Experimenting with music is experimenting with the physics of sound

Pianist Aitor Garcia-Ruiz is studying PhD Research Programme in Physics at the University of Bath and has been awarded an Arts Scholarship for the third year in a row. Aitor shares how he marries his two passions: science and music, the ways they have come together through history, and what collaborations he is working on ahead of Platform, the annual arts scholarship showcase.

What is your background in your chosen art form?

I started playing piano at the age of 13 in the school of music of Fuenlabrada. I remember my first lessons as if I took them yesterday: I’m sat in front of a huge keyboard of 88 keys, trying to read a G in the score and then struggling to put both hands together. My teacher tells me off, I should have studied more…

“Playing piano is hard!” I used to say after every lesson, but the dream of telling stories with music was strong enough, and despite many voices telling me it was too late for me to try a music career, a few years after my first contact with the piano, I entered in the middle degree conservatory, in Mostoles. I had the chance of playing with other musicians, giving recitals and even preparing for competitions! Shortly thereafter, my passion for music, perseverance and studying took me to the Real Conservatorio de Música de Madrid, where I gained a Music degree in piano performance 2012.

Ever since I have tried to marry music activities with my other passion, science. Now, almost 20 years after my first contact with piano, I’m preparing to play with orchestra the Liszt piano concerto number 1 whilst finishing my PhD in physics.

What are you working on ahead of Platform?

Bas Lodewijks and I are working together to offer one of the most beautiful pieces for saxophone and piano that has ever been written, the sonata of Paul Creston. In this piece, melodies come in a variety of textures floating in deep harmonies, while a unique dialogue between the saxophone and piano taking place.

I am also working with Catrina Pietralla on a piece that is the example par excellence of romanticism: the romance of Gliere op.3. This rather unknown piece is full of expressive melodies that the audience will love and remember.

And last but not least, I am excited to work with Pearson Brown on one of the pieces that I composed. It represents the dark and haunting flight of a bat. I am looking forward to seeing how we can put visual arts and music together with this project!

Do you find any links between your creativity and your course?

Science and music have found their links throughout history. The first link I can think of is the so-called “music of spheres”. Ancient Greeks found that the relation between the orbital period of some planets were simple numerical ratios, something we also find in music intervals! Nowadays, the relation between music and physics is very well established, ultimately sound consists of oscillating pressure waves propagating through air. This suggests that experimenting with music is experimenting with the physics of sound, something which which has been a source of inspiration for many musicians.

In addition to the merely physical side, music prepares you for many facets of being a researcher. For me, probably the most prominent one is presentation skills. In my experience, when I started giving talks about my work in physics, I had already lost the stage fright in front of a piano!

Do you have any other creative pursuits?
Actually yes! I am currently in University of Bath’s Salsa society. Many might just take it for granted but I must say that I have only recently discovered that dancing allows you to communicate musical emotions to your partner, and audience, with your hands.

We’d like to thank Grace McQuaid for their generous support for this Arts Scholarship.

Posted in: Arts Scholarship Programme

For more about Bath's full range of undergraduate bursaries and scholarships including the Arts Scholarship


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