Music and Mathematics

  • I have a couple weeks off now in between semesters and I'm considering trying to write some applications.

    I was considering the concept of mathematics as it exists in music... and creative monome applications that could be built based on existing formula's.

    Does anyone know of any sources online or any good books to read in regards to the mathematics of music so I can do some reading and get inspired?

  • Pythagorus, Pythagorus, and more Pythagorus

    Also, Richard Lloyd did stuff for Guitar World that really nicely explained intervals, though it is very guitar-based and he's kind of full of dishevelment and insanity.

  • I'm hoping to get htis book Musimathics for Christmas ... it's a two-volume set and seems right up your alley...


  • i like Harmonic Experience: Tonal Harmony from Its Natural Origins to Its Modern Expression by W.A Mathieu

  • if you want to get heavy in the mathematics, look into iannis xenakis: he used various mathematical methods, including set theory, game theory, and stochastic methods, (along with artistic tweaking) in composing his pieces. does it use music theory? of course. but it goes far beyond the standard tricks (ranging from tonal composition to wave theory), and opens up some new spaces for experimentation. if you know yr shit, i say go for it. if you aren't comfortable with contemporary mathematicsÂ… be careful. check

  • @pointillicist

    Musicmathics appears to be the exact documentation I have been looking for...

    Amazon has my money now...

    This is going to be a heavy read and I can not wait!

  • You might find this an interesting read-

  • @gurulogic - sweet. Thanks for that one!

  • Boids !

    I always wanted a 256 size midi note swarm application. Where pressing a button centers the point where the swarm circles.

    I thought that would be interesting.

  • Got the Musimathics books from amazon and getting into volume 1... quite interesting!

  • Musimathics looks great. Just put on my Amazon wishlist. Thanks for the tip!

  • @ JP - I tried to make the exact thing about a year ago... but my lack of max programming skills stopped me :-)

    thinking about reviving that project now that I plowed my way through the tutorials.


    i have had this book on my compy for a while and have only just barely cracked into it but its very interesting and right up your alley it sounds like also free

  • Neat!

    Thanks for the heads up wednesdayayayayayayaayayayayayya

  • A quick update from me :-)

    I just finished reading "The Math Behind the Music".


    If you haven't got much knowledge or experience with the combination of music and maths (which is my position), then you might really enjoy this book. It's really rather entry level and will get you up to speed on the basic points.

    On a side note, I also just finished reading "The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music".


    If you're looking for a more academic perspective on the matter of electronic music, then I highly recommend this book. It really gives a wonderful grounding in the subject (including some mathematical aspects) and points to lots of interesting literature and compositions/performances to follow up on. An excellent read.

    Finally, I've just started reading the first volume of "Musimathics: The Mathematical Foundations of Music".


    I've only read the first chapter, so it's very early days. However, I can already say that the author (Gareth Loy) is one of the clearest and most lucid writers of conceptual matter I've ever come across. He is making this stuff wonderfully accessible. I'm really looking forward to reading more of it...

  • Slightly sideways topic but I just read a book about the mathematics of symmetry which inspired this post

    I highly recommend the book if you are interested in the life and work of a mathematician.

  • @bar|none

    Nice post. It's great that you quote Leonard Koren's book "Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers". That book is one of my all-time favourites and I've given it as a gift to many people. For those of us trapped in a sea of modernism and post-modernism with a feeling that there must be more out there, this book is definitely for you :-)

  • Musimathics looks very interesting. i am not comfortable with my math skills whatsoever and was wondering if there was a certain base level of knowledge recommended for the book?

  • Just go for it!

    Grab the book and just keep moving forward... you may not absorb all of it but you will learn a ton.

  • i am thinking about it!

    i have yet to take calculus/trig, do you think that will hinder learning the content at all?

    does the author present the material in a way that is understandable to those without an extensive math background? does he take the time to explain the concepts from the ground up so a willing to learn reader can jump in and make sense of it?

    i don't want to be hit with a bunch of equations i never learned and then have to consistently turn to outside references to comprehend the material. i am very detail oriented and like absorbing as much as i possibly can.

  • i've rocommended this before in the community forum: Godfried Toussaint's paper 'The Euclidean Algorithm Generates Traditional Musical Rhythms', which you can find here - also look at ruin & wesen's implementation for their minicommand midi box here i've implemented this in an unpublished app and it works very well.

    also the maths and music concept ties in with the fugue app idea that was kicking around a while ago - maybe have a look at 'Godel, Escher, Bach' by Hofstadter.

    also i've been thinking along these lines for an arc app. the app either has its own midi sequence or possibly intercepts one from another monome app (polygome, say) and then allows you to create variations upon the main theme. you'd use a monome and an arc together - the monome allows you to select the parameters that you'd like to effect, pitch, cut-off freq, delay, etc and the algorithms (this is where the maths comes in) that you'd like to modify them with. you could potentially modify several parameters at a time with a single arc knob reflecting the change to each on sections of the arc led ring.

    the basic idea is that you have a midi sequence that you can pull about in a variety of ways to create live improvisations, always being able to return to the original theme. i guess in a way it is to a midi-sequence what mlr is to an audio sequence.

    greaterthanzero has been making similar suggestions.

    i think this would be a perfect use for the maths behind music.