Wonderful Engineering

MIT Student Uses Mathematics To Make The Perfect Music

An MIT student has come up with an algorithm that can create a portamento effect. This is the name given to the effect of gliding a note at one pitch into a note that is either of a higher or lower pitch between any two audio signals in real-time. The algorithm has been based on ‘optimal transport.’

During testing, the algorithm was able to merge different audio clips together seamlessly. The algorithm is based, as mentioned before, on optimal transport. What is the optimal transport you ask? It is a geometry-based framework that was formulated back in the 1700s that can ascertain the most efficient methods of moving objects between different origin and destination settings.

The algorithm has been created by Trevor Henderson, who is a graduate student in computer science. He said, ‘Optimal transport is used here to determine how to map pitches in one sound to the pitches in the other. If it’s transforming one chord into a chord with a different harmony, or with more notes, for instance, the notes will split from the first chord and find a position to glide to in the other chord seamlessly.’

The video description reads, ‘A graduate student in computer science has invented a novel algorithm that produces a portamento effect between any two audio signals in real-time. In music, “portamento” is a term that’s been used for hundreds of years, referring to the effect of gliding a note at one pitch into a note of a lower or higher pitch. But only instruments that can continuously vary in pitch – such as the human voice, string instruments, and wind instruments – can pull off the effect.’

Check out the video below to learn more about this amazing algorithm by this MIT graduate.