The Molecular Music Box: Simple Rules Can Create Rich Patterns

This video, via University of Warwick professor Duncan Lockerby, explains The Molecular Music Box – an approach to music composition that explores how simple rules can lead to rich patterns.

The Molecular Music Box is a mix of music, math and molecular dynamics. It’s based on using a simpler looper and some simple compositional rules.

You can experiment with ‘molecular composition’ with an online molecular music box generator. A version of this has also been made in Native Instruments’ Reaktor –  Molecular Music Box.

Check it out and let us know what you think of this style of algorithmic composition!

via mos

15 thoughts on “The Molecular Music Box: Simple Rules Can Create Rich Patterns

  1. Why is that interesting? The notes are just going up. What happens when you hit the top note on your instrument? I must have missed something.

  2. It is of course true that you can use some kinds of simple interval patterns to create melodies, and that some rules however simple will create results that seem “structured”.

    I think it is even fair to say that use of this kind of rule-based composition can help you create things that might take you out of your comfort zone, or give you new ideas.

    I think I prefer to use something like the Slonimsky book to tinker around with a new scale or melodic pattern– it is still kind of trial & error, but it is sort of fun (in a way). I can’t really judge this type of process fairly as I haven’t done it, but it just doesn’t seem that creatively inviting.

  3. This video gives me the same vibe as those reptilian Illuminati conspiracy theory videos on Youtube I always seem to run into.

  4. A lot of people don’t seem to realize that music making as it is now understood is as deterministic and “boring” as what this video shows. A composer is always given a set of rules and his talent is expressed by using those in a creative and personal way.

    One might even argue that popular music is even more constraining because of the background it carries with it. All the songs written in the past, all the clichés, all the references that audiences will undoubtly compare the new piece with. On the other hand it also makes it easier to produce a pleasing piece: one only has to conform as best he can to this largely shared body of references and clichés… A newer approach, like the one suggested here, as a huge merit: it grants the artist some degree of independence from the established esthetics. In a sense, freedom is actually wider for the composer although it requires more of an open mind from the listener.

    There are lots of different ways to write music, not even mentioning microtonality, they’re all valid and should be explored.

    1. It might be helpful to think of this as one of many textures/tools one can employ as a composer.

      For example, in a film score, if there a scene that called for something with a slowly building tension, this type of evolving pattern might be useful. Some “human-produced” layers could be added in for more tension or harmonic interest.

      1. Sure!

        You could also edit it any way you wanted. Or play the score backwards. Or splice in bits of another generated pattern. Or add more rules to follow.

  5. Reinventing a small part of Marvin Minsky’s and Edward Fredkin’s Triadex Muse from 1972. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to relive it.

  6. This is a well made illustration of complex patterns arising from simple rules.
    Don’t confuse it with finished art, any more than a Mandelbrot fractal image is a finished painting.

    It also shows that piano samples have gone great lengths since people started presenting algorithmic music.

    Now if you could explore other tonality than just the white keys, one might could create truly ugly stuff.

  7. Credit for demonstrating a simple rule-based composition, but I concur with the above posters–it’s not “new,” it’s just a nice analogy.

    You must realize that most people are woefully short on history. Each generation finds a “new” thing to bandy about in front of their friends (I recall my little cousin being so surprised I’d heard of Led Zeppelin, for instance). It’s the way history is discovered and integrated into our lives. Music composition is no different. As knowledgable adults, we must smile and encourage the young to continue their exploration, while suppressing the urge to stifle then with rolled eyes and a big “DUH!”

    Not to know what happened, before you were born, is to remain forever a child. (Cicero)

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