Behold the power of the Web: composition ideas become a tool, a tool becomes a means for even casual users sharing musical sketches, and a browser toy can be a window into a Turkish sound artist breeding musical DNA like some people breed strains of flowers.

Otomata is a simple generative online grid-based sequencer, owing to a number of step sequencers and Toshio Iwai’s Tenori-on, with some beautiful circular visualizations of the resulting sounds. I’m late in posting it, but in a way, that’s a good thing – in the time that this sequencer has spread around the Web, it’s spawned a small army of casual musicians producing their own videos and patterns.

And that brings me to an observation. In all the discussion of “apps” versus the Web – a discussion as old as the network itself, having appeared as “cloud computing” and various other forms before – people may be missing the point. Right now, Otomata is not an app, though iPhone/iPad and Android versions are reportedly in the works. It runs as a Flash file, which gives pretty much anyone access to it (including the majority of people on the planet who still don’t have either an iOS or Android device).

“This should be an app, bro,” says a Facebook commenter. But app or browser window, it doesn’t matter: the Web is what makes new ideas spread. Otomata running the browser.

But it’s Web sharing that’s already making it powerful – people sending around links, sharing creations, and showing friends. App or not, the Web is what makes software successful these days, through YouTube views, blog posts like this one (ahem), and even casual “look what’s on my screen” sharing that results in the exchange of a URL anyone with a browser can run. Flash may not be the best rich tool the Web has ever seen, but it’s only the means to an end – the end being getting things in a connected browser.

Want further evidence? Look no further than the Facebook page, or better yet, open discussion on Reddit:

Great design, embodying musical sense in the structure of the tool itself, makes this a hit. And for that, you can thank “computational sound artist” Batuhan Bozkurt of Istanbul. His musical expression is generally procedural by nature, expressed as a set of rules in compositional form. Check out his terrific video on this work, as built in the open source tool SuperCollider.

If you can tear yourself away from playing with this wonderful toy, you can get deep into genetic code for musical composition and spectacular SuperCollider creation.

Rapid iteration? Quick contagian? Generational evolution? Hmmm… sounds a bit like what’s happening on a larger level as creations like this spread around the Web. But it’s a heck of a lot more fun than genetic engineering … or the plague. So play away, Internets.

Tons of additional information and goodness on Batuhan’s site:

Thanks to Max (and others) for the tip! (Max actually suggests trying this with multiple tabs open!)

  • Art

    JS plugin, Nova One, inspired by Otomata

  • It would be interesting to hear the Otomata with some more raw sounds. With the inevitable little delay and pleasing pentatonic scale, even completely random sequences sound "nice".

  • I think Otomata's beauty is on its simplicity. I started working on an Otomata inspired iOS app.
    Here is a demo of it sending MIDI to a Dave Smith Tetr4.

  • Laconicism is fantastic… some great sounds and ideas there…

  • Alejandro Vukasovic

    I feel bad about using Otomata… It's so good… Makes me feel like I have talent.

  • Wow, this tool is nice. I was playing with it and totally forgot the time.

    Can someone make a midi vst plugin version of this (with selectable scales)? That would be so cewl.

  • Paul

    I've been messing about with it for a couple of weeks now. It's great!
    Although im curious why it happens to be 9 cubes square? You tend to expect 8 or 16..

    And my god, if this were available as some kind of plugin *Cough AU!! cough* with moddable scales etc, i'd be mighty happy indeed!

    If only my Tenori-on could do this..

  • Hi Paul, I've experimented with even grids. The problem I found is that even grids do not have a middle columns and rows. And as humans we tend to use edges and middle points a lot. In an instrument like this, the whole thing feels a bit annoying. For example if you create two cells on opposite edges facing each other, and press play, they won't meet. If you have an odd grid, they will meet at the middle row/column and bounce. That is what makes the symmetric yet dynamic and interacting patterns possible.

  • Paul

    Thanks for the explanation. It does make sense! I'll keep an eye on this for sure 🙂

  • axelmeyer

    See and hear musik like Otomata played on a launchpad:

  • Otomata has a new online version and an iOS version now!