Music and math. Not really two topics that combine together unless in a very cringy math rap video that the teachers think is hip and speaks to the urgent need of their students to learn more about math! But there is one band that combines math–not as a topic, but as a focal point of the album artwork and a song: Lateralus by Tool. Tool, in the first place, is a band that uses many different time signatures creating a unique sound, is shown in “The Pot”, “Schism”, and “Stinkfist”. They pass off between 4/4 all the way to 7/4 and 5/4. But the crown jewel is “Lateralus”. It switches in between time signatures of 9/8, 8/8, and ⅞., due to the fact the Fibonacci Sequences 16th number is 987. The Fibonacci Sequence is a numerical pattern in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. The pattern goes as follows, 1,1,2,3,5,8,13 and so on. Now what does this have to do with lateralus. Well Lateralus whole song is based on the first 7 parts of the sequence. The first verse goes “Black, then, white are, all I see, In my infancy, Red and yellow then came to be, Reaching out to me, Lets me see.” (Tool-Lateralus)
Now you see this and think, “How does that have anything to do with the sequence?” Well each syllable correlates with the number of the sequence. Also the verses follow the pattern but not as much as the lyrics themselves, since the first two verses repeat and then go on the a new second verse.
Then there’s the golden ratio, a spiral in which, if you take the numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence, map them across tiles, and then create a arch connecting each opposite corner of the tiles. You get what’s called the Fibonacci spiral. It also approximates to look like the golden spiral or golden ratio. Now what does this have to do with Lateralus? Once again, a lot. If you take the number of the ratio you get 1.618. James Maynard, the vocalist for Tool, vocals start at 1:37 into the song. You could look at this at a different way too such as 1.618 minutes. You can also rearrange the 1:37 to be 13:7. This relates to 13 being the 7th number in the sequence. Each verse also is 55 seconds long, which is also a Fibonacci sequence. But best part about this whole thing: It’s all a complete accident how this happened! They were creating a song and the riff and drum beat happen to be very similar to the sequence.
The most amazing part of this sequence is what I heard from Mr. Agnew, who told me, “From what I know of the sequence is that it’s shown in many different forms of nature such as shells and space such as the Milky Way.”Reading the lyrics again, I realized that the song is about the creation of the universe and humankind itself. But this song is also a warning to not get too sucked into the spiral. In the chorus, he sings, “Over-thinking, over-analyzing separates the body from the mind. Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines” (Tool-Lateralus) This line specifically means to not get stuck in the spiral of life and to break free of the shackles that life creates
Tool is definitely one of, if not the, most experimental bands that has ever been formed. They’re popularity is still here to this day with a dedicated fan base who eagerly waiting for Tool to finally release their 9th studio album some time this year in 2019. As a fan of them I’m excited what new songs and ideas have been brewed up by James Maynard and so are millions and millions of fans.