Seeded Tunes – Random?

The lynchpin/keystone/root idea of Seeded Tunes is to use a random number generator (RNG) to drive the creation of text, images and music.

Regular RNGs are not truly random. They use stuff like the current date, combined with internal values such as drive space and other numbers to come up with something that resembles a series of random numbers. But the creators of these RNGs go to pains to make it clear that these are not truly random – someone with enough access, time, and skill could predict the numbers based on the provided seed. As a result, regular RNGs are not recommended for security-related applications, such as cryptography or finance. There are other more robust and rigorous options for those uses.

Leaving that aside, how much of the output of this project is truly random? How random do I want the music to be? Could I not say that truly random music would be a random string of bits encoded into an WAV file? That would probably be unlistenable – not in the aesthetic sense (I don’t care about that) but in the sense that it would not be a valid sound file.

If I channeled the randomness into making a valid sound file that could be listened to, would it be long? Short? A frequency outside human hearing? It became clear that true randomness would be no good for creating what I wanted.

But what did I want to create? If I broke down the actual components of the output, they fell into the following groups:

  • Names of people
  • Names of artists
  • Names of albums
  • Names of tracks
  • Artwork of albums
  • The music itself

I decided I wanted to create recognizable music, with realistic (if unusual) names, made by fictional people with regular (if unusual) names, and with artwork that falls into a particular graphical style I am a fan of.

That meant I had to reduce the amount of randomness in varying degrees for each component. Initially I felt that this was too much of a compromise, but in the end I think I’ll be happy with a realistic output, realistic names, attractive artwork, and music that was structured enough, but without following the conventions of music theory, or any of the methods that generative music uses.

It will probably be unlistenable – but who is to judge that? Bandcamp, Brainwashed, and power electronics showed me the way there.