Randomly Generating Music

Made by Eunice Oh, Jeremy Sonpar and Teddy Lee

Created: September 21st, 2014

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What We Expected

With the songs that each of us chose, we expected the sounds to be chaotic and random. The songs were very different from each other, one being Hurricane Season by Trombone Shorty, the next Smile Like You Mean It by The Killers and the last, Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce. These were chosen independently from one another so none of us know what the others were choosing when making our decisions.


What Actually Happened

The actual recordings lasted about three to four minutes. Each of the recordings consistently played about two minutes and 10 seconds of the songs for each. During these recordings, the outcome we observed differed greatly from what we had originally expected. The songs in each of the recordings did not seem to hinder each other even though their genres of music were not the most compatible. The random playing of each song proved to be quite melodious in a way and was almost pleasant to listen to.

What We Changed in the Algorithm

For the three different recordings, one aspect of the process was altered to change either the chance or the entropy. For the first recording, the time interval for each member of the group was randomly generated using a random number generator. The numbers were generated between 3 and 15 seconds and an interval was assigned to each member. By doing so, we introduced more chance and more entropy into the recording. In the second recording, each member chose their own interval between 3 and 15 seconds. This was more controlled and introduced less chance and less entropy. The last recording had each member randomly generate a time interval but instead of playing the song from the beginning, random parts of the song were played when they had to do so. This was achieved by clicking on an arbitrary spot on the progress bar which did introduce some level of bias, but also introduced a significant amount of entropy through the discontinuous nature of the songs. 

Obstacles

We faced plenty of obstacles in the process of making these three recordings. First, the process of recording was an issue in itself, where we had to balance the three different volumes coming from three different computers without really knowing what the recorded version would sound like. And even when we had a good balance, there was clicking constantly in the background as the three of us jumped from the random generator to Youtube to start and stop the recordings. Also, we had not considered lengths of our songs when we picked them, so some of our songs were on the shorter side, forcing us to do a four minute recording. For the recording where we randomly skipped around in the songs, one of the youtube videos we were using had about 2 minutes of silence at the end of the video, so jumping around, we found that sometimes nothing played. Finally, if a person had a short time interval, less than 10 seconds, it was hard to keep up jumping between the random generator and the recording while trying to do the mental math to figure out when the song should be started or stopped next.

The random number generator we were using, random.org, generates numbers based on entropy gathered from radio interference, if one agrees with the deterministic universe model, they could make an argument that the numbers generated are not truly random, but then again, in the deterministic universe, nothing is truly random.

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Recordings: (LISTEN HERE)


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