Getting Started With Algorithmic Composition

This page is a quick how to guide to get you started with Algorithmic Composition.

Step One: Choose your software

Max/MSP

You can buy Max/MSP from www.cycling74.com Max is a graphical dataflow language where you connect objects together in a similar manner to a studio patchbay.

Price: $399

Platforms: OSX and Windows

 

PureData

Puredata (or Pd) is a free open-source alternative to Max and is a similar visual programming language. Puredata is a little uglier to look at than Max but you can achieve pretty much the same thing in both packages. Download Puredata extended for all platforms from www.puredata.info as this has many additional object libraries included in the install package.

Price: Free

Platforms: OSX, Windows and Linux

 

OpenMusic

Open Music is a visual programming language for algorithmic composition that is written in LISP. It uses a graphical interface in which you connect objects together to create your patch. OpenMusic is also available for free for Mac and Windows from http://repmus.ircam.fr/openmusic/download As with Pd and Max it is a visual dataflow progam but it is designed specifically for algorithmic composition.

 

Price: Free

Platforms: OSX and Windows

 

CommonMusic

Common Music (CM) is another Lisp based algorithmic composition environment. Musical algorithms can run in real time, or faster-than-real time for file-based composition. CommonMusic is a text based program rather than visual, however don’t let this put you off. It includes many good tutorials and examples and can be downloaded here http://commonmusic.sourceforge.net/

Price: Free

Platforms: OSX, Windows and Linux

 Slippery Chicken
slippery chicken is an open-source algorithmic composition system written in Common Lisp which enables a top-down approach to music composition. The algorithmic system in slippery chicken is mainly deterministic but can include stochastic elements.

slippery chicken is focused upon using the pre-existing software tools to achieve a top-down approach to musical composition: defining, ordering, combining, and manipulating rhythmic, pitch, and dynamic information into complete or “ready-for-fine-edits” pieces of music. The output of the program is in the form of MIDI sequences, postscript score files, LilyPond files and sound files.

Price: Free

http://www.michael-edwards.org/sc/index.html

sc-logo

Symbolic Composer

SCOM is rich on generative functions, which enable to quickly create source material for your scores. These are based on highly advance mathematical and physical theories that have interesting-sounding applications in music making of any style.

Symbolic Composer uses 2 grammars to define the section and instrumentation
structures: The section grammar and the instrumentation grammar. Both are tree-like structures with as many elements and levels as needed. Each node contains definitions of class properties.

algorithmic composition software

Price: Currently on special offer at £126 for windows (v6.3) and £197 for Mac (v6.5)

Platforms: OSX and Windows

Step Two

Once you’ve downloaded and tried out your software it’s worth looking at the supplied tutorials, each of the listed packages above include some tutorials and examples. Once you’ve got a grip of the basics here is a order of tutorials to follow for the software package you’ve chosen:

Max/MSP

Random pitches in Max

Random major scale pitches in Max

Piano Phase in Max

Random walks in Max and Puredata

Random walks in Max and Puredata – part two 

Markov chains in Max 

Timbre composition in Max and Puredata

Tom Johnson’s self similar melodies – Max and Pd 

Tom Johnson’s algorithmic composition – Max and Pd – part two

Chaos in Max and Puredata

Tone rows Puredata and Max 

 

Puredata

Random pitches in Puredata

Random major scale pitches in Puredata

Piano Phase in Puredata

Tone Rows and Rhythm – Puredata

Random walks in Max and Puredata

Random walks in Max and Puredata – part two

Markov chains in Puredata

Timbre composition in Max and Puredata

Tom Johnson’s self similar melodies – Max and Pd

Tom Johnson’s algorithmic composition – Max and Pd – part two

Chaos in Max and Puredata

Tone rows Puredata and Max

 

 

OpenMusic

Probabilities in OpenMusic

Random walk in OpenMusic

OpenMusic and Markov Chains

OpenMusic and Chaos

OpenMusic and rhythm trees – part one

OpenMusic and rhythm trees – part two

OpenMusic and Markov chains – part two 

OpenMusic tone rows and the maquette



 

12 thoughts on “Getting Started With Algorithmic Composition

  1. Thomas

    Have you taken a look at SoundHelix? It’s a free Java-based tool for algorithmic random music, which produces pretty cool results.

    Reply
  2. tom karches

    I finished the first 4 Puredata tutorials listed here. Very nice. In case you didn’t know, all of the following links in the Puredata list are broken. FYI, the “Tone Rows and Rhythms” patch was significantly more complicated than the previous four, and a number of new functions were covered. Also, in the diagram for Tone Rows, it is difficult in some places to tell how the blocks are connected. Thanks for the tutorials!

    Reply
    1. Algorithmic Composer Post author

      Thanks for the message, I’m uploading patches for previous posts. I’ve added a download link for this patch at the bottom of the post. I’ll update with some more intermediate posts soon too.

      Reply
  3. tom karches

    Looks like my comment may have been lost. FYI, links for Puredata tutorials “Random Walks” (both) and “Markov Chains” are bad links, though I was able to find them on the site. Thanks for the tutorials! it’s a big help.

    Reply
  4. Arthur

    Symbolic Composer (SCOM) is another excellent piece of software. It renders output directly to MIDI files, so it is not at all suitable for interactive “live” use (i.e. no “on the fly” coding, as such), but I feel it may be one of the more capable packages out there. It comes with an enormous library of stuff that you can use or avoid as you wish. If this software was ever expanded to produce realtime OSC output or dump proper Csound score files, I don’t think I’d ever consider using anything else . . .

    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. oneder

      I love Symbolic Composer too, but wish it would mature into the 21st century and get some kind of graphical interface, or better yet, become a VST plugin so I can compose, see, and manipulate the results in my favorite host.

      I find algorithmic apps best to generate material which I then sort through and edit to my liking. I guess Max and Ableton Live are my best bet for what I want to do.

      Reply
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