Generative music is music that isn’t traditionally composed. Instead, it’s created by establishing patterns, randomness, and instructions to produce interesting sounds. Tero Parviainen’s impressive website, “How Generative Music Works: A Perspective” is an engaging and fun way to learn about the history of generative music and you can even try generating some for yourself.
The website does a great job of explaining Reich’s process. It’s also a good demonstration of the overlap between minimalism, indeterminate music, ergodic music, and sonification. It also demonstrates the fact that generative computer music is only as interesting as the samples and sythesized sounds that go into it.
I went through and made a list of all the pieces that are discussed. Many of these are linked to standalone web pages you can play with:
- Steve Reich: It’s Gonna Rain (demo of process using a clip of Reich’s voice)
- Brian Eno: Music for Airports track 2
- Steve Reich: Piano Phase
- Terry Riley: In C
- Brian Eno: Reflection
- Tero Parviainen: Stochastic Drum Machine
- John Cage: (nothing? just a text mention?)
- Tero Parviainen: Polyloops, a generative grammar
- Tero Parviainen: Trams of Helsinki
- Brian Foo: Music Eclipticalis
- Hatnote, Stephen LaPorte, and Mahmoud Hashemi: Listen to Wikipedia
- Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers: Trope
- Laurie Spiegel’s Music Mouse, with partial reimplementation
- Tero Parviainen: Dancing Markov Gymnopédies
The author also has many other projects on codepen. All with source code! There’s a lot you can learn there.
My only complaint is that all the examples are rooted in the 60s avant garde classical music culture. There’s so much more generative music. There’s electronic music like Autechre for example. Or even tedious jam band music like Phish or the Grateful Dead.