The Game Of Life Applied To Music

John Conway’s Game of Life is a classic game, first discussed in a Scientific American article in 1970, that uses simple rule to simulate how different colonies of life evolve. A new plugin, Automaton from Audio Damage, takes these ideas and applies them to the manipulation of sound.

Automaton isn’t the application to bring the Game of Life to music; see our coverage of GlitchDS for discussion of a free cellular automaton music sequencer for the Nintendo DS.

The basic idea of the Game of Life is to start with a simple configuration of counters (organisms), one to a cell, then observe how it changes as you apply Conway’s “genetic laws” for births, deaths, and survivals. Conway chose his rules carefully, after a long period of experimentation, to meet three desiderata:

There should be no initial pattern for which there is a simple proof that the population can grow without limit.

There should be initial patterns that apparently do grow without limit.

There should be simple initial patterns that grow and change for a considerable period of time before coming to end in three possible ways: fading away completely (from overcrowding or becoming too sparse), settling into a stable configuration that remains unchanged thereafter, or entering an oscillating phase in which they repeat an endless cycle of two or more periods.

In brief, the rules should be such as to make the behavior of the population unpredictable.

Here’s a version of the game that you can try in your Web browser:

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