Music As Code

When you get down to the fundamental building block of sound, the sine wave, it’s easy to envision sound as code. From there, building sound is just a matter of coding in variances to the sound wave. This is, of course, simple to understand, yet music is always awash in a din of ideology. If you are a maker of electronic music, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself defending your lack of instrumentality or your true musical ability.

Such fallacies are the purview of novelty and nostalgia. Like the dj who laments “20 years ago we weren’t spinning music from 20 years earlier, it truly was special then!” No it wasn’t, or rather, it always is. Nostalgia is a gateway to indoctrination, to ideology. There is a positive side to this ideology, the archivists of their trade. Deep knowledge of a genre, time-period – specialization. Their oeuvre is open to sample, and rich with the very best they’ve curated over years of obsessiveness.

Code is the next instrument – perhaps the last. Human knowledge is most significantly progressing on the genetic algorithm front. Whether it be the mapping of the brain through the BRAIN initiative

brain_infographic2014_teaserThe human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe. We’ve only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works – or, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work when disorders and disease occur… This is just the beginning of a 12-year journey and we’re excited to be starting the ride.”
~ NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Along with particle acceleration, Moore’s Law, Search Algorithms – all of these incredibly powerful algorithms essentially power our digital identities, trends, and online behaviors. These algorithms all seek to model human behavior, and as they continue to gather data, utilize ever-increasing processing power, their solution spaces get smaller and more accurate. This is the space of artificial intelligence, human-machine interaction. Code is an Instrument – always growing closer to the synaptic wave of thought, where sound is thought, for which only coded language holds description.

With coded sound comes the lamentation of the loss of individuality. This is without merit. Code frees the burden of mechanics, leaving only imagination. The unlimited engineering of imagination of sound is only possible through code, which isn’t burdened by the dimensions of body, dimensionality, polyphony, or bounded rationality. Let creativity be an extension of the mind, rather than the limitations of object.

So jump into Coding music! It’s fun. Start with:

Sonic Pi LogoSonic Pi by Sam Aaron – “A free live coding synth for everyone originally designed to supportcomputing and music lessons within schools. Use code to compose and perform in classical and contemporary styles ranging from Canons to Dubstep.”

Here’s a good introductory video on Sonic Pi:

Check out Din is Noise if you want to see the remarkable synthesis possible with code:


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