Ali Hollenbeck

Need a math TA who can help solve homework log-a-rhythmically? In search of an a capella group that can explain algebra?

Try calling Klein Four.

Klein Four is a group of five graduate students who call themselves the “premiere a capella group in the world of higher mathematics.” They will release their first CD, “Musical Fruitcake,” in November.

Matt Salomone, Clark Alexander, Mike Johnson, Kal Nanes, and Scott Bailey have all been TAs in the math department. Although they are self-declared nerds who describe their style as “geek chic,” their music isn’t one-dimensional, said Salomone, a fifth-year graduate student.

“Don’t be misled, we’re not really singing about math,” he said. “Our songs are love songs.”

Their earlier lyrics were an “orgy of math puns,” but the new songs are subtler, group members said.

“People who don’t understand math can really understand the songs and not even get any of the puns,” said Bailey, a Calculus 220 TA.

Tracks on the CD range from R&B to Gregorian chant. “Musical Fruitcake” includes titles like “Calculating,” a rendition of Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing,” and “Three-Body Problem,” about competing for a girl’s affections.

They plan to sell the CD online through Individual songs will also be available through iTunes, Napster, and MusicMatch. The 14-track CD will cost between $12 and $15, group members said.

Klein Four formed in late 2003, when Alexander, Nanes, Bailey and Salomone got lost on their way to the Museum of Science and Industry and began singing. Johnson joined the group later.

Their first performance was at a math department talent show, where they sang their first song, “Finite Simple Group.”

Since then, Klein Four has performed at the department’s Christmas party and spring picnic. They also opened for Jewish a capella group ShireiNU and were invited to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ September 2006 conference.

The group’s web site,, features videos of their performances, and their 2004 Christmas party performance of “Finite Simple Group” was posted on At NU, a group dedicated to Klein Four had 132 members Monday night.

The group has also received fan mail from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea and New Zealand. They did not expect such an enthusiastic reaction, Bailey said.

“The whole fan mail and everything has snowballed it out of proportion,” Bailey said. “It has become bigger than probably we ever thought it would be.”

Despite their popularity, Klein Four members maintained that they are not a typical a capella group. The group also enjoys making short films and posting them on their Web site. They plan to do a parody of “Behind the Music.”

“Klein Four is more of a mentality than an a cappella group” Salomone said.

All of the members have musical backgrounds – Johnson was a music education and math major at the University of the Pacific – and Klein Four gives them a chance to “flex our musical muscle,” Salomone said.

But their fame has come at a price. Recording the CD has taken more time than they expected. Klein Four will also disband when its members graduate. They turned down the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics invitation because Salomone graduates this spring.

“We are a finite simple group,” Alexander said.

Until then, they plan to continue living in their “Mathematics Paradise.”

“We’re not really taking it seriously, but if people want it, we’re gonna give it to them,” Bailey said.

Reach Ali Hollenbeck at [email protected]

Mathematics Paradise

Modeled after Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of math

I take a look at my life and realize there’s none left

‘Cause I’ve been deriving and proving so long that

Even my advisor thinks that my mind is gone

But I ain’t ever proved a theorem that didn’t deserve it

He be treated like a lemma, you know that’s unheard of

You better watch how I’m talking, and where I’m walking,

Or you and your homies might get couvered in chalk

Been spendin’ most of our lives in a mathematics paradise

Prove theorems once or twice in a mathematics paradise

Big stipend pays the price in a

mathematics paradise

A bigger one would sure be nice in a mathematics paradise.