Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fun with Fourier transform!

The story behind the famous opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" has been floating for a while (long before this), and I've been meaning to post about it, but NPR did a nice piece on it this morning. Jason Brown, a mathematician at Dalhousie University, did what he calls 'musical forensics' on the chord. He shows that it wasn't merely George Harrison's 12-string Rickenbacker that gave it that remarkable voice, but George Martin hitting a piano chord at the same time. (His paper is available at the second link above.)

What finally prompted me to post was the kicker at the end of the radio broadcast: He's going to use musical forensics now to try something way more ambitious:
Brown isn't done with his musical sleuthing, either. Devlin says that Brown is now using Fourier-based analysis to determine who wrote certain Beatles songs whose true authorship is in dispute, such as "In My Life."
The kind of core acoustic analysis in the Hard Day's Night case seems relatively straightforward, but you gotta wonder whether it's possible to tease apart composing styles between two guys who were working together so closely for so many years. At any rate, it's cool.


Mojowen said...

As a rule, Fourier transformations are awesome. I'm glad they're showing up on a blog about the English language.

And because you like xkcd:

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Fourier's work is huge for people who work with speech sounds, of course.

And that xkcd is an all time great.