Monday, December 20, 2010

Pi on the Piano

There are five widely recognized mathematical constants. These include, 1, 0, π and the natural number, e. Mathematician Leonhard Euler related all five of these constants in what many consider to be the most beautiful equation in all of mathematics. This mysterious relationship is sometimes called the "Magic 5 Equation" as reads as follows:

e to the power πi+1=0
So why the math lesson? Well, a man by the name of Tom Dukich appears to have "sonified" these mathematical constants in a work called Pi on the Piano, Eee with a Queeka and other math sonifications. Some of the pieces are audio only, some have accompanying visuals, and others are visual only. Here are some of the pieces as described on Dukich's site:

"1-Pi to 500 Decimal Places: Piano Solo. Audio with keyboard graphic. A good one to start with to familiarize yourself with how these sonifications were done. The same digit to pitch mapping was used in most of the following songs. The zero is usually not played as a note but shows up as a rest of the same duration as the notes in the particular piece. (3:11)

2 - Pi to 1,000 Decimal Places: Piano Solo. Audio with pi matrix. About four notes per second. (4:19) Update: Also an improvisation by Chis Mear based on this piece.

3 - Pi to 1,000 Decimal Places: Piano, Bass, Flute. Audio with graphics. A more complex mapping than the first two. (4:15)

4 - Pi's Digit Matrix for the First 100 Digits. Video animation, no audio. Visually explores the digit pattern in the first 1,000 digits of pi. (0:47)

5 - e to 500 Decimal Places: Piano Solo. Audio with e matrix. (1:47) "

These involved descriptions indicate some involved mathematical composition process, which Dukich doesn't go into detail describing (sooo it may not even exist and he just wants you to think he was using a complex system... maybe). You can listen and watch them for yourself on his site at

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Whales: the other musical mammal

As previously alluded to on this blog, it is well known and studied that birds can be musical, that they can enjoy singing. Well, a recent study published in the journal Science credits the birds, as well as our aquatic singing relatives, the whales. The study's analysis of whale song shows that whales share some of the same acoustic techniques and follow the same laws of composition as those used by human musicians. Whale songs even contain rhyming refrains as well as similar intervals, phrases, songs durations and tones. And just as humans use rhyme, so too do whales implement rhyme as a mnemonic device to help them remember complex material. According to this particular study, the researchers state that whales physiologically have a choice: they could use arrhythmic and nonrepeating tunes, but instead, they sing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Captain Beefheart

Sympathies Enlarged has just learned the sad news of the passing of musician and painter Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart).

Mel Blanc did a million voices, but our next artist just did one, but it's heck of a voice. Don Van Vliet was born in Glendale, California. He stopped performing in the 80's and focused on his painting. He was a really good painter, but I wish he made more records. This song is about a frozen treat, and a corvid. Wanna know what a corvid is? It's a type of bird. Crows, ravens, jays, and magpies are all corvids, and they are some of the most intelligent of all the birds. Here’s a song that goes as straight as the crow flies.

Bob Dylan,from Theme Time Radio Hour

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Silent Night

Every year, the English public votes on the holiday song of the year. For the past several years, the song chosen has been heavily influenced by the decision of music critic, Simon Cowl, on his television show, The X Factor. The premise of the show is to choose a winner among competing vocalists, and the release of this winner's album has -not by accident- occurs just before the public is asked to pick the nation's holiday song. Many have felt that the public is being manipulated because of this, and that the spirit of the nation's pick is being undermined by commercial interests.
So this year, in protest of the direction the contest has taken, several big-name artists have submitted a collaborative effort for nomination: They have rerecorded Cage's 4:33. Need I say more?