Pi Variations

March 12, 2012 5:52 PM

In celebration of Pi Day, I'm posting this play-by-numbers piece.

It opens with 3.14159265358793238 , followed by other sections of Pi that looked promising: 82148, 651328, and the lovely 4526-356-6 827785771342. I took liberties by shifting an octave where it sounded right, perhaps tying double numbers, etc. 3.1415 appears rhythmically just prior to the middle part. There are a few composed phrases, too, but I suppose every melody can be found in Pi somewhere.
Written June 2011.

posted by AppleSeed (3 comments total)

Drat! If ever there was a time for unicode entities - alas, it's too late to do anything more than remind you of ampersand-pi; π
posted by AppleSeed at 6:00 PM on March 12, 2012

Can you explain a little more about how you translated numbers to notes? I'm assuming it's something like 1-8 corresponds to the scale, 9 repeats the one... what about decimals? how did you decide when more than one note should be played at one time?

neat stuff, thanks for posting.
posted by dubold at 2:28 AM on March 13, 2012

The scale is 1-8, with one being the root, C. Zero would be interpreted as a rest, and 9 is the ninth, D. Only single integers are assigned to note intervals, so "1" and "2" would not make up "12". For 79323, I shifted up an octave, so it's played as 7-9-10-9-10. In the first part of the song, the chords are stictly for comping and have no other relationship to Pi. This is followed by a five bar section where the 3rd (E) alternates with 145 (Csus4) to the following rhythm: |xxx-rest|X|xxxx|X| the last bar contains a bass run of five notes ending on the ninth, so you are hearing a chord made of Pi, played 3,1,4,1, and 5, times ending with 9.

That D fades into the second section, a repeat of 26535 and 879323 with the notes spread across the keyboard, tied, and arpeggiated using a preset in a sonic "infinite series". Wikipedia has a table of Pi that I scanned for nice intervals with some repetition as in a snatch of melody. While I definetly made choices for the sake of musicality, good old π should be evident throughout. It would be interesting to hear another arrangement of this, and even more interesting to hear other "expressions of expressions of Pi", to quote a friend (Music Challenge suggestion for next year?)

"Pi Variations" even comes with its own built-in lyrics, and it occurs to me that it might prove a better mnemonic device than the old standby mathematics cheer: Secant, tangent, cosine, sine, 3.14159! If there's any interest I can provide a chart, although I do not have a fair copy at the moment - notation would clarify all of the above.
posted by AppleSeed at 3:16 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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