Bil Browning

The Eternal Melody: Mathematics as Music

Filed By Bil Browning | December 12, 2013 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: eternal melody, Pi as music

I may not be a music major like our Managing Editor, John Becker, but I know a beautiful melody when I hear one. Surprisingly, if you turn the never ending numbers in Pi into a song, you get an eternal melody as old as time itself.

The info on how it was done is below the video. Needless to say (since I wasn't a math major either!), the full mathematical explanation is a little complex.

From the creator's account of how he created the music behind Pi:

I arranged these chords and melodic timing to the chromatic "notes" of pi. It is different from other pi songs in that, in most of them they chose standard 7 note major or minor scales ahead of time. Any random event will sound "correct" when set to normal major/minor scales because those scales sound good no matter how much you "button mash" those seven notes. Add some standard repeating bass line under it and it will sound like a song, but it's jamming, and the melody is still random sounding. They are also using base 10, or decimal counting.
I used pi in base 12 counting, where 12 digits are used, and lined those digits up with the chromatic scale, which is all 12 tones in an octave, and that allowed for what could potentially be a poorly progressing melody and what was revealed is the most amazing melody I've ever heard. I simply made it into this arrangement by adding the chord progression and melodic note timing.

The first 16 digits are a truly amazing melodic section, or phrase. It's symmetrical structures, emotional depth and variety, it's efficiency, and the fact that it is not man-made are all elements that lead me to believe that it is the most beautiful melody that can exist. I wish I could have written it myself, but it's simply inherent in the laws of mathematics, "written on the wall". It is as old as the Universe itself, or maybe even older than that. In some sense, information is eternal, above all notion of time, in a realm of pure existence.

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