What do the pictures mean?
They are essentially musical scores, played from left to right. They are also visual representations of the behavior
of programs in the computational universe, with successive steps going across the screen. (They're rotated
relative to the usual top-to-bottom orientation used in A New Kind
of Science.) The colors in WolframTones images are
chosen on the basis of Rule and target musical style.
Different color tracks are different Instruments.
Toggle Display to see different coloring formats.
What do labels like 31.760892.60930 mean?
They give "coordinates" in the computational universe that define the basic Rule for the
composition. The numbers are respectively the Rule
number, and Seed for the
automaton that generates the composition. We sometimes call the whole triple the "rulepoint" for the composition.
How many different compositions can WolframTones make?
Essentially an infinite number. The controls on this site currently let you access more than a trillion trillion trillion
Do all WolframTones compositions sound good?
Not to us, at least. When you press a Create
New Composition button, WolframTones will do a search that
rejects compositions it considers obviously bad. But with the
Composition Controls, you can definitely produce compositions that don't
sound good, at least to us. Having a scale with too many notes is
often one way.
When I generate a composition, will it be unique?
Yes, at least with overwhelming probability. Unless, of course, you did something like get it from from a friend's WolframTones Collection.
Will WolframTones ever generate music that has been composed
A few notes here and there might be the same. But the universe of
possible WolframTones compositions
is astronomically large, so it's inconceivable that a whole composition would ever have been heard before.
Unless, of course, you got it from a friend's WolframTones Collection.
Can I enter my own compositions into WolframTones?
No. That's not how it works. It automatically generates compositions with hundreds or thousands of notes. You can't
use it like a music editor, telling it where to put each note.
Can WolframTones compositions have vocals?
No. Those would have to be added separately.
Can a composition keep going forever?
Yes. Occasionally a composition will die out, and
fall silent. And at least if the Cyclic
Boundaries option is set, it must eventually repeat (see A
New Kind of Science).
But with a 20-note range, that can take 2^20 steps--or about 12 days if
played at a standard speed. The current WolframTones site has a
limit of 30 seconds per composition. If a composition
is extended longer, it'll typically sound qualitatively similar, but have details that continue to change, and sometimes
Can a single Rule produce music in several
Rules to some extent have
characteristic styles, but by changing the Roles of
Instruments, as well as Musical Scales
and Tempos, you
can often change the musical style you get
from a particular Rule.
Could new genres of music be created with WolframTones?
Undoubtedly. There's tremendous variety in what can be
found in the computational universe. The question is how it relates to intrinsic
or historically evolving human musical perception. For example, something that "just sounds
random" to us now might sound wonderful to a differently trained (or non-human)
ear that can pick up different regularities.
Can WolframTones compositions have meaning?
That's a complicated philosophical question. There's some discussion of meaning in the computational universe in
New Kind of Science. It's probably fair
to say that objects in the computational universe--and WolframTones
compositions--develop meaning as they get connected to other things. In
some ways WolframTones compositions are like
objects in nature: their features emerge from specified underlying rules. So if the form of a sunset, a tree, or a
mollusc shell is meaningful, then so can a WolframTones
Can I generate compositions from well-known cellular automata?
Yes. To get Wolfram's elementary
cellular automata, set Rule Type in
the Composition Controls to 7 (r=1).
Then enter the rule number you want. Rules 30, 60, and 110 are
all worth trying.