Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cellular Automata & Music

Much of the primary research into cellular automata (CA) was carried out in the 1940s at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, USA. by Stanisław Ulam and John von Neumann.



They were studying crystal growth and of all things, self-replicating robots.

The picture of the above shell is of a Textile Cone or the Cloth of Gold cone. It is a venomous species of sea snail. The colour pattern of its shell resembles a cellular automaton named rule 30

And of course above we have some terminators.:-)

So what has all this got to do with music?

Well, CA exhibits the properties of reproduction and evolution which can readily be observed in nature (and in self replicating robots). Rules 30, 90 & 150 appear to be of special interest among many researchers when applied to music as they produce complex evolving patterns from very simple rules.


Above is panel # 9 from my NLC (Nonlinear Circuit) synth. (The case is under construction at the moment).
It's a analog sequencer based upon the principles of CA.
In 2014 I should have it fully up and running.

There are basically 6 cells/ sequencers. They produce 18 different CV patterns that can be
simple or very complex.


The cells can either be isolated or they can be made to affect their neighbouring cells/sequencers.
You can do this by patching from one into the other/s.

The blue sockets are inputs, and the red outputs.
The the top blue socket on each cell receives the clock (which can be from the same
or a different source). A clock divider will make each cell run at a different speed.
The blue sockets below the clock(CLK) , labeled left & right receive gates.
CVs from each neighbourhood can be summed or subtracted from others.
Here is the user guide.

The sequencer is primarily designed to operate a Serge synthesizer (or a NLC synth) but as most
of my Serge is currently under restoration I've have to test it with a Buchla.
It's interesting though I'm looking forward to testing it with my Serge in 2014.






Here are a few more examples of CA applied to music:
The Nintendo DS (with the R4).



And a Novation Launchpad:

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