The Clausen function

I ran across the Clausen function the other day, and when I saw a plot of the function my first thought was that it looks sorta like a sawtooth wave.

Plot of Clausen function Cl_2

I wondered whether it also sounds like a sawtooth wave, and indeed it does. More on that shortly.

The Clausen function can be defined in terms of its Fourier series:

\text{Cl}_2(x) = \sum_{k=1}^\infty \frac{\sin(kx)}{k^2}

The function commonly known as the Clausen function is one of a family of functions, hence the subscript 2. The Clausen functions for all non-negative integers n are defined by replacing 2 with n on both sides of the defining equation.

The Fourier coefficients decay quadratically, as do those of a triangle wave or sawtooth wave, as discussed here. This implies the function Cl2(x) cannot have a continuous derivative. In fact, the derivative of Cl2(x) is infinite at 0. This follows quickly from the integral representation of the function.

\text{Cl}_2(x)=-\int_0^x\log \left|2\sin\frac{t}{2} \right|\, dt

The fundamental theorem of calculus shows that the derivative

\text{Cl}'_2(x)=-\log \left|2\sin\frac{x}{2} \right|

blows up at 0.

Now suppose we create an audio clip of Cl2(440x). This creates a sound with pitch A 440, but rather than a sinewave it has an unpleasant buzzing sound, much like a sawtooth wave.



The harshness of the sound is due to the slow decay of the Fourier coefficients; the Fourier coefficients of more pleasant musical sounds decay much faster than quadratically.

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