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Tag: swarm intelligence

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.


Cover

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 freesound.org. 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 wordnik.com. 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.


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Black Allegheny, Swarm Generated Music

Black Allegheny is one of the first albums made up entirely of swarm generated music. The album was created using a swarm-controlled sampler called Becoming, which was programmed by the composer.


<a href="http://evanxmerz.bandcamp.com/album/black-allegheny">Imperceptible Time by Evan X. Merz</a>

Becoming is an algorithmic composition program written in java, that builds upon some of John Cage’s frequently employed compositional processes. Cage often used the idea of a “gamut” in his compositions. A gamut could be a collection of musical fragments, or a collection of sounds, or a collection of instruments. Often, he would arrange the gamut visually on a graph, then use that graph to piece together the final output of a piece. Early in his career, he often used a set of rules or equations to determine how the output would relate to the graph. Around 1949, during the composition of the piano concerto, he began using chance to decide how music would be assembled from the graph and gamut.

In Becoming, I directly borrow Cage’s gamut and graph concepts; however, the software assembles music using concepts from the AI subfield of swarm intelligence. I place a number of agents on the graph and, rather than dictating their motions from a top-down rule-based approach, the music grows in a bottom-up fashion based on local decisions made by each agent. Each agent has preferences that determine their movement around the graph. These values dictate how likely the agent is to move toward food, how likely the agent is to move toward the swarm, and how likely the performer is to avoid the predator.





Yes, this is my new album! Thanks for reading and listening!

On CDM, with a great comments thread
On Make Online
Swarm Sampler On MatrixSynth
On Noise for Airports (a great intellectual music blog!)
On Califaudio

With the Blurred Vision of a Newborn



This piece unites Cage’s conception of graph music with ideas from the field of swarm intelligence. The software uses a graph of notated musical fragments to generate a score in real-time, for live performance. It does this by allowing a swarm of virtual insects to crawl over the graph, choosing new fragments with each move.