The Pi Symphony: Numeric Sequences in Music

Lars Erickson
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2002)
Pages 49–53


The Pi Symphony, an original orchestral work, makes use of various methods of conveying a numeric sequence in music. I will describe these methods and show examples. Using the digits of pi and 'e' as melodic and rhythmic elements is the impetus of the Pi Symphony. Although it is commonly known that math and music are closely related and that there are many levels of complexity at which they may be linked, the Pi Symphony employs simple methods of linking these two subjects such as the mapping of a sequences of digits to a melodies, to harmonic structure and to rhythms. The second movement of the Pi Symphony makes extensive use of the circle of fifths, to compliment the theme of pi, the ratio of a circles circumference to its diameter. Music, being an artistic endeavor, can inspire and be inspired by logic and emotions. The inspiration for the Pi Symphony comes largely from the moment of academic discovery, and the actual melody of pi itself.