Yeah, thanks a lot, Will Wright. Now can you breed a new us that’s immune to procrastinating the rest of our lives to play your game?

Just when we thought we might escape Will Wright’s upcoming PC game, Spore, and get some work done, it turns into a compositional must-have. Regine Debatty, who gets to hang out at hip, artsy European events like the 01 Award reception at the University of the Arts Berlin, therefore got to blog Brian Eno’s speech. It loses a little something in the translation (like, I wish I had just been in Berlin), but it’s all worth a read.

The big news: Eno will create a fully procedural sound score for Spore, to make the music as generative as the game itself. My prediction: the results will be brilliant, and will interactively generate a distortion in the space-time field around our computers in which we cease to productive for long evenings after the game is released. Generative, indeed.

For a related take on how to re-conceive composition in the age of gaming, see W. Brent Latta’s interview with Tomb Raider composer Troels Brun Folmann:

Tomb Raider: Legend Composer Troels Brun Folmann on Adaptive “Micro-Scoring”

Of course, you don’t have to be a game composer to integrate generative music into your work. Ableton Live Follow Actions can be chained into extensive algorithmic patterns, so that you can play against a more random background. Custom patches in software like Reaktor and Max/MSP can take you much further, whether controlling audio, MIDI, or some other element; they can respond to your playing or provide interactive control or have a mind all their own. There was a time when I think “linear” composers butted heads with “algorithmic” composers, the latter so slavishly dedicated to their field that they sometimes created work that felt a little too generative to everyone else. Now, you can look at all these methods as a way to break up timelines anywhere you like to keep your creative juices flowing — even if you generally work in a more linear way.

And, of course, the very idea of “scoring” as it existed in film can now be expanded. Working with algorithmic and generative music? Let us know about your projects. And do it quick, before we’re all playing Spore instead of making music.

For more Eno + Wright, listen to the MP3 of their joint talk at the Long Now Foundation (thanks, cebec):

MP3 from Long Now

The summary page appears to be broken at the moment.

  • bliss

    This is the only game that I have been waiting for. Nothing else interests me — and I haven't bought a new game in about four years. Knowing Eno is providing the music just makes it more desirable.

  • Well, this is excellent news… Have been trying to get developers interested in generative scores for games for nearly a decade. Anyone out there still using KoanPro, or are we just a diminishing few who found in KoanPro complexity and beauty!

  • At the heart of algorithmic + generative music is the mapping chosen between input (in Spore, situation + time) and aural output. I've been trying to explore the boundaries and clarify what exactly is going on here; see this page for an overview and example, and this paper [pdf] for more.

  • cebec

    Oh man, you said it! — The only game I've been waiting for, as well, in about the same amount of time.

    Has anyone else listened to the Will Wright/Eno talk at the Long Now Foundation on their website? Check it out if you haven't. It's very entertaining and informative.

  • That's great, Kyle — and hot off the press, I see! I'd love to see these ideas developed further. Keep us posted.

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  • I created this algorithmic ambient piece entirely in Reason (version 3):


    If you have any questions as to how this piece was created, feel free to contact me here.

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