A common way to describe sounds of musical instruments is to consider a harmonic series, where frequencies occurring in one sound are multiples of the fundamental frequency. Many instruments however, such as singing bowls, tend to produce overtones that are inharmonic, with no such simple relationship to the fundamental frequency. This gives them a very special sound, where often distinct fundamental notes can be perceived. Just as changing the overtone series can be used as a way to explore new sounds, mathematical research often takes off from asking what happens if one changes some fundamental building blocks of a structure.
Victor is a Postgraduate Student in the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford.