I was recently working on some project involved with audio driven simulation. Using Houdini you have a few control and easy ways to bring audio (pitch, bass, beats..etc) as animation curves, so it's quiet easy to control and influence a particle system or shader for that matter.
Increasing incandescence, opacity or moving thru hues. Unfortunately it isn't as easy in maya. During my research I found the following Vimeo channel. Flight404. Very cool stuff. Basically the author or creator if you like is using audio to drive simulation as but at a higher level. If I understood well, he isn't using any off the shelf tool, but writing his own programs using Processing (processing.org). (which is a programming language), he also seems to use physics algorithm for his simulations. more specifically magnetic and fluid fields equation. But most importantly, and this is why I like his work so much, it is gorgeous! his choice of color, shape, audio and timing is very inspiring.
I'm trying some stuff in houdini that I'll post soon. (hopefully.... :))