AKA 'Ambient Generative Music' or 'Generative Ambient Music'
History of the term "Generative Music"
Heads up: SSEYO Koan has now evolved into actively developed Wotja.
In 1995 whilst working with SSEYO Koan Pro (developed by us, the Cole Brothers), Brian Eno coined the term "Generative Music" to describe any music that is ever-different & changing, created by a system.
Before 1995 we had been referring to the output of SSEYO Koan as 'Koan Music', but 'Generative Music' is a more generic term and so we were happy about Eno choosing that to be used as a descriptor.
These days 'Generative music' is really a catch-all term for lots of things and is sometimes also referred to as algorithmic music, stochastic music or aleatoric music.
When it comes to Wotja, we increasingly use the term 'Ambient Generative Music' as we understand Wotja's generative capabilities are most often used to generate music of an ambient nature. See also Generative Music+.
Anyhow, let's take a quick journey, and go back in time. Cast your mind way, way back to 1996. Remember that? Back then we would hear people say "the Internet is only a fad", and "it will never take off". At that time computers mostly had pretty low fidelity sound cards, and generative music was a niche area (as is even the case now). So, you can imagine how honored we felt when an artist of Eno's stature took up the gauntlet and used Koan at the core of "Generative Music 1 - with SSEYO Koan".
What he then said about generative music was eloquent and well observed and is still relevant today, so read what he said about it on the back of that release.
See also the Sparks In Electric Jelly review of the Oramics exhibition at the British Science Museum with mentions of Generative Music 1 and SSEYO Koan Pro, and see the UK Science Museum Group copy!
At the core of SSEYO Koan was the SSEYO Koan Music Engine (SKME). It was developed by us, Tim Cole & Pete Cole of Intermorphic (see also Credits). The SKME later evolved into the Noatikl Music Engine 3 (NME 3) and then that, in turn, evolved into the Wotja Music Engine (WME), all developed by us.
So, going back in history, the SKME was our first real-time music generation system. We started work on it in 1990 and the first publicly released app to use it hit the market in 1994, this being SSEYO Koan Plus (but we had versions out with Beta testers as far back as 1992).
Fast forwarding in time, in 2007 we then evolved SSEYO Koan into what became Intermorphic Noatikl (for more background on what happened between 1996 and 2007 see SSEYO History, SSEYO Before Tao, SSEYO after Tao).
In 2017 we evolved Noatikl (and Mixtikl, Liptikl & Tiklbox) into one consolidated app range called Wotja. For more on this and thinking behind it, read the in depth PalmSounds interview with Tim Cole.
At Intermorphic, we can talk with experience about two generative music engines (actually, music AND sound engines):
- Wotja Music Engine (WME) [previously Noatikl Music Engine 3 (NME 3)]
- Wotja Audio Engine (WAE) [previously Partikl Sound Engine 3 (PSE 3)]
Why Generative Music?
Many people find generative music systems to be incredibly interesting. Musicians to academics enjoy using them, and creating with them. They can generate some completely unexpected, but wonderful, results.
You might think that generative music, being generated by a system, would always sound formulaic and impersonal.
What you find, instead, is that artists using their skill and judgment with parameter configurations, sound design and other choices can impose their own personality on the output, providing rich rewards for listeners through unique and live experiences.
How to make Generative Music?
It's simple, and you can be making it, for free, in seconds with Wotja!
- Download Wotja (the free version for your platform, e.g. for iOS, macOS, Windows, Android) and install it as necessary.
- See the Play a Flow tutorial, or:
- Launch the app, select the Flow tab (one of 3 main tabs in the Documents Screen) and then tap on any of the Flow Randomization Scheme icons.
- Wotja will then start creating a succession of automatically generated generative music mixes for you to enjoy - it really is that easy to get going.
Wotja and Generative Music
You can of course create the simplest form of generative music from random shuffling of pre-composed/pre-recorded elements, but most people think of it as some form of live-generated music.
Assuming you want to get a bit more interesting and granular, you need to use a music engine to real-time compose & generate the musical notes used. Such an engine will use a range of musical parameters to compose its live (generally MIDI) notes, meaning that if you change the parameters the ensuing composition will change, too.
In the case of Wotja, this engine is called the Wotja Music Engine (WME), and it uses a combination of AI techniques & heuristics crafted and honed over 30+ years. At the core of its operation are a key set of Rules.
There is another important factor for composed Generative Music however, and that is that the notes need to be turned into sound via some kind of audio/sound generator. There are many, many sound units and FX units that can be driven by MIDI.
In the case of Wotja, it has an (optional) integral audio/sound engine, the Wotja Audio Engine (WAE), with a range of sound generators and FX.
What is Generative Music+?
Generative Music is an art form. What do you call an art form when it goes to the next level?
For example, what do you call Generative Music when it can include and use other media such as text and images, and use techniques as as Text to Music and Text to Speech?
And, what if the "art experience" is generated using a totally unique & bespoke assembly of engines (music, audio, script) and generation techniques?
We think there is a strong case to refer to such a unique generative art form & experience by the name of the system that creates it. In the case of Wotja, this means using Wotja Music as the term used to describe what it generates:
- Wotja Music can utilize many different live music composition & mixing techniques, techniques such as text-to-music, euclidian patterns, generator following, note patterns, sound design, cell sequencing, adaptive music, scripting & randomization etc.
- Wotja Music can include text, an image and screensaver/visualizer/display options.
- The text, image and settings are saved in a Wotja mix file.
- Wotja Music can utilize Text to Speech (TTS) [Apple devices].
- TTS settings are saved in a Wotja mix file.
- Wotja Music can utilize included or external 3rd party SF2 (SoundFonts) and external WAV & MIDI files.
- The settings or links for the above are saved in a Wotja mix file.
- Wotja Music can utilize 3rd party Plug-ins
- Plug-in settings are saved to the mix file and these mix files can also used in Albums.
- Wotja Music files can be embedded in webpages as WJURLs.
Whether Wotja Music is e.g. ambient or experimental, auto-mixing or adaptive etc. purely depends on how the Wotja mix is designed.
Wotja Music is easily generated using Wotja App & Wotja AUv3/VST3 Plug-in software.
Tip: If you require live music for your next installation, why not use Wotja Music? See: Live Use.