Great Math Music

By way of PZ, I just found [the website of Jonathan Coulton](, a musician who seems to specialize in humorous and geeky songs. The music is good; the lyrics are absolutely fantastic.
Here’s an example that he gives away, called “Mandelbrot Set”. (For embedding it here, I drastically stripped it from 160K stereo sample to just 16K mono; go to his homepage to get the real, full-quality version.)

Just to give you an idea, here’s the lyrics for the first verse:

Pathological monsters! cried the terrified mathematician
Every one of them is a splinter in my eye
I hate the Peano Space and the Koch Curve
I fear the Cantor Ternary Set
And the Sierpinski Gasket makes me want to cry
And a million miles away a butterfly flapped its wings
On a cold November day a man named Benoit Mandelbrot was born

Go. Listen. Buy!

0 thoughts on “Great Math Music

  1. Brent Yorgey

    Yes, Jonathan Coulton is fantastic! I’ve even had the privilege of hearing him live and he’s just as funny in real life as you would expect.
    I played “Mandelbrot Set” for my classes when I was teaching high school math, although they definitely didn’t get all of it… oh well. =)

  2. Jonathan Vos Post

    As a much published poet and lyricist, of course I take lyrics seriously. But if you strip them away (using a forgetful functor) to get melodies, there are over 120,000 melodies automatically generated from The Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. Just go there, pick any sequence, and click on the “listen” option. That gets you to a free online synthesizer which scales those melodies (pun on scales) and shoots you a wav file. Somewhere over 1,400 of those are mine; the fractal ones sound nicest to me, as real music has a fractal structure up to a point. A note, in a human-appreciated melody, must be neither too unpredictable (random) or too predictable, but nicely in between. Which suggests a creationist theory of music;)

  3. Joshua

    Woo! I love Jonathan Coulton. So far, I’ve only bought Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow, but it’s a totally sweet album. As a Bostonian, I love his song “Brookline”, as well. 😉

  4. Eric

    Is there any way you can set that player so that it doesn’t autoplay? Whenever I bring up your page, it starts playing. It’s pretty annoying.

  5. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Sorry; it *is* set to not autoplay (“autostart=no” in the embed tag). I tested it under Safari, Opera, and Firefox, and it all of them it comes up with the player controls, but doesn’t play unless you click on the “play” button.


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