I’m no fan of these “sound of pi” musical compositions. People claim there is a secret relationship between pi and music, yada yada.

Here’s how they work. Take pi’s digits – 3.1.4159265 etc… – and map them to notes in a major scale. In C Major, “1” becomes “C”, 2 becomes “D”, etc. Since there are only 7 notes, you have to wrap around once you hit 8, 9, and 0, which weighs the melody towards “C” “D” and “E”.

Now I’m the first guy who’ll bore you with why the Western tonal music system is based on the relationship between math, nature, and human physiology, blah blah blah. So you’d think I’d be jazzed about pi-based music.

Here’s the problem. 3.14158265 is an arbitrary representation of pi. It’s base-10, which has nothing to do with nature. Why not write pi in hexadecimal – 3.243F6A888 – and map the digits to an octatonic scale? Or map duodecimal pi digits – 3.184809493B9 – to a 12-tone scale?

It turns out, pi’s base-10 digits are so arbritrary that they actually make an acceptable random number generator for computer scientists.

“What pi sounds like” is just clever YouTube marketing for ambitious composers who know to get noticed on the Internet. Do not be seduced by their crafty and ingenious marketing! 😉

Having said that – this guy Michael John Blake’s version of “What Pi Sounds Like” is pretty awesome. Check it out.

(Michael, if you’re reading this – it really is good, and it’s a meme with legs. You could do a whole album of irrational numbers. You can do “e” next, then maybe 2, then log23.)
Posted 7 years ago by John Piscitello

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