WolframTones--Find your music in the computational universegenerate a compositionmy WolframTones collectionabout WolframTonesfrequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions:

Features of Compositions


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. Click 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 Type, Rule number, and Seed for the Wolfram 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 possibilities.

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 before?
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 give surprises.

Can a single Rule produce music in several styles?
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 A 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 composition be.

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.

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