Pi as music


14 Responses to “Pi as music”

  1. acipolone says:

    In my undergrad studies I composed a piece based on the first couple hundred digits of pi — each digit corresponded to a number in a pitch class (set of 10 notes, since there are 10 digits but 12 notes I had to drop a couple) and rhythms based on the differences between digits (3-1=2=eighth note, 1-4=-3=sixteenth, etc.)

    Came out unplayable (except by a computer) and not so pleasing to the ears.

  2. ElTimbalino says:

    I tried a few combinations then found this one.

    (lower case = the lower octave = keys to the left)
    (UPPER CASE = the next octave up = keys further right)

    c C e E f F g G a A

    This, assuming mapping starts at 0 gives the even numbers to the lower octave and the odd numbers to the higher octave and sounds very tuneful in places.

    Does anyone have a link to a graph of the frequency of occurrence of digits in pi(to 10,000 places say)? Just by listening, I think there are more even numbers.

  3. arkizzle says:

    “” So theoretically, if you plug all the notes of your favorite song into this thing, it will eventually play it for you. “”

    I think you are mistaken there, the effect you describe is ‘random + enough time’ but pi isn’t random. Unpredictable, but not random.

    AFAIK pi doesn’t necessarily go through every combination of number (in handy melody length groups).

  4. Davidmear says:

    My brother recently made a recording of him playing Pi on a piano, with improvised rhythm and harmony to make it sound more musical.
    I’m not sure what notes he mapped the numbers to, but I think it sounds beautiful.


  5. Pablissimo says:

    It’s strangely addictive – depending on the scale you pick you can really end up with some good moody background music.
    Of course it’ll drive you nuts if you leave it running for too long…

  6. Keneke says:

    For 90% of all modern adult contemporary, choose – CDEGBCDEGB

  7. Tits McGee says:

    I was sent this link by a friend last pi day and found it almost as deightful as Hard ‘n Phirm’s “Pi” song.

  8. Kid says:

    I think it can be more melodic, and that might be because Pi is represented in the decimal system… I wonder what it would sound like in binary. ;)

  9. lux_aurumque says:

    I’m so disappointed that they’re using tonal scales! You’d think for something like this they’d use something a bit more atonal either using pi as a free atonal piece or as the longest set in a serial piece EVER. In this case 3.14159265 would become Eb-C#-E-C#-F-A-D-F#-F

  10. ill lich says:

    I tried it with the 9 note continuo from Zappa’s “Watermelon in Easter Hay”– not impressed. I think I mainly have a problem with the lamely synthesized cello tone they offer; why not more timbre options? Or am I just being picky?

  11. dougrogers says:

    I did somethin like this with text a long time ago.

  12. jmccance says:

    I was playing with this the other day. It’s pretty fun (at least for a math major) to, say, map odd numbers to high notes and even numbers to low notes, or primes to high and composites to low.

    If I’m remembering correctly, every finite string of digits occurs somewhere in the decimal representation of pi. So theoretically, if you plug all the notes of your favorite song into this thing, it will eventually play it for you. The problem being, of course, that it only uses the first 10,000 digits.

    What we really need is a base 88 representation of pi, so that every key on the piano could get represented. Hook that up to a file with as much of pi in it as we know and let it run as some sort of audio art installation. Or, for a really insane version, make it a base 440 (5*88) representation. This way there would be enough digits to represent sixteenth, eighth, quarter, half, and whole notes. That way just about every melody you can play on a piano would eventually show up in it.

    Or perhaps I’m taking this too far.

  13. Troglodyte says:

    D minor is actually a fairly coherent melody, and sounds pretty damn cool.

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