Hexagons are the new squares.

After years of square grids, music is discovering the hexagon in a big way. Hexagonal lattices have advantages of their own, in terms of how efficiently they pack space and the way adjacent sides align. Don’t believe your local mathematician? Ask your local bee.

What’s interesting is that, as musicians experiment with interfaces and structures, they may wind up with either a wild, experimental music synthesizer, or a fun game.

On the game side, at top, we have a trailer for the upcoming “Fractal.” It appears to match the productivity-annihilating addictiveness of puzzle games with reactive music. As the creators put it, it’s “a fierce intersection of fractal gameplay, dynamic audio, and kaleidoscopic visuals” and “a new ambient music puzzler experience. Combo, Chain, and Cascade your way through a pulsing technicolor dreamscape that reacts to your every move, while manipulating Fractals, creating Blooms, and expanding your consciousness at 130 BPM.” They cite Andre Michelle’s ToneMatrix, a Tenori-On-like Flash app (see videos), as a major influence, in addition to games like Lumines.

It could also be that the developers have been reading CDM and decided to engineer the perfect solution to permanently steal your lives, oh reactive music-loving, gaming nerdsters.

The game is from the creators of Auditorium, a beautiful puzzler that simultaneously involved arranging ambient music. I couldn’t get entirely sucked into Auditorium’s gameplay, but now, if CDM’s blog posts suddenly disappear for a few days when this comes out, I may realize that was a good thing. For more:

Cipher Games Lifts the Veil on Synaesthetic Puzzler Fractal [Bytejacker]
playfractal.com

Bee tested, bee approved! You’ll never see these guys hanging around square grids, or using a monome. Photo (CC-BY) Peter Shanks.

If you’re wondering if these same sorts of structures could be transformed from game rules to musical rules, you’ll like the next project. Paris-based Composer René Micout has built an elaborate musical application inspired by the Reactogon music sequencer / “chain reactive performance arpeggiator.”

If you’re comfortable with French, there’s an extensive three-part demo on YouTube.

Part 2
Part 3 (if you want to skip to the end and just watch the resulting demos)

As in other similar nodal and hexagonal sequencers, Rene’s work applies interactive musical events to spots on the grid. Different modules control the flow of events from one space to another, transposition, tempo, and other events.

It’s an experimental project at the moment, and not necessarily one he may distribute, but as a way to see some ideas, it’s fantastic. Rene tells us he built this application using RunRev, a rapid-prototyping development environment and spiritual successor to the legendary HyperCard. Unfortunately, that tool lacks strong music and sound components, so he actually had to hack it in, using AppleScript events to control the built-in Mac QuickTime synthesizer.

He’s got other projects on the way, too, including a “Stocastofon, Stocastovox, Ritmofon, Rizomofon, Acordofon.” Excellent!

So, keeping score, a few of our previous views of hexagons:

Music on the Game Grid: Interactive Arpeggiators Al-Jazari, reacTogon
Alternative Sequencers: Elysium Generative Mac App and the Joy of Hex

And I think it’s time for me to go visit some of these hexagonal controller manufacturers at NAMM next week.

Your help wanted: The hexagon deserves its own master list of hardware, software, iPhone applications, experimental installations, etc. Nominees? Links I may have missed? Anyone doing turn-based strategy role-play games that are also musical sequencers? (Now that I’d like to see: Machinedrum Fantasy Tactics.)

  • Kerrydan

    Though I'm sure it's not the only one not mentioned, don't forget a shout out to the JR Hexatone drum sequencer, from Amidio for iPhone.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yeah, I need to put together a master hex list.

    Nominations?

    We've got hardware, software… quite a lot of stuff out there, now.

  • cnco

    The Manta touch controller device:
    http://www.snyderphonics.com/products.htm

  • Kaden

    Anything Simmons

  • http://www.otownmedia.com Richard Lainhart

    The AXiS-64 and -49 controllers:

    http://www.c-thru-music.com

  • http://www.humanworkshop.com durk

    My lord what a terrible music and SD in that video.

  • Jaime Munarriz

    We need to build an open source hex platform, in Processing, so we can add new modules and test its possibilities, with MIDI and OSC.

