Experiment in a New Kind of Music with WolframTones

When prominent scientist Stephen Wolfram published A New Kind of Science in 2002, it was immediately hailed as a major intellectual landmark. Today the paradigm shift that Wolfram’s work initiated is starting revolutions in a remarkable range of areas of science, technology – and the arts. WolframTones is an experiment in applying Wolfram’s discoveries to the creation of music.

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At the core of A New Kind of Science is the idea of exploring a new abstract universe: a “computational universe” of simple programs. In A New Kind of Science, Wolfram shows how remarkably simple programs in his “computational universe” capture the essence of the complexity – and beauty – of many systems in nature.

WolframTones works by taking simple programs from Wolfram’s computational universe, and using music theory and Mathematica algorithms to render them as music. Each program in effect defines a virtual world, with its own special story – and WolframTones captures it as a musical composition.

The basic setup for Wolfram’s cellular automata is very simple. There is a row of cells, each black or white. Then there is a rule that says what color each cell will be, based on the colors of a certain neighborhood of cells on the row above. What pattern one gets depends greatly on the rule one uses – which can be specified by saying what color a cell will be for every possible arrangement of neighboring cells.

WolframTones Pattern

WolframTones supports multiple instruments, as well as percussion. Everything is always derived from a single underlying cellular automaton pattern. But different instruments can be set up to pick off different aspects of the pattern – say to correspond to a melodic line or a bass track. WolframTones also supports a number of algorithms for deriving percussion from cellular automaton patterns.

Generate your tones at http://tones.wolfram.com/