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Category: Algorithmic

Disconnected, an Album of Algorithmic Sound Collages from the Web

I’m pleased to announce the release of Disconnected, and album of algorithmic sound collages generated by pulling sounds from the web.

I prefer to call this album semi-algorithmic because some of the music is purely software-generated, while other pieces are a collaboration between the software and myself. Tracks four and six are purely algorithmic, while the other tracks are a mix of software-generated material and more traditionally composed material.


The software used in the sound collage pieces (1, 3, 4, 6) was inspired by Melissa Schilling’s Small World Network Model of Cognitive Insight. Her theory essentially says that moments of cognitive insight, or creativity, occur whenever a connection is made between previously distantly related ideas. In graph theory, these types of connections are called bridges, and they have the effect of bringing entire neighborhoods of ideas closer together.

I applied Schilling’s theory to sounds from My software searches for neighborhoods of sounds that are related by aural similarity and stores them in a graph of sounds. These sounds are then connected with more distant sounds via lexical connections from These lexical connections are bridges, or moments of creativity. This process is detailed in the paper Composing with All Sound Using the FreeSound and Wordnik APIs.

Finally, these sound graphs must be activated to generate sound collages. I used a modified boids algorithm to allow a swarm to move over the sound graph. Sounds were triggered whenever the population on a vertex surpassed a threshold.

Disconnected is available for download from Xylem Records.


Laurie Spiegel’s Music Mouse

While reading Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner’s book on women in electroacoustic music, I was reminded of Laurie Spiegel’s Music Mouse program. This is a mouse-driven generative music interface that Spiegel created all the way back in 1981. Spiegel used it to create a lot of her well-known pieces, including Appalachian Grove. Music mouse works basically by mapping the X and Y axes of the mouse position to diatonically-constrained pitches and harmonies.

Here’s a demo from YouTube. The fun stuff starts at 31 seconds.

The Sound of Sorting

In this video, a youtube user sonifies various sorting algorithms which are often used in computer programs.

This particular audibilization is just one of many ways to generate sound from running sorting algorithms. Here on every comparison of two numbers (elements) I play (mixing) sin waves with frequencies modulated by values of these numbers. There are quite a few parameters that may drastically change resulting sound – I just chose parameteres that imo felt best. [1]

unnamed soundsculpture by Daniel Franke

The basic idea of the project is built upon the consideration of creating a moving sculpture from the recorded motion data of a real person. For our work we asked a dancer to visualize a musical piece (Kreukeltape by Machinenfabriek) as closely as possible by movements of her body. She was recorded by three depth cameras (Kinect), in which the intersection of the images was later put together to a three-dimensional volume (3d point cloud), so we were able to use the collected data throughout the further process. The three-dimensional image allowed us a completely free handling of the digital camera, without limitations of the perspective. The camera also reacts to the sound and supports the physical imitation of the musical piece by the performer. She moves to a noise field, where a simple modification of the random seed can consistently create new versions of the video, each offering a different composition of the recorded performance. The multi-dimensionality of the sound sculpture is already contained in every movement of the dancer, as the camera footage allows any imaginable perspective.

The body, constant and indefinite at the same time, bursts the space already with its mere physicality, creating a first distinction between the self and its environment. Only the body movements create a reference to the otherwise invisible space, much like the dots bounce on the ground to give it a physical dimension. Thus, the sound-dance constellation in the video does not only simulate a purely virtual space. The complex dynamics of the body movements is also strongly self-referential. With the complex quasi-static, inconsistent forms the body is painting, a new reality space emerges whose simulated aesthetics goes far beyond numerical codes.

Similar to painting, a single point appears to be still very abstract, but the more points are connected to each other, the more complex and concrete the image seems. The more perfect and complex the alternative worlds we project (Vilém Flusser) and the closer together their point elements, the more tangible they become. A digital body, consisting of 22 000 points, thus seems so real that it comes to life again. [1]

via @olliebown