Euclidean rhythm

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The Euclidean rhythm in music was discovered by Godfried Toussaint in 2004 and is described in a 2005 paper "The Euclidean Algorithm Generates Traditional Musical Rhythms".[1] The greatest common divisor of two numbers is used rhythmically giving the number of beats and silences, generating almost all of the most important world music rhythms,[2] except Indian.[3] The beats in the resulting rhythms are as equidistant as possible; the same results can be obtained from the Bresenham algorithm.

Summary of algorithm[edit]

In Toussaint's paper[3] the task of distributing beats within time steps is considered. It is given that , so there are fewer beats than steps. The question arises of how to distribute these beats such that they are as equidistant as possible. This is easy when is divisible by —in this case we distribute the beats such that they are steps away from their neighbour. As an example, below is a euclidean rhythm for and . These beats are 4 steps away from each other because .

[ x . . . x . . . x . . . x . . . ]

Here "x" represents a beat and "." represents a silence.

The problem becomes more complicated when does not divide . In this case the formula doesn't produce an integer, so some beats must be slightly closer to one neighbour than the other. Because of this the beats are no longer perfectly equidistant. As an example, take the case when and . A naive algorithm may place the beats like this:

[ x . x . x . . x . . x . . ]

Although the beats are technically distributed with ideal spacing between the beats—they are either two steps apart or three—we still have a problem where the beats are "clumped" at the start and spaced out at the end. A more concrete definition of "equidistant" might ask that these spacings ("x ." and "x . .") are also distributed evenly.

Toussaint's observation is that Euclid's algorithm can be used to systematically find a solution for any and that minimizes "clumping." Taking the previous example where and we perform Euclid's algorithm:

Toussaint's algorithm first constructs the following rhythm.

[ x x x x x . . . . . . . . ]

Then, using the sequence we iteratively take columns off the right of the sequence and place them at the bottom. Starting with , we get:

[ x x x x x . . .
  . . . . .       ]

Next is .

[ x x x x x
  . . . . .
  . . .     ]

Next is .

[ x x x
  . . .
  . . .
  x x
  . .   ]

The process stops here because , i.e. there is only one column to move. The final beat pattern is read out from top to bottom, left to right:

[ x . . x . x . . x . x . . ]

Other uses of Euclid's algorithm in music[edit]

In the 17th century Conrad Henfling writing to Leibniz about music theory and the tuning of musical instruments makes use of the Euclidean algorithm in his reasoning.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Euclidean algorithm generates traditional musical rhythms by G. T. Toussaint, Proceedings of BRIDGES: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science, Banff, Alberta, Canada, July 31 to August 3, 2005, pp. 47–56.
  2. ^ Comparative Musicology – Musical Rhythm and Mathematics
  3. ^ a b The Euclidean Algorithm Generates Traditional Musical Rhythms, by Godfried Toussaint, Extended version of the paper that appeared in the Proceedings of BRIDGES: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music and Science’’, Banff, Alberta, Canada, July 31–August 3, 2005, pp. 47–56.
  4. ^ Musical pitch and Euclid's algorithm

External links[edit]

  • G. T. Toussaint, The Euclidean algorithm generates traditional musical rhythms, Proceedings of BRIDGES: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science, Banff, Alberta, Canada, July 31 to August 3, 2005, pp. 47–56.
  • Phil Baljeu and Manuel Odendahl (Ruin & Wesen). "Generating African rhythms using the euclidean algorithm". Archived from the original on 2013-11-14.
  • Benjamin Wardhaugh (1 September 2006). "Music and Euclid's algorithm".
  • Links to videos about and a Flash app for experimenting with Euclidean rhythms
  • Euclidean rhythm demo — interactive browser-based tool for experimenting with Euclidean rhythms
  • A tutorial on The Euclidean Algorithm Generates Traditional Musical Rhythms by Derek Rivait
  • SoundHelix is a free software for algorithmic random music composition that supports Euclidean rhythms
  • Euclidian rhythms list - a list of all Euclidian rhythms E(i,2 to 32), indicating if they are Winograd-deep, Erdős-deep, Authentic Aksak, Quasi-Aksak or Pseudo-Aksak