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Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Listening to Pi

According to the web site (at cecm.sfu.ca) of programmers Stephen Braham and Terrance Yu, a fellow named Hiroyuki Goto holds the world record for memorizing the most digits of Pi. The feat required over nine hours for him to recite. Perhaps a bit to Goto’s chagrin, this handy URL features a little program that automates the task (it was devised by Braham and Yu in 1996). Digit by digit, Pi (aka 3.1415926 …) appears in all its mind-bending pattern-less-ness on your computer screen, and if your PC is audio-enabled a voice will read along — in your choice of a dozen or so languages, including French (the language of math), Cantonese, German, Hebrew, English and its variations (including a Cockney accent, as well as somewhat surreal Monty Python and Dr. Seuss terminology). Fans of the recent film ‘Pi’ know that the number can be cause for good tunes; the accompanying soundtrack, featuring music by Autechre and composer Clint Mansell, was a real treat. Braham and Yu’s Pi program explores the mathematical phenomenon’s musicality by allowing you to replace the spoken play-by-play with harpsichord tones. (Touch-tone and funny-noise variations are also available.) Let the program fly, and enjoy the tuneful extrapolations — but don’t bet on discerning any motifs in the available 2.5 million digits. (Note: occasionally the program fails to run — and in that case, check back later.)

By Marc Weidenbaum

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