interview: Galka Makhina : mathematician and musician

Galka is a lecturer at Simferopol University in the Crimea which is the southernmost part of the Ukraine and which is officially the Republic of Crimea. In addition to tackling mathematical problems to do with the likes of pattern recognition, she is also a super-keen musician who has just put together a new band.

Mstation: In your mathematics do you see emerging solutions in the form of topographical shapes? I was wondering this after hearing the quite complex time signatures of some of your songs, and seeing these as shapes can be a good memory aid.

Galka: I feel like those quite complex time signatures of my songs belong to my mathematical side. However in math the basic topographical shape I deal with is a Boolean cube. In spite of seeming simplicity there are still a lot of open problems connected with this object. But I can hardly say that emerging solutions would be in the form of topographical shapes :)

You mentioned earlier that you were collaborating with a Moscow mathematician on a paper which had to do with a cutting-edge area. Can you tell us more for the maths-aware amongst us?

The problem in the focus can be classified as a Pattern Recognition (PR) problem. In general the problem of PR can be formulated as following. We are given some groups of objects and we know some representatives for each group which are called training objects. On the basis of this information we have to find a mapping, which correctly classifies the training objects, and has an ability to generalize - that is to classify objects in the entire set.

In our case the purpose is as usual to reconstruct a mapping given some initial information and some restrictions. We consider some special logical algorithms to reconstruct a monotonical Boolean function and study their properties.

I also wondered whether music was an escape, a fuller engagement of the senses or whether in many ways it was an extension of what you do academically?

Math and music supplement each other. I cannot imagine my life without math, but I cannot live without my guitar. Music is my soul and the best way to express myself. Math is what gives me power to survive :)

If you could generalise about your songs, is there a theme running through them - what they're about both in terms of lyrics and music?

Mostly I have music of mood, some mixture of Bossa Nova and folk. My songs are about life, love, a feeling of loneliness, feeling of hope.

Here is a piece of an awkward translation of one of my songs:

A bird happened to fly into my room
It broke the rhythm of my life
And brought a sparkling miracle
So now I'm longing only for one thing

Take me with you
Following the trail in the space of spring
To the edge of heaven and earth
Where dreams come true?

Do you have anything up on the web?

I've got few songs at this address:

Where do you play out in Simferopol and elsewhere?

In Simferopol it happens occasionally at private parties. The previous year I won a prize of audience sympathy in our local musical competition. In summer I usually go to Grushin's festival in Russia near the river Volga where there are a lot of opportunities to play out. As a rule more then 100 000 people attend this festival.

Who do you like locally?

I like my friend Roma's group 'Eternal Refuge'

Do you have any favourites from the West? From Russia? - past and present.

I admire Bobby Mc Ferrin, Richard Bona and many others. But my old flame is Joni Mitchell.

What are your music plans for the future?

Now I play with two musicians, a guitarist and a drummer, but we haven't yet got ready a program to give a concert. I hope that we'll do something good in the nearest future and make a record.

Thanks very much.

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