Pi (1999)

for SATB choir and orchestra

also available in a version for SATB, piano and 3 percussion

also available in a version for SATB and piano

duration: 10 minutes

Audio Excerpt

Programme Notes

Pi was written as a commission from the Australian Society of Music Educators for their conference held in July 1999. It is a work that explores There is a history of using numbers to write music that dates as least as far back to Pythagoras. J. S. Bach encoded many mathematical structures within his compositions, and the ground-breaking work of Olivier Messiaen in “Modes de valeurs et intensites” in which he applied numerical concepts to every part of a piece of music (e.g. the pitches, the rhythms, the different dynamics, how each note was to be played (short, long etc.)) had a profound effect on the way musical composition was developed over the last fifty years.

Pi, however, to a large extent focuses on two poets’ responses to the number pi, rather than focussing on the properties of the number itself. Peter Goldsworthy’s poem deals with the fact that the number pi cannot be precisely defined. Mathematicians have defined the number to at least 1,000,000 decimal places (and there are books such as “The Joy of Pi” in which you can see all of these numbers!) and yet we still can’t exactly say what the number is. To Goldsworthy, this undefinability leads to the number being something mystical, “finer than us, more durable than matter”. It is a tender poem, full of reverence for the number. The musical setting of this poem follows a similar path. Sarah Hindson’s poem of the same name uses Pi as an analogy to relate to more “human” issues. Just as we search “for answers beyond human capacity”, i.e., we will never know the precise numerical definition of pi, so we quest for an answer to our own problems in daily interpersonal life. It is a vibrant, yet concise poem that receives a rhythmic, up-tempo treatment in this piece.

notes by Matthew Hindson.

CD Recording Available?

      Not yet. However, a live recording of the piece is available through the

Australian Music Centre library




      , the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter, was the inspiration for two poems which Matthew Hindson has set to music… Peter Goldsworthy’s

In the Sky There is a Heaven

      [sic] is full of reverence for this number, which, the poet writes, is “finer than us, more durable than matter”. Here, wowing tam-tams, a loud flourish from the brass, and drum rolls greeted the 150-strong WA Symphony Youth Choir. Meticulously prepared by Prue Ashurst, this ensemble passed the acid test – almost every word was audible in a serenely pastoral setting that makes a graceful obeisance to the English choral tradition in general and the music of Vaughan Williams in particular. In the more robustly empathic setting of Sarah Hindson’s

Logic Without Definition

      [sic], diction was less clear against an often overly-strident backing which, however, quietened down to a much calmer close.” –

Neville Cohn, The West Australian, 26 June 2000.

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