Posts Tagged ‘computer music’

Generative Music, an experiment (no. 16)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

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)

“Live Coding”

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Not just using laptops, but coding in a live performance? See this story on BBC News’ web site.

No mentions of what languages are being used, but screen shots seem to suggest Max/MSP and either CSound or ChucK.

your future, mule armadillo (no. 10)

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Here’s one using Stretta‘s inspirational polygomé on the monome as an arpeggiator for both the bass synth and the vibraphone. 

In C.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I’ve  been working on this one for awhile, but I finally got it to a point where I can post it.

It’s an adaptation of Terry Riley’s famous 1964 composition In C, which instead of having a completely static arrangement is a score sheet of 53 looping phrases that each musician plays one-by-one, at her own pace, until she feels like progressing to the next phrase.

"In C" score by Terry Riley

"In C" score by Terry Riley

A few years ago when version 6 of Ableton Live came out, I read about the new “Follow Action” feature which allows for the user to introduce a certain amount of randomness to the arrangement. I immediately thought of In C and that if I could each phrase into a separate MIDI clip, I could arrange it so that it would play much as Riley directed. The only problem was that my music-reading skills were pretty limited, my last formal music lesson having been in 4th grade. A short book called Learn To Read Music (of all things) and the Wikipedia entry on modern musical symbols got me over that hurdle.

I decided to make 8 instruments, even though Riley suggests more, because the amount of synchronicity that occurs with human players is less likely to happen with a computer. Each of the 8 computer instruments isn’t listening to the other 7, so there’s no natural temptation to fall into sync with the others. In addition there’s the pulse on the eighth notes as Riley suggests.

I have set it up so that each instrument will play each phrase 4 times, then after the 4th time there is a 1:3 (or 25%) chance it will play the next phrase; otherwise it will loop once more on the current phrase. At the end of each phrase, the computer throws the dice again. There may be better ways to experiment with the probabilities to get it to play closer to Riley’s very general direction that players not get more than 3 or 4 phrases ahead or behind of each other; the computer does not take this into account. (It would be feasible with Max but not Ableton Live).

Each time the piece is played by the computer, it should be a completely different arrangement (although computer random numbers are really pseudo-random, and I don’t know how Live picks random numbers), but contain all the patterns and polyrhythms of patterns intersecting that is the hallmark of In C.


Ableton Live playing "In C" by Terry Riley
Ableton Live playing “In C” by Terry Riley

Chances are good you don’t have Ableton Live 6 (or later), but if you are interested in the Live set, let me know and I will send it to you or post it here. However, below I have posted several mp3s representing performances of the piece:

Performance #1: In C #1 (23:09, 31.8MB)

Performance #2: In C #2 (19:30, 26.8MB)

UPDATE: I added one more. Skipped #3, it wasn’t interesting enough. This might be the best so far. It’s also the shortest.

Performance #4*: In C (#4) (16:35, 23.4 Mb)

UPDATE (27 mar 2012): By popular demand, I am including the Ableton project file.

Ableton Live Set:  InC v2-alec.als