The Shape of Generative Music


I've been thinking about and talking with some friends about the form of my music recently. When I say form here, I am specifically thinking about the output: how is the work presented to a 'public' or community? I tend to construct a kind of semi-elaborate generative modular system, tinker with it til I love what's happening, then let it play and occasionally nudge it while it spools out ambient and experimental music in various ways. When I really enjoy what's happening I hit the record button on my external recorder. From there I listen back later and make selections, and arrange these in an order, come up with track titles and an album title, and select a photo for the cover. Then I 'release' it to Bandcamp without much ado. Additionally, I use my music as background for games, visual art, and interactive art that I make. And recently I have begun to perform live.

Recently I've had the hunch that an 'album' doesn't feel like exactly the right output for my sound work. It just captures a moment, but as the creator of the system, we crave surprise/evolution, like creators of roguelike games. This must also be why Brian Eno released an 'app' versions of some of his albums as well as generative sound-creation software with his collaborator Peter Chilvers for Opal Limited.

Cadavre Exquis with André Breton, Max Morise, Jeannette Ducrocq Tanguy, Pierre Naville, Benjamin Péret, Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, 1928
Cadavre Exquis with André Breton, Max Morise, Jeannette Ducrocq Tanguy, Pierre Naville, Benjamin Péret, Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, 1928

My performance/music name is ExquisiteCorp, a reference to the surrealist drawing game Cadavre Exquisite/Exquisite corpse, which I used to play as a sort of party game in high school and college with my friends. For those unfamiliar, everyone starts by folding a paper into thirds. Simultaneously, all participants draw a (absurd, unique) head on the top third. After a period of time, everyone folds over this area of their paper so it's hidden and then passes to the next person. The next period draws the center body section without glancing at the top head section. After a while everyone folds over again and passes to another person who draws the bottom section / legs. After a period of time, all drawing ceases and we open the papers and share our drawings of exquisite corpses to the group.

I referenced this game because of my love for collage, musique concrete, merzbau, assemblage; all the forms of constructed collage in various media that I enjoy. This 'exquisite corpse' recipe I hoped would be an influence on the music and sound that I create.

Other 'shapes' beyond albums

What are other forms to 'present' and share this work? what are the other forms that exist or new forms that could develop?

Various examples of alternative forms for generative (and I'll say improvised) music:

Shuffle Drones is a new Eluvium album that is anywhere between 13 minutes and 13,000 hours long, depending on how (and how long) you choose to play it. Consisting of 23 vignettes of orchestral ambience, it is designed to be played on shuffle. There is no end, and no beginning. Each song flows seamlessly into the next, regardless of the order in which they are played.
Shuffle Drones is simultaneously intended for and in disruption of modern listening habits. In an era in which the way we listen can profoundly impact both what and how we listen, Shuffle Drones offers a unique and ever-changing path to listen.--Eluvium, 2017

What other output shapes could there be for sharing these music systems?

These are some speculative ideas off the top of the head.

These are just the start, and I think there could be many other forms for presenting generative music. What other forms could this take?


Gemini links

My tribute to the Triadex Muse

A description of my custom Turing machine running on Monome Teletype


Exquisite Corpse at MOMA

Exquisite Corpse by surrealists Man Ray, Andre Breton, Yves Tanguy, Max Morise

ExquisiteCorp on Bandcamp

Eluvium - Shuffle Drones on Spotify

Shuffle Drones on Bandcamp (you'll have to download and shuffle with your own software, or click play randomly)

GenerativeFM, "ambient music generators that never end or repeat"

Gamelatron sound-producing kinetic sculpture

Triadex Muse history

Triadex Muse: An Interactive Simulation (Javascript)

Ian Cheng's Emissaries

Generative Unfoldings online exhibition

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