Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Venn That Tune - Andrew Viner ****

There is something delightful about a book that combines mathematical/graphical notation with the names of pop songs. This unashamed gift book has a series of pages, each illustrating one song title using a diagram. About a half are Venn diagrams with the rest being various forms of chart, some more obscure than others. This is much easier to see than understand from a description. Here’s the diagram that’s on the cover of the book a little more clearly:
The idea is to guess the tune from the diagram (I love this particular example). There are answers in the back, but for one like this you shouldn’t need to check it – it’s like a good crossword clue, when you get the answer, it’s obviously right.
One of the reason this particular one works well is that the song is well-known. With some of the more obscure numbers (for example It’s ‘Orrible Being in Love (When you’re 8½)) it’s not quite such a certain experience, so you are more likely to approximate to the answer than get it spot on, unless you have a passion for obscure song titles.
This is an ideal gift – especially for someone who’s mathematically or musically minded (or even both). I’ll certainly be buying a few. It’s one of those classic ‘books I probably wouldn’t buy myself, but I’d love to be given’ presents. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t available in the US until after Christmas 2008 – it’ll have to be a birthday present instead there.
Of course there are plenty of tunes missing – Andrew Viner admits he ran out of space (I wanted to see ‘Venn you walk all alone, keep your head up high’, which I know technically isn’t the title of the song, but hey) – but those that are there will keep anyone with an enquiring mind and a sense of fun amused and entertained. Recommended.
Hardback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

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