Grid Music is a system for generating music for punch-card music box and computer.
The system has two components. The first is a method for scoring the music box using an image: Trace the prominent lines in an image, interpret those lines as points on a grid (typically a piece of graphing paper), and read those points as notes on the music box punch card.
I initially developed this method in response to the nineteenth Disquiet Junto project, which tasked participants to interpret a photograph as a graphic score. Listen to that first track here and see the blog post here.
The Junto version of Grid Music used a filter and a tape delay to loop the music box melody, which was sent through a few homemade plugins: a simple looping buffer with reverse playback, and a granular delay. Later, after Disquiet editor Marc Weidenbaum pointed out that the punch-card music box was itself a kind of computer technology ("the sort of thing computers of yore would read for their rudimentary data"), I decided to revise the entire system to work to be a strict duet for music box and computer.
The second component of the system is a software patch that tracks the notes played by the music box and generates sine waves based on their frequencies. Both of these sounds are then sent through a series of effects: filters; buffers that rearrange, reverse, and delay; a FFT based drone generator; and reverb.
I gave myself control over several aspects of the patch's to allow for different types of results, but many parameters, such as the filter cutoff frequencies, are also randomized in keeping with the auto-poetic nature of the entire project.
All of the images used, so far, for the new Grid Music system have been photographs of urban skylines in Montreal, which I have been taking since moving to the city. They tend to produce compelling scores for the music box, because they are not "busy" images: the empty space of the sky is almost always present. Less lines equals fewer notes. But the skylines also conceptually complement the system. They are themselves grids. Pictures of power-lines (the power grid) and rooftops (the grid that is the city).
Listen to the Grid Music system: