The Fourier Transform: This Mathematical Formula Makes Digital Music Possible

Fourier Transform

I didn’t get into radio or the music business to do math, but sometimes it’s an inevitable part of doing business. You don’t have to understand the Fourier Transform–yes, it sounds like a title of an episode of The Big Bang Theory–but you do need to appreciate its existence.  I quote from Gizmodo:

This is the Fourier Transform. You can thank it for providing the music you stream every day, squeezing down the images you see on the Internet into tiny little JPG files, and even powering your noise-canceling headphones. Here’s how it works.

The equation owes its power to the way that it lets mathematicians quickly understand the frequency content of any kind of signal. It’s quite a feat. But don’t just take my word for it—in 1867, the physicist Lord Kelvin expressed his undying love for this fine piece of mathematics, too. He wrote, “Fourier’s theorem is not only one of the most beautiful results of modern analysis, but it may be said to furnish an indispensable instrument in the treatment of nearly every recondite question in modern physics.” And so it remains.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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