March 18, 2010 10:18 PM

Persistent piano piece composed based on rules derived from the multiplication table. Starts softly, gradually gets louder.

For this month's MeFi Music challenge, I decided to create an instrumental track inspired by the idea, rather than a fun study song with lyrics. If you wish to file a complaint about my non-compliance, please contact my agent.

Anyway, I'm interested in systems-based composition, and wanted to give it a go. Here are the rules I came up with:

The numbers 1-9 are assigned a note. 1=C, 2=D, 3=E, etc.
0 is interpreted as "no note." When two digit numbers are called for, two notes will be played at once, except if one digit is zero. So, the number 13 would be a C and an E played at the same time, while the number 10 would be a C only, since 0 means "no note for this digit."

The basis for the composition is the multiplication table starting with 1*1 through 1*10, then 2*1 through 2*10, and so on, ending with 10*10.

Each musical phrase is an interpretation of syntax like this:


The multiplication symbol is always played by the black key as close to equidistant as possible between the two numbers on either side of it. In the above example, 2 is D, and 5 is G. Between those two notes are two black keys, and they're equally far from D and G. In those cases the lower black key wins. So the multiplication symbol in the above example is played by D#.

The = symbol is always played by the black key that's to the left of the one that was just played for the multiplication symbol.

The answer for each "math question" is played as a note (or notes) four times as long as all the others.

posted by edlundart (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, I added a little cymbal hit on the last five sequences, plus an ominous pad sound to round things out. Not particularly scientific, and I wouldn't be surprised if I screwed up some part of this, as both basic math and basic music theory is harder than it should be for me.
posted by edlundart at 10:22 PM on March 18, 2010

Once I understood what the composition was about, it opened a whole new listening experience. I could definitely hear the different "tables". Each melody has a unique turning point where your multiplying a number by itself. Before that point the melody descends at first. After that point, the melody ascends. It's a very interesting listen, and totally in line with the theme of the challenge.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 10:38 PM on March 18, 2010

Man, this is amazing. It makes me wonder what my favorite songs would express mathematically.

(On the other hand, this may be why math scared me so much when I was a little kid... it sounds pretty ominous!)
posted by snsranch at 2:57 PM on March 19, 2010

I love the slow ascension.
posted by chococat at 4:31 PM on March 19, 2010

This is far cooler sounding than it really should be. It's really quite great. However, I'll say what my calculus teacher always told us: you don't need to know how to do basic arithmetic--that's why you have a calculator.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 8:49 PM on March 19, 2010

Just remember edlundart, nobody likes a smartarse...... Just kidding man - I thought this was very cleverly conceived and beautifully executed. If there was a prize for best March Challenge this one would get my vote, no question. I agree too with sns - I hated maths (or math as you guys call it) at school and this perfectly reflects the trepidation I felt every time I had a lesson. UUuuuuuggghhhhh......
posted by MajorDundee at 3:40 AM on March 21, 2010

Thanks, everybody. When starting this, I was thinking that maybe I could speed up the final song a lot and sample the result and use that in some kind of future song. But as it turns out, the actual melody line is pretty interesting as is, and I'm now considering writing a song based on one of the progressions. It's definitely got a feel I'd never arrive at by writing in my usual way, yet it is not without emotional content.
posted by edlundart at 9:49 PM on March 22, 2010

This is the one of the few times I've wished I had emoticons here. I would have posted the one with his eyes wide open.

This is mindblowing, and the result is perfectly musical. Wow. I missed it when it was first posted and I only noticed it now because of the link from the 'modi operandi' thread. This is truly wonderful.
posted by micayetoca at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2010

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