a VST cellular automata sequencer. 2014.

vie: an automata sequencer in VST package

Throughout the history of Western music, the organization of pitch and duration is often formalized by a composer’s computational thinking. Tuning systems, tonal harmony and serialism are all notable examples of computational thought processes as a means for creation. The formalization of music using cellular automata frees the composer from those systems by offering an alternative process, which can lead to discovery of new æsthetics in composition and performance. Since the publication of Conway's Game of Life in 1970, there have been many variations of the system and its integration in the field of music. VIE aims to remove the user from using musical computation thought while in a creative state, whether they be composing or in a live performance situation. It encourages the play of patterns in Game of Life, as building blocks, leveraging their behaviors to render morphology across time, space, and medium.

A “pattern” is a recognizable configuration of cells that brings about deterministic behavior in subsequent generations.

Much like the birth and death of organisms in cellular automata, VIE utilizes the rules of Game of Life to dictate the livelihood of individual sounds. Sections or short motivic passages are created by trends and activities that occur within a single time frame. How often the generation occurs during the passage determines the duration of each passage. For instance, if a generation occurs every 10 milliseconds and there are 5 generations in that passage, the duration of the passage would be 50 milliseconds. The use of Life through VIE enables the user to generate and dictate entire musical structures through a single implementation. Musical depth is created by patterns that constantly interact with each other during the game, as many patterns happen at once and all the patterns are affecting the others. This way, linear motivic passages, vertical textures and chronological musical sections are created through these interactions.

Main Features

  • Sync to DAW’s clock;
  • Quantization of length of each generation to note duration (shortest duration at thirty-second triplet);
  • Variable width and height of grid array (changeable dynamically in real time);
  • Wrap-around at horizontal and vertical boundaries;
  • Static and dynamic velocity;
  • Automation for all parameters.

Patterns in Game of Life: oscillators (left) and spaceships (right).

VIE using the patterns in Conway's Game of Life to trigger multiple instruments through MIDI filtering in Ableton Live.

Extending the research in the use of Conway's Game of Life beyond a composition tool, Bots Formalization explores performative elements and the organic formalization of mechatronic musical instruments. A designed systemization interfaces the mechanical onsets of solenoids with Conway's Game of Life.