February 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


Word to the wise: if you don't care much for the Apples in Stereo or related indie rock acts but are curious to learn what kind of math research he's doing, this is a very unsatisfying article.
posted by potrzebie at 10:54 PM on February 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Oh. Ha! I saw a slightly different headline for this story the other day: "Robert Schneider Leaves Indie for Math" and I thought, "OK, he's a little late to the math rock game, I guess he just can't get enough of those suspended chords."
posted by ZipRibbons at 1:13 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


For some reason, I've now got Viv Stanshall in my head intoning "Dick Feynman on bongos... cool, daddy-o... Rob Schneider on rhythm guitar... on maracas, Kurt Gödel..."
posted by Devonian at 2:56 AM on February 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


Joins Dan Snaith of Caribou on the music/maths PhD list.
posted by kersplunk at 3:02 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


> I assumed Music For Math must be his new side project... such a great name....

Music Is Math (*not an Elephant 6 project, it's just where my mind went.)
posted by ardgedee at 5:07 AM on February 26, 2018


Phil Alvin of the Blasters quit music in the '80s to go back to grad school for math eventually getting a PhD from UCLA.
posted by octothorpe at 5:07 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ooh ooh can we make a math-y musicians list? Throw Franklin Bruno on there too
posted by halation at 5:14 AM on February 26, 2018


Man, I want to go to grad school in math. Stupid philosophy major. Stupid needing income to support my family.

...and I just read the article. Geez. Maybe I can do it after all.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:18 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Despite the popular perception that music and math are products of opposing sides of the human brain Is this popular perception? Of all the arts, music is probably the mathiest, it's all based on repeating patterns, and tempos are literal fractions. I'm surprised there was no mention of the Non-Pythagorean scale Schneider developed around the time of New Magnetic Wonder.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


glad to see a story about Emory that isn't about some right-wing crank on the faculty
posted by thelonius at 7:34 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Phil Alvin of the Blasters quit music in the '80s to go back to grad school for math eventually getting a PhD from UCLA.

And Phil returned to music later and is still making great music: World's in a Bad Condition
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:57 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's pretty common knowledge that music and math skills are pretty related, neurologically, although I don't know of any proof of this. Anecdotally, I know a lot of musicians from the 70s who got into the computer revolution early on. They were good at it. I am a musician who sucked at math, but got really high SAT scores in math. My older brother was a mathematician. We share some genetic traits. Again, just anecdotes. Looking around the internet, all I can find is stupid sites about using music to increase math skills.
posted by kozad at 9:27 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't know any musician-mathematicians, but I did know a physicist who ran the pyro/effects for a rather well-known heavy metal band. Applied physics indeed.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 11:26 AM on February 26, 2018


You were a glowworm.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Dexter Holland from the Offspring went back to school and finished his PhD in molecular biology last year.
posted by mogget at 2:55 PM on February 26, 2018


Dr. Rockers
posted by sjswitzer at 5:25 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


While reading this, I was thinking that it sounded like something Chuck Klosterman might write on a particularly bad day or maybe a movie with Hugh Grant. Schneider's story is chock full of improbable situations (1st concert is Cheap Trick, not some embarrassingly lame band, and he catches Nielsen's pick), potential dramatic cliches (very smart kid fails algebra; professor's son drops out of college), a meet-cute ("Can you show me calculus right now?" is the line he uses to hit on the woman who became his wife), all woven into a story about the power of music and/or following your dreams, etc, etc, full of interesting and unusual people—not the least of which being the main character. I would hate that fiction story and roll my eyes through the movie—but the true version is wonderful. I've already cued up some of his music to play while reading the links others have added.

Btw, I learned of Apples in Stereo many years ago through Sound Opinions and was so excited to share it with my then-teenage kids, thinking they, too, would appreciate the music. I should have known better, i.e., my son was all rap/all the time and my daughter favored George Clinton and "the cheese". Pop music was beneath them. (There really should be another category for pop music that rises so far about the typical fair.) Maybe it's time to revisit the subject.
posted by she's not there at 6:05 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Have we really gotten this far in this thread without mentioning he produced the Best Album of the 90s!? I mean, pretty much everyone else involved with that album has been able to sit back and say, "Yeah, pop music, it's cool and all, but what else is there?" and go be awesome at other things, so if math is is his what else that keeps him from turning into the creepy "producer/writer/sexual predator" that hang around the edges of the pre-fab, prepared, pre-digested, music industry these days, more power to him.

People keep looking for the antidote to tech bros, toxic cliques, artists who don't paint, writers who don't write and other millennial disappoinments, and here it is. Elephant Six wasn't a label, it was a way, a path, and the more I look at its alumni, the more impressed I get. Maybe they were the one group that got the misplaced idealism of Gen X into a healthy, workable place and got out in one piece, with brains intact and egos in check.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:35 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I learned about The Apples in Stereo when they did a Powerpuff Girls song and I was immediately hooked.
posted by gucci mane at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]




I learned about the Apples in Stereo when they played the All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Jeff Mangum. Afterwards watching Olivier Tremor Control we saw Rob. He was chatting animatedly with people and hugging everyone who wanted it. Absolutely great human being, I'm glad he's still doing something he digs.
posted by Pink Frost at 10:19 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


My brain jumped to *Rob* Schneider, and that headline made absolutely no sense to me.
My brain jumped to *Roy Scheider* and struggled for a moment to read this as some reference to his use of an Apple IIc in "2010".
if you don't care much for the Apples in Stereo or related indie rock acts but are curious to learn what kind of math research he's doing, this is a very unsatisfying article.
His Emory page links to papers.
Dexter Holland from the Offspring went back to school and finished his PhD in molecular biology last year.
Brian May abandoned his pursuit of an astrophysics doctorate when Queen started to take off. He completed it in 2007.
posted by Zed at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Dexter Holland from the Offspring went back to school and finished his PhD in molecular biology last year.

Greg Graffin from Bad Religion has a Ph.D. in zoology/evolutionary biology and has taught courses off and on. Of all of these guys he might be the most predictable academic, though.
posted by atoxyl at 12:35 PM on February 27, 2018


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