Kircher's Mechanical Composer: A Software Implementation

Jim Bumgardner
Proceedings of Bridges 2009: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2009)
Pages 21–28 Regular Papers


A description of a working software implementation of Athanasius Kircher's Musurgia Mechanics: The algorithm the Jesuit Polymath invented for non-musicians to set hymns to music, in four-part polyphonic arrangements. This algorithm was used in two related inventions of Kircher's, the Arca Musarithmica, and the Organum Mathematicum. The author has created a software program that incorporates data from both devices. This software produces files in the open-standard ABC notation, thru which one can produce printed scores and MIDI recordings of 17th century polyphony in great quantity.