A Meeting With Paul Erdős

So FAWM is almost upon us again, and like so many other participants I’m finding myself hoarding song ideas and trying very hard not to inadvertently write them before February comes round. I can’t help but think that this is missing the point of a contest which is meant to push you into writing more music, so perhaps it’s just as well that this one slipped through the net and turned into a two-thirds-finished song before I could stop it.

I set myself a personal target of finishing it off in time to premiere it at last weekend’s pre-FAWM open mic meetup at the Green Note, and actually succeeded in finishing it off as well. At 1am the night before the gig. Which meant that I’d only had about half an hour of practice, and duly stumbled through the first two verses on stage before throwing in the towel and playing Graham The Caveman instead. (It wouldn’t have been so bad, except the first two verses were the old bit that I really ought to have learnt already.)

So, to quote Mark Lamarr, here’s how it should have sounded. For anyone wondering about the slightly odd subject matter, it was inspired by a moment on the journey to last year’s Forever party, where I was at Cologne Hauptbahnhof trying and failing to figure out some equations to do with raytracing, and thinking “oh, if only Paul ErdÅ‘s were here”. (Overlooking the fact that he’d died 10 years previously, obviously.)

Download matt_westcott_-_a_meeting_with_paul_erdos.mp3

Sitting here on the concourse
of this station in Cologne
Mapping out places I’ve been and imagined
wrapped in thoughts of my own
Trying to make them fit in geometry

Scribbled notes getting nowhere
wandering thoughts abound
Empty seat left beside me
ignored by the passing crowd
Space for a knight in shining armour
or just a man in a threadbare suit

He could have been here some day not long ago
just passing through
Off to a meeting of minds
all locked away for hours in ivory towers
And it’s all in a day’s work for him
as the audience hangs on his every word
But it’s not the attention that he craves

Curious stranger out of nowhere
Settles down to catch some rest
briefly catches a glimpse of my notebook
sees some familiar friends
Attentive looks, polite enquiries
collaboration in the air
And though it’s only symbols and numbers
it’s a language that we share

He could have been here some day not long ago
and I’d be there too
We’d have a meeting of minds
and pass a few hours with the primes and the powers
And it’s all in a day’s work for him
if it doesn’t make the journals then that’s okay
‘Cause it’s not the attention that he loves
it’s only the numbers

All it takes is another’s perspective
the answers fall into place
With every equation balanced and equal
We go our separate ways
Tonight the conference awaits him
another city, one more train
Not the only connection he made that day

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