Paper by Erik D. Demaine

Erik D. Demaine, Francisco Gomez-Martin, Henk Meijer, David Rappaport, Perouz Taslakian, Godfried T. Toussaint, Terry Winograd, and David R. Wood, “The Distance Geometry of Music”, Computational Geometry: Theory and Applications, volume 42, number 5, July 2009, pages 429–454. Special issue of selected papers from the 17th Canadian Conference on Computational Geometry, 2005.

We demonstrate relationships between the classical Euclidean algorithm and many other fields of study, particularly in the context of music and distance geometry. Specifically, we show how the structure of the Euclidean algorithm defines a family of rhythms that encompass over forty timelines (ostinatos) from traditional world music. We prove that these Euclidean rhythms have the mathematical property that their onset patterns are distributed as evenly as possible: they maximize the sum of the Euclidean distances between all pairs of onsets, viewing onsets as points on a circle. Indeed, Euclidean rhythms are the unique rhythms that maximize this notion of evenness. We also show that essentially all Euclidean rhythms are deep: each distinct distance between onsets occurs with a unique multiplicity, and these multiplicities form an interval 1, 2, …, k − 1. Finally, we characterize all deep rhythms, showing that they form a subclass of generated rhythms, which in turn proves a useful property called shelling. All of our results for musical rhythms apply equally well to musical scales. In addition, many of the problems we explore are interesting in their own right as distance geometry problems on the circle; some of the same problems were explored by Erdős in the plane.

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The paper is 39 pages.

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Related papers:
DeepRhythms_CCCG2005 (The Distance Geometry of Deep Rhythms and Scales)

See also other papers by Erik Demaine.
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Last updated July 21, 2017 by Erik Demaine.