Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"We've Got Algorithm, but How About Soul?" by Bill Werde. New York Times, 21March 2004.

Can mathematics be used to create songs that will be sure-fire hits? ABarcelona-based artificial intelligence company, PolyphonicHMI, has createdsoftware that may do just that---and the record industry is using it, accordingto the article. The software is based on an algorithm that is supposed toidentify the "optimal mathematical patterns" of hit songs. The software wasused to analyze 50 years' worth of songs and to arrange them in a "musicuniverse". Hit songs tend to cluster together in this universe, so a newsong's hit potential can be assessed by how it compares to other songs in theuniverse. "The closer [the new song] lands to the center of a hit cluster, themore likely it is to be a successful song," the article says, noting that manyfind the whole notion of analyzing songs this way to be "sacrilege."

--- Allyn Jackson