Free, Web-Based Music Generative Applet Built in Java

It’s the music of the spheres. Or at least, the music of the various, floating geometric shapes, bouncing around a virtual galaxy with gravity simulation. Kepler’s Orrery is a (newly) open-sourced generative music maker, based on a gravity simulation algorithm. As bodies collide, they make sound; it’s a bit like what would happen if you crossed a music box with a snow globe. Different worlds represent different songs. You can reach in and grab some of the objects, so it’s possible to “perform” with the project.

The application runs directly in a web browser (assuming your Java is up to date), and since it’s open source, digging around in the code could inspire your own Java-based musical environment.

Kepler’s Orrery Project Page, with notes, source code, and a live applet
Creator Simran Gleason Talks About the Project on in a podcast (MP3)

And yes, there are some similarities here to the generative music of Brian Eno (soon to be heard in the upcoming Will Wright game Spore) and sound artist/composer Toshio Iwai’s ElectroPlankton game. Perhaps we have a whole genre of musical creation in the works here.


  • This type of stuff reminds me of ixi software.

  • Damon

    Algorithmic music and intelligent design. What is the difference?

    It is like firing a bullet into space and expecting it to change direction without the benefit of an external force.

    Now, I know this particular program is not exactly comparable to self writing music, but why are so many artists trying to accomplish this?

    The idea is not at all logical. It is a perpetual motion machine fantasy.

    But if you can prove to me you can count to infinity, I am willing to be proven wrong.



  • Well, Damon, I'm not sure this particular example is much more than an experiment. But many composers think of basic rules and parameters when writing; that's even built into Classical music and so on… I'd see this as just that basic concept with some extra visuals.

    And since it's music, not real physics, perpetual motion is definitely possible. Until your computer crashes or the power goes out, anyway.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Wow, this is great! Thanks Peter.

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  • It's an experiment and a pretty good one at that. As we know there are two kinds of music. Good music and bad music. I got some pretty interesting stuff out of it.

    Thanks for reporting it Peter.

  • @Damon …

    Hey dude, I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at. But I do have to take exception with your statement " … The idea is not at all logical. It is a perpetual motion machine fantasy."

    Algorithmic composition really is not a pseudo-science. This is for real, doctoral-thesis way-above-my-head math stuff dude. I've only begun reading it, but this book is just mind blowing, on that subject and quite a few others: A New Kind Of Science by Stephen Wolrfram (yeah, the mathematica dude).

    I'm not saying the role of the composer will be dead. I'm saying what we do as composers can (shockingly) be described quite succinctly, by mathematics.

    There's no need to feel threatened by it, I don't think. But it is quite interesting.

  • The math of n-body simulation is pretty cool. Wayne Schlitt has a really good paper describing various simulation methods, their accuracy, and cetera: (also available as pdf from his site about the XStar n-body solver.)

    I found that paper after I'd written Kepler's Orrery, and it really helped me understand the math and where the simulation errors were coming from.

    In this system there's a lot of room for composition: each body can have a melody attached to it, so the composer's job is to concoct melodies that combine — effectively randomly — to make the composition. Since the motion is complex enough to be largely unpredictable, from a composer's standpoint you have to throw out notions of tempo, rhythm (even pulse), and (to a large part) sequential melody. What's left to work with? Randomly placed notes that tend to a harmonic structure over time.

    I'd love to hear what other composers might do with it. Though I haven't yet written up a guide about how to compose "songs" for it. If enough people bug me I'll get on it.

  • sirsha

    oh yeah i bug you! please we need this kind of work, would be great achievment. thanks in advacne