Brian Eno used it. Where is it now?

SSEYO Koan Pro and Generative Music 1

With us, Tim Cole and Pete Cole, at our new company Intermorphic! It's evolved and now lives on in WOTJA, see below.

A Bit of History

Back in 1990, way before our new company Intermorphic, we co-founded the company SSEYO. It was at SSEYO that the Koan Music Engine was built by us, Tim Cole & Pete Cole.

"Koan" - How did we decide on the name?

'Koan' was chosen as the brand name for the music after much deliberation. Koan is a Zen word meaning a mystery or puzzle with no logical solution. We felt that it was a good choice as the music is a 'now' phenomenon (much of Zen philosophy is about the present, as opposed to the future or past). In addition, there is a subtle intangibility to it through the use of random, changing events. As it is created in real-time there is no real 'solution' to the music generated.

What we said about Koan Music

"Koan music can be thought of as being comparable to a ball bearing traveling down a guide or chute. Each time the ball bearing makes the journey it will travel a different path, but the available paths are constrained by the chute. In a similar way Koan music is governed by an envelope of possibilities, these being set by Koan artists with Koan Pro. Each time a Koan piece plays it will have certain boundaries set by the artist, outside which the music will not go. All this means that the music can be different each time."

SSEYO Koan - the rollout

We sent out the first betas for SSEYO Koan branded apps in 1992 and initially called the music it made "Koan Music". The genre later became better known as "Generative Music" and 25+ years later SSEYO Koan would go on to become Intermorphic WOTJA. See credits.

In 1994 we published Koan Plus and, at about the time in 1995 as we were readying Koan Pro V1.0 authoring system for release, we were lucky enough to bring it to the attention of Brian Eno. In autumn 1995 Eno started working with Koan Pro (superceded by Noatikl in 2007 then Wotja in 2017) culminating in the 1996 release of Generative Music 1 with SSEYO Koan Software.

Following that SSEYO published the Koan X "Drag 'n' Mix" Generative Music mixer and a couple of Koan content titles, Niskala by Jamuud (composed/recorded in 96) and Float by Timothy Didymus (composed/recorded in 1995/96), and then the cool Koan Essentials Morphing Drum and Bass with SF2 and WAV samples licenced from Zero-G (also now available for free for use in Wotja).

A number of internet and mobile developments ensued for Koan between 1997 and 2002, a crucial one being that we added to the SKME an integral sound engine called the SSEYO Koan Sound Engine (SKSE).

In 2002 SSEYO was then acquired by Tao Group, at which point SSEYO Koan sadly passed away (it's gone, meaning it's not been developed or supported since 2002). As SSEYO Koan's developers, though, we (Intermorphic) got back all the SSEYO IP in 2008 and have now retired it. However...

Having found us, despair not!

SSEYO Koan has evolved and now lives on in Wotja, see below...

SSEYO to Intermorphic App Consolidation Schematic


1992-2007: The SSEYO Koan Engines

Generative music apps are all about the music engine and sound engine that underpins them.

The SSEYO Koan Music Engine (SKME) and SSEYO Koan Sound Engine (SKSE) were built by us and have now gone, as are the various SSEYO Koan apps that used them. The good news is that at Intermorphic we develop (and are continuing to develop) engines that are more powerful than the SKME and SKSE.

2008-2016: Noatikl Music Engine (NME) and Partikl Sound Engine (PSE)

At Intermorphic, we started with the Noatikl Music Engine (NME) and Partikl Sound Engine (PSE) that were at the heart of Noatikl 3, Mixtikl 7, Wotja 3 and Tiklbox 1. The NME was a clean room build engine that leveraged the 15+ man years of experience we gained from developing the SKME, and the PSE leveraged our experience developing the SKSE and also the mobile audio work we did at Tao. Note that the Noatikl Music Engine was NOT the SSEYO Koan Music Engine, but was very like it and could open Koan files created with any version of Koan Pro (i.e. right back to 1992) or Koan X - which means you haven't lost your old work. See the FAQ below.

2017: Intermorphic Music Engine (IME) and Intermorphic Sound Engine (ISE)

For 2017, to simplify things moving forward, we have evolved the NME and PSE into the Intermorphic Music Engine (IME) and Intermorphic Sound Engine (ISE), both of which are at the heart of Wotja and both of which we plan to extend in the coming years.

What's New?

