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Classical Notes

A slice of musical Pi

Posted at 6:59 AM on March 14, 2007 by John Zech
Filed under: The blog

It was almost exactly twenty years ago when I was visiting my friend Miklos in Budapest. Miklos is a mathematician, and a great lover of music, and when I came over to his apartment he had a copy of Bach's Two-Part Inventions sitting open on his piano. He picked it up and said, "John, isn't that beautiful...it's mathematics!"

Today March 14th...3/14... is "Pi Day," so called because the date expresses the beginning of the magical number that apparently is a a world without end (amen). Pi is defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, it's the number that starts 3.14159....and just keeps going.

Pi Day is being celebrated worldwide by a certain type of person (aka "geek") who finds numbers and ratios not only exciting, but, believe it or not, beautiful..

Math and music have a close relationship (since they're both binary--duh!!) and it's no surprise that somebody has used Pi in his composing. You can read and hear more in a Science News piece called "Sound -Byte Math Music."

And then there's "Pi Diddy" who does a Pi rap (I kid you not!). Of course, you'll want to sing about Pi later this year, so he's got some carols like this:

Oh, number Pi, Oh, number Pi
You're truly transcendental.
Oh, number Pi, Oh, number Pi
You're physical and mental.
You stretch the bounds...of all we know,
And tell our circles where to go
Oh, number Pi, Oh, number Pi
Your digits are so gentle.