This is a generative piece I built just before my daughter was born. I envisioned something that would soothe a baby, like a mobile but with sound. Like wind chimes but smoother. As it turns out, once she was born I forgot about most everything, including this project. Much later I rediscovered it and found it soothing myself!

Generative means I didn’t compose any music, I created a structure or set of rules, through which the computer will make (random?) choices. I didn’t tell the computer what notes to play, when to play them, or how loud they should be – I just built a contraption that makes its own music, “deciding” for itself. Each time “Windchimes” is run, the output will be different.

If you listen to this and think it sounds strange, or at least different from other music, you’re not wrong. As an experiment, I used a different tuning system than the “regular” one most Western music uses. It’s called just intonation and I think it sounds very pretty! The 5-second pitch is that it makes notes more in tune than they normally are. Really!

The video above is forty-some minutes of Pure Data, a graphical programming environment, interpreting the code and generating music. The colors of the blocks you see correspond to the letters of my daughter’s name, according to my grapheme-color synesthesia.

If you’d like, you can download the audio here in mp3 format: Windchimes 2018-09-12 42 minutes

And if you want to check out the code and/or run this yourself, you can get everything here:

I also recorded almost 90 minutes to cassette tape, which I think sounds really nice. Once I get that uploaded I’ll share it here as well.

3 responses

  1. Very pleasant! The tuning… I wish I understood why and how just intonation was different from the evenly divided 12 note scale! I read the Wikipedia article about it and everything, and am no less enlightened!!

    Good thing my synth is mostly ad-hoc tuning. 😀

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