Download this album:

Chris Beckstrom – Windchimes (mp3)

Chris Beckstrom – Windchimes (wav)

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.

screenshot of “Windchimes” playing

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

There are two versions of this piece, each recorded on different dates and in slightly different ways. The first, “A,” was recorded onto cassette tape and then recorded back into the computer so you can hear it. The second, “B,” was recorded inside the computer. I think they are both nice, although the cassette tape really adds a lot to the sound.



Chris Beckstrom – Pure Data, etc.

cover art: “The Party is Over” / by XoMEoX


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