You know you’re in for something different with an article that contains this line: “as 256 bytes is becoming the new 4K, there has been ever more need to play decent music in the 256-byte size class. ”

In just a single line of code, Finnish artist and coder countercomplex, working with other contributors, is creating “bitwise creations in a pre-apocalyptic world.” What’s stunning is to listen to the results, even if you have trouble following the code – the results are complex and organic, glitchy but with compositional direction, as though the machine itself had learned to compose in its own, strange language.

This is, naturally, the opposite of the musical coding in the previous post: in place of human-readable languages representing abstractions atop other abstractions, this is pure algorithm transformed into music. Geeky, yes, but it also says something about musical composition and thought independent of the computer. It is as compact an expression of a human musical idea as one could imagine.

I recommend reading the whole blog post (and following the blog for new developments). Embedded in this whole exercise are thoughts about musical algorithms, the history of chip and 8-bit music and the demoscene, and, most interestingly, the question of whether digital music might yet yield “new” (or at least largely unknown) discoveries:

Hasn’t this been done before?

We’ve had the technology for all this for decades. People have been building musical circuits that operate on digital logic, creating short pieces of software that output music, experimenting with chaotic audiovisual programs and trying out various algorithms for musical composition. Mathematical theory of music has a history of over two millennia. Based on this, I find it quite mind-boggling that I have never before encountered anything similar to our discoveries despite my very long interest in computing and algorithmic sound synthesis. I’ve made some Google Scholar searches for related papers but haven’t find anything. Still, I’m quite sure that at many individuals have come up with these formulas before, but, for some reason, their discoveries remained in obscurity.

Algorithmic symphonies from one line of code — how and why? [countercomplex]

But can you dance to it?

Matt Ganucheau contributed to this story from San Francisco.

  • Tom D

    Fascinating stuff – the end results sound pretty cool too! I can definitely see people dancing to some of it ;)

  • Aaron

    There is a new/beta Generator out for Buzz modular that lets you use such one-liners. These video posts are great, gave me a bunch of fun examples to try out. The discussion about the gen is @ http://www.buzzchurch.com/viewtopic.php?p=61158#6

    There is also a Javascript version (different coder) so anyone can try it in browser here: http://wurstcaptures.untergrund.net/music/

    and of course.. tons of examples here:

    http://www.pouet.net/topic.php?which=8357

  • http://robotcowboy.com Dan Wilcox

    A similar technique is used by Chun Lee at GOTO10 using only math via [expr~] objects in Pure Data on an album called 0xA:&nbsp ;http://www.archive.org/details/GOSUB10-004

    This technique was introduced at the PDCon11 in Weimar … pretty impressive.

  • Anonymous Nuclear Re

    Trent Reznor is gonna have a field day with this…

  • tobamai

    would have enjoyed my highschool c/c++ class a lot more with this in it.

  • http://www.lawriecape.co.uk Lawrie

    I posted this on the CD-Motion post about this, but thought I'd post it here too. Here's a link to the flash port of this code, so you can see it working "live" -&nbsp ;http://wonderfl.net/c/g8TS
    Really cool stuff :)

  • http://Seeabove Mr Miagi

    One day this website will have some music on n it.

    Today sadly is not that day.

    AGAIN.

  • kconnor9000

    I love this stuff. There are a lot of historical precedents, however. The key concept here is a minimal machine (code, or real circuit) that generates complex outputs from a very small number of parameters, generally using a feedback arrangement.

    Off the top of my head, shift-register sequences such as maxcan generate cute little melodies buried in the noise. I've used MLS (maximum-length sequences) for this in past. That's a recursion relation (feedback shift register) with only two or three taps!! Can't get much simpler than that. MLS sequences are also used in acoustics, to excite rooms and measure the impulse response, used in things like convolution reverbs. So a double whammy – a useful tool, that is also in itself an exemplar of a 'minimal feedback synth'.

    Another, more famous example, is the 'cybernetic machines' used by Louis and Bebe Barron in the soundtrack for Forbidden Planet. There was a great article about these in Keyboard, years back. Same idea, executed in hardware. Very minimal synthesis, based on a few elements with feedback. Very complex results from minimum bumber of components. Same idea again.

    This guy's blog is awesome, BTW! Full props. Minimal feedback based synths are not historically unique, imo, but this guy is clearly a great thinker.

  • http://www.holotropik.com Holotropik

    Way cool :D

  • heuermh
  • http://www.papernoise.net Papernoise

    "One day this website will have some music on n it.Today sadly is not that day.AGAIN."

    then do us all a favour and stop reading CDM!

    I find these experiments really amazing. The beauty lies in the minimalism. It's computer music in it's barest essence… that's probably the fascination to it (and maybe also what makes them a love-or-hate thing).

  • inspiral

    awesome!

  • inspiral

    I would love to hear these algorythms with higher resolution and with some spice up like modifying some range or segment of the output to enhance or change the charateristics of it.

  • Matthew Yee-King

    Google SC Tweets

    140 character supercollider symphonies! 

    - matthew

  • Adrian

    If anyone wants to try these out, but is on a Linux distro that uses ALSA, you won't be able to pipe to /dev/audio; instead, pipe the output of your compiled program to "aplay", like so:

    ./a.out | aplay

    Happy hacking!

  • roymacdonald

    BEAUTIFUL!

    There's a really compelling thing that comes from how the formula looks like (the way that the characters interrelate visually) and how it sounds.

    This has really enlightened me.

  • Jonny

    well, I've paid good money for worse :D

  • http://zeroreference.blogspot.com zeroreference

    awesome (..ehsz!..)

    really cool.