Generative Music, an experiment (no. 16)

I’ve recently (as in, over the past few years or more) been fascinated with the concept of generative music, something that Terry Riley first brought to my attention (see my blog entry and version of his aleatoric/generative composition “in C”) and that of course Brian Eno has championed. Eno has found success with many different generative systems, most recently and notably a series of iPhone apps including Bloom which compose random ambient music based on a handful of parameters the user defines.

Wanting to tackle something like that myself, but wanting to start simple, I found that I can do this with Ableton Live and the sample devices that come with the Max for Live package… without even opening Max itself.

Max For Live's MIDIgran effect

The Follow Action feature with 8:1 odds of repeating vs stepping back to the previous clip.

Using the randomized sequencing trick I used in “In C”, plus the Max for Live MIDI effect “Max MidiGran” I was able to take a simple 2-note passage (that forms the main drone) — playing only very long notes of C and F alternating which you can here, below — then separately for each of 2 additional “solo” synths, repitches randomly and remaps to a note on the C major pentatonic scale. These come and go randomly based on probabilities I set up and on multiples of 8 bars.

Then I added a drum machine loop, which also comes in based on random probabilities.

Finally, I added another Max effect that brings up some random feedback to the main drone and the drum machine at unexpected moments. Might be too jarring for the effect I was originally going for though.

It’s also number sixteen in the ridiculously optomistic “song of the week” project, but better late than never…


#16 Opalize (mp3, 24MB)

UPDATE: Here is another mp3 generated by the same setup. Very similar of course, but different!

#17 Opalize (reprise) (mp3, 24MB)

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6 Responses to “Generative Music, an experiment (no. 16)”

  1. andrew dalio Says:

    Fun stuff! My fave generative music software is M. You specify as many paramaters as you want, and either let it go, or interact w/ it. I think Cycling 74 still sells it, if you want to check it out…

  2. aleatoric Says:

    Andrew, have you got a link?

  3. Marc Weidenbaum Says:

    Cycling74 still sells M,

    But only the Mac OS version. If you know of a Windows variant, that’d be excellent.

  4. aleatoric Says:

    Thanks Marc. Looks like most of what you can do with M might be as easily done now with the Live/Max setup with its many available effects (like those made by Stretta); I would be interested to hear more from anyone who has tried both or other systems.

    Also, anyone interested in ambient and experimental music should follow Marc’s blog at

  5. aleatoric Says:

    Also, I put up a couple of screen shots from Live for anyone interested in the more technical details.

    If you have any further questions, please ask!

  6. andrew dalio Says:

    Oops, haven’t been here in a couple days (started homeschool this week…). Anyway, can’t say I’ve used Max for Live (I have the demo version I can use w/ Live Intro 8.2, but haven’t messed around w/ it, since you can’t save). I’ve had M lying around since my Mac Color Classic days, and find it to be a quick and easy way to create generative messages. If you recall the solo show I did @ Maggie’s w/ just the Nintendo DS, AKAI MPC 1000, and Thingamagoop, I was also running (and re-processing) a 20 minute recording of my Hartmann Neuron being controlled by M… PAIA had a program for their 4700 modular synth/computer controller called “Pink Tunes,” where you could specify how many parts and what basic type of texture the piece would be. Simonton called it “pink” due to the old “feed white noise into a sample and hold module” trick, but being able to specify the basic parameters (IE pink noise being balanced white…). I have the article he wrote about it in “Polyphony” magazine (the PAIA in-house mag that turned into “Electronic Musician”) if you want to see the assembly language of it (I *think* it was for the old 6502 processor, but I really don’t remember…).

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