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

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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