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:
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.
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:
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.)