  • http://soundcloud.com/altitudesickness altitude sickness

    Here is a great adaptable hexagonal synth by Ben Wasserman built with Processing and Chuck:

    http://wiki.cs.princeton.edu/index.php/BenWasserm

    @Jaime Munarriz-

    I believe this project is open source, you should take this layout and MIDI-fy it (and adapt the OSC interface).

    @Peter -

    This is my nomination.

  • http://youtube.com/analoq analoq

    The Reactagon, Axis64 and Exagofon are all based on the same hexagonal harmonic table. I recently saw this adaptation of the hexagonal grid to a square grid for the Launchpad:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxcR4O-GRZg

    I attempted to do the same with the monome last year, using it at a 45 degree angle. A bit awkward for sure but good enough until there is a.. I don't know.. Hexagonome?

  • http://www.boxoftextures.com/ Seth Elgart

    Elysium is a totally cool generative music sequencer that uses a hex grid.

    http://lucidmac.com/

  • René Micout

    Bonjour (sorry for my english !),

    @ Durk :

    1. Yes the sound is not very good (but in reality it is better) because the sound is take by the computer microphone from the computer speakers and compress into MP4 format and your computer play it from your computer speakers…

    2. This is not a musical but a technical presentation to explain how the "machine" work, in part 6 there is some most sophisticated agencements but not really compositions (this will come later…).

    @ Analoq : Exagofon is base on Harmonic table but not only, if you look at pop-up "Mode" you can see 190 modes (major, minors, Bartok, Messiaen, Looten, blues, etc.)

    @ Peter Kirn : thank you very much for publishing

  • René Micout

    @ Altitude sickness : I see the Ben Wasserman project, it is interesting. He say for the future :

    1. Ability to change sequences on the fly > possible in Exagofon

    2. Ability to assign relative durations to individual notes in a sequence > possibe in Exagofon

    3. Ability to store and recall sequences > possible in Exagofon

    4. Multiple voices with different sequences > 5 "flux" in Exagofon

    @ Analoq : in Exagofon the angle is 30° : 12 directions

  • René Micout

    @ analoq : I look at your sampler > very impressive !

  • Jaime Munarriz

    @ Altitude sickness : Thanks, the Ben Wasswlman Hex interface seem promising! I've coded an hex board myself, and I was getting to the bots… but I could share my code also if anyone is interested.

  • tufted

    @ dusk: i agree. this started to become boring in auditorium around level 2 (out of 1x). for me musically it is not entertaining.

    and new ways FTW! we are so square minded. let's go for circles :)

  • http://youtube.com/analoq analoq

    @ René Micout: Thanks for the clarifications. I'm not fluent in French so I wasn't clear on the capabilities of your software.

    cheers.

  • René Micout

    @ alaloq : I am not fluent in english ! :-)

  • René Micout

    Hello everybody,

    I need help. I am searching books, tutorials or "something" (in english or in french [is it possible to dream ?]) witch talk about working Macintosh Core audio/Core Midi with AppleScript.

    Thank you

    René

  • Jaime Munarriz

    @ altitude sickness: The Ben Wasserman file is missing, do you know were can I find it?

    If you have it, could you send it by email?

  • http://lotuslandstudios.com/ Tom Schulz

    Fractal looks and sounds wicked. Must add to my lengthy must play list.

    I wonder if Reactogon lends itself to odd time signatures, or if in general hexagon interfaces mean music with sixes in it. I'm a drummer, and while I myself enjoy getting weird with the time signature I have noticed audiences, especially techno/hip hop ones typically expect (demand?) some simpler 4/4 action.

    If you love hexes you will likely love the hell out of Hive, a boardgame we also developed the iPhone version of.

    I also own a machinedrum; using it as the sound source for some kind of soundboard / drum pad thing has occurred to me.

    It'd be pretty fun to take the skin off the Hive pieces, make some neat 3D hex interface and then pile on a couple of hundred excellent techno sounds.

    René Micout – contact me tom@lotuslandstudios.com I will try to answer your questions: Je parles aussi un peu de Francais, mais la Francaise Canadienne ( d'Alberta, vraiment).

  • df

    there's also the Dodechordron v1.3 in the Reaktor user library, unfortunately only releases it's full potential when used on a touchscreen (which i don't have) :(