Compared to SSEYO Koan

Lots of stuff is new, including an all new music and sound engines under the hood! Since Koan there has been Noatikl and Mixtikl, and now there is Wotja.
  • Ongoing development
  • The Intermorphic Music Engine (IME) is at the core of the Wotja Generative Music System
  • The Intermorphic Sound Engine (ISE) is a powerful modular / DLS / SF2 MIDI Synth with Live FX and is at the core of the Wotja Generative Music System
  • Versions of Wotja apps and authoring tools for iOS, macOS, Windows and Android
  • Text to Music generation for melodies
  • Multiple content cells for sequencing, mixing and arrangement
  • Support for Inter-App Audio, Audiobus (iOS) and Ableton Link (iOS)
  • Cut-up text editing for new ideas
  • Lots and lots of new, cool templates
  • Powerful Randomisation for easy creation of new albums, mixes and ideas
  • Up-to-date 64bit Mac and PC versions
  • iCloud support
  • Much tighter timings
  • An active user base
  • ... and so much more, see Wotja


★ ★ ★ ★ Noatikl review by Music Radar (Computer Music Mag) (+ we have loads of Noatikl user quotes):

  • "Noatikl picks up where Captain Eno's beloved Koan left off"
  • "the sky is really the limit"
  • "those with an open mind may find Noatikl to be their ideal collaboration partner"

FAQ - Koan Files

Yes you can! Get Wotja V20.2.1+ and you can open them directly.

Note that if you used the SKSE (Koan Synth) for sounds then those settings will not be imported correctly. That is because Wotja uses a different synth engine in the ISE. You may get something imported, but it is highly likely not to sound as you remembered.

Sorry, we do not import .skp files; you'll need to look for your master .skd files instead.

That is not necessary. If you don't have any Koan files of your own, then this whole section is irrelevant to you!

While we can open old skd files (see above) and use most of the parameters as originally intended, we're unable to import old SKSE (Koan Synth network definitions. The reason for this is that the old format is very substantially different to the new format used by Intermorphic Sound Engine (ISE). Wotja includes a large number of Sound and FX Presets which you can use as starting points.

That is relatively easy.

  1. Open the .sbk/.sf2 with a tool such as Polyphone (http://www.polyphone.fr) or AWave Studio (http://www.fmjsoft.com/awavestudio.html), and re-save as SF2 (SoundFont 2) file (.sf2).
  2. Open your .skd file into Noatikl
  3. Open the newly saved .sf2 file into Noatikl (see PSE Wavetable Unit)
  4. Change the Noatikl Patch settings to fix the patch/bank settings to suit (typically, you'll need to fix the bank value; e.g. change 5.1 to 5...)
  5. Play and save!

IMPORTANT: The files must have been saved by Koan Pro V1.3 (1996) or later and so be of V1.3 format.

  1. SSEYO Koan .skd/.skt file
    • Just open it with Noatikl, and start using it!
    • Synth definitions aren't copied across (see this FAQ entry), old AWE/XG parameters aren't copied either. If you want to know about these, e.g. to re-create with our soft synth, look under your <Noatikl data folder>/"Koan SKD Import Logs" folder for a text file that gives a full text dump of what was in the .skd file you imported.
    • Piece root parameter lists are turned into parameters like "A B C#" containing all permutations; one of those values is selected randomly at piece start, a per usual.
    • All other Parameter lists are turned into start Scripts automatically; Voice parameters are put in the Voice start script, all other objects are put in the Piece start script;
    • You can fiddle with those scripts if you want to change the probabilities at all.
  2. SSEYO Koan .skm file
    • Open with Noatikl...
    • ... if you open one of these, you get a dialog asking you if you want to export:
      if you want to export the files to the <Noatikl data folder/"Koan SKM File Imports" folder;
      if you agree, the .skd/.mid/.mp3/.dls files are all extracted and saved to that folder.
      You can then do what you want with those file (e.g. open the .skd file with Noatikl etc.)
  3. Tao Group SKM file with the Tao-era soft synth
    • Should just work!
  4. Tao Group SKM file (e.g. with embedded .skd file and embedded DLS/Ogg)
    • Should just work!
    • You might have to change some of the patches to match the wavetable definitions; e.g. in change patch from 1.1 to (say) 1 or 1.0 (assuming the Ogg wavetable bank is zero); this is due to a bug in the old Koan software.
  5. Tao Group SKM file (e.g. with embedded .mid file)
    • You get a dialog telling you to try again, but with a specifically named .skd file in a specific folder.
    • Put the original .skd file in that folder, and rename as requested
    • Re-open the skm file
    • Should just work!
    • As before, might have to change some of the patches to match the wavetable definitions; e.g. in change patch from 1.1 to 1 (assuming the Ogg wavetable bank is zero); this is due to a bug in the old Koan software.