Bitsphere's Weblog

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The Elements Of Design by Patrick Butler

After the recent change in the interior design of the office Bitsphere pinned printouts of the two pdfs “Elements of Design” and “Principles of Design” by Patrick Butler at the pin-board. The documents are available for download at

The elements are not necessarily unknown in the art world as Bitsphere found them back in the photography book “Learning to see creatively” by Bryan Peterson. The principles apply not only to visual arts but are common in music and dance too. During the next few months the pdfs will stay pinned and there may be another post about the “Elements of Design” which are Line, Shape, Form, Colour, Value, Texture and Space.


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Five ways to map sound to a 2D Graph

20120503 animation 14Recently working on a piece which uses data sets Bitsphere will introduce later this year the question how to map sound to a 2D representation rose again. The most common application of this mapping is the step sequencer where one dimension is applied to the time and the other to a specific sound.

To give an overview over the topic Bitsphere prepared an incomplete list of possible mappings in this post.

The basic question is how to represent a given mathematical two dimensional set to a sound by applying sound control to the values of the x and y axis. A graphical representation of a data st may look like this:


There are some obvious and less obvious technologies in the list following:

x -> Time –  y -> Frequency

This might be the most common application as seen on score sheets: One dimension shows the time range counting forward the other indicates the pitch of the melody. This is what a sequencer program like the old tracker programs basically were designed for: Determine at what time which note has to be played.

x-> Time – y -> Instrument (Sound)

The correlation between time and instrument is rather simple. In the two dimensional representation one axis shows the elapsing time the other axis’ values are assigned to an instrument. Obviously to determine which instrument has to be played an integer value is required but a good program may use the values in between to trigger the volume of the two instruments at the limiting integers.

x-> Time – y-> 2. Harmonic

With this mapping the pitch of the tone evolving is not altered but its quality when manipulating the 2. harmonic. This raises various possibilities for example some more harmonics may be bound to one of the 2D axis. Or just the odds. Check back the resources on the net for harmonic additive synthesis.

x-> Time – y->  Filter

This is a common practice in live use where filters are altered over time manipulating the sound. Disk Jockeys do this by hand though this may be implemented in code too.

x-> Time – y-> Volume

Mapping sound to volume may seem a rather boring thing, it is indeed a very powerful tool. In classical music the effect is known as dynamics. Most of you will know the signs pp, p , mf, f, ff and their numerous variations. Its extrems are ‘mute’ – ‘on’ which is the binary of all sounds existence and becomes very dynamic when differently applied to multiple sounds at a time.

Further thoughts

As stated above this list is incomplete. Bitsphere appreciates any comment on this post with other possible mappings. The real power of this mappings lies in the multidimensionality when more than one of them is used in the same piece. This might be the topic of a post to come.


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Non deterministic or rule based music

What is rule based art?

Non deterministic art has been around quite a while. In the recent decades it started to break out from modern art museums via computer games while inserting itself into business under the name gamification. Rule based art has many forms of appearance.  Be it a painting which is made of several pieces which can be moved by the spectator or an installations which depends on various influences like the sound of this windharp embedded in a natural environment. In this post Bitsphere likes to share some insights into the basics of rule based music creation.

Rules and interconnections

Out of very few rules are generally a lot of possible combinations arising. Imagine the action of driving a car: There are few possibilities: left – right – forward – backward – fast – slow. By applying these rules you may reach more places than you would have time to in a lifetime.

If the driver lined up all his decisions by this rules to describe his way from home to the grocery store it would go like: forward 10m – right 90° – forward 500m – right 75° – forward 400m – left 100° – forward 45m. It is clear that only one alteration in the description led to another outcome (the car stops at the gas station for example) and if altering two or more decisions led to a completely other outcome (the car ends up in a holiday resort abroad).

What we also may keep in mind is that there might be other ways to get to the grocery store. Which says that another application of the rules leads to the same outcome.

Example of rule based music construction

To give you a short example of how to work with rules here is a sample piece of music which is based on two rules:

  1. In each bar the note is shifted up by a third in the diatonic scale (and transposed to a certain range)  g – h – d – f – a – c – e – g
  2. The rhythm in each bar corresponds to a digital number 000001, 00000010, 000000011, 00000100, etc. If there appears a 1 in the number there is sound and if not there is none.

That is how the first eight bars look like in classical score:

Variation II for blog.-2

This is how it sounds like:

If you have anything to say about ruled based art and music – may it be a link to a resource or your personal opinion – drop me a line!

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How to embed sound in noise

Our normal sound environment is an ongoing noise from big bang to paradise. Adding music or sound to this world can only change a small bit of this sounds surrounding us. One of the challenge to put music into the world is the shift from every day sounds to another tune. In a classical context this could be a rather standardized procedure like: you go into the opera house, keep quiet, nod to one or the other person, maybe say hello, take your seat, and so on.

In our daily sound environment exists many variations to begin a sound and let the audience out again and there are different approaches to deal with different situations. Four of them you’ll find in the following list. The list is far from finished but it might be a good starting point to get into the habit of distinguishing everyday sounds and interventions:

  1. to insert a sound like this into the noise                 --- < sound > ---
  2. to sum up the noise and tranquillize the sonic environment === sound > ----
  3. to mix up a clear aural situation to bring live into       --- < sound ===
  4. to add a completely different sound                        --- sound ::: sound ---

This thoughts seems not very clear but if someone is interested in this kind of theory, please drop a line in the comment box and we might go on there!