I’ve started to become very interested in using prime numbers in the context of music. Obviously Mr. Eno did a lot of theorising about this already but I have had a lot of ‘duhhh’ moments this past month while putting prime numbers to the test in different areas of my productions.

Probably the least surprising is offsetting your notes by prime numbers to keep away those pesky repetitions but I realised that using prime numbers for your extremely short delays can also change the tonality a surprising amount. I went and did some searching around and found this very interesting post on the old MusicPlayer forums circa 2004 from the legendary EQ obsessive George Massenburg saying —

I use prime numbers

becausethey’re indivisible by 2. Imagine if you set a delay of 8ms and hit it with a transient-kind-of event. you’d hear something like a 125Hz-based tone. So if you’ve got a bunch of delays and they’re set, say, 8, 4, 2, 1, you’re going to have a processing context that favors 125Hz and it’s overtones (250Hz & etc). I use this as a worst case, and most of us don’t use delays that short (although I can remember important times that Ihave). But even at longer delays, I get a vague sense of a “tone” even without regen. By using prime numbers you 1> are more likely to “dove-tail” several different harmonic series, and 2> are more likely to have these vague “tones” land away from musically significant harmonics. Maybe I get a sense that it sounds more “neutral”.

Has anyone else messed around with using prime numbers in other aspects of production?