How much can you do with a single line of musical code?

Scoring music using archaic-looking (but relatively fundamental) audio techniques, a group of composers has produced a free album. Each track, produced in the open source, multi-platform audio tool SuperCollider, is produced via only 140 characters of code. The work ranges from electronic grooves to droning ambiences to hypnotic melodic patterns… and yes, a few strange sounds. You can listen to the output as a conventional album, or if you install a copy of SuperCollider, you can run the code yourself – some of the tracks will sound different each time the code is executed.

The album, sc140, was released earlier in the fall but I didn’t get a chance to write about it; readers reminded me as the release of Mixtikl 2 yesterday brought a similar generative score-tweeting feature. Mixtikl’s approach is a little different; SuperCollider here is building sounds from scratch, whereas Mixtikl is tweeting higher-level information about a mix.

All of the code from the project is accessible, so this is an interesting way to learn about the capabilities of SuperCollider, and to find some of the commands you might want to understand if you’re delving in yourself.

If you’re not quite ready for writing code, the track audio is Creative Commons-licensed (BY-NC-SA 3), so you can sample the audio, as well.

sc140 @ SuperCollider site

Article + artist bios at The Wire (who collaborated on this release)

Source code

Album curated by Dan Stowell.

How all this started: SCTwitting, sharing code on Twitter

Lots of interesting artists in there, too, including Sciss aka Hanns Holger Rutz, whose OSC library for Java I’ve been using.

For more SuperCollider coding insanity:

Recreating the THX Deep Note

  • Listening to the mp3s now. Makes me rethink what minimal can be, as the term doesn't have to apply to the music, as it can also be applied to the code that generates the music. Superb stuff!

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  • I'd been looking into ways to compact musical phrases into twitter posts but couldn't devise a format that would allow much creativity. This innovative concept album just proves I had the wrong idea: Don't store the music; store algorithms to generate the music.

    And with definitely cool results I'm hearing so far. Kudos to all those involved.

  • This is quite interesting… from November 2000.

    Koan Vectors combined both the musical rules and the complete sound definitions.

    Part of the fun was the ability to define entire pieces and sounds dynamically in a webpage using JavaScript!

    Incidentally, complete Partikl pieces (combining Noatikl or MIDI core, complete synth sound definitions etc.) can be mailed around as text vectors between users of Mixtikl 2; these are usually quite a bit longer than our Tikls, but of course they make collaboration very fast and flexible!