028 MMOM – Molecular Music Box

MMoM-1400-blueIn this episode, I talk about Molecular Music Box, a music app that I wrote that creates algorithmic solo piano music, and two songs that I composed using the app.

I started by talking about my entry for the August 2014 Ludum Dare. I worked by myself but used clip art from MyCuteGraphics.com, so it was a “jam” entry. The theme was “Connected Worlds” and I made a game called The Circle Of Life. It is about the life cycle:

In the food chain, we are all connected. The butterflies eat from the flowers, but the birds eat the butterflies, but the foxes eat the birds.

In “The Circle Of Life” your place in the food chain keeps changing. You are the purple butterfly and have to eat from the flowers. But don’t get eaten by the birds. But then you are a blue bird and have to eat the butterflies. But don’t get eaten by the fox!

I had fun with the audio. When the animals eat the other animals, you here me or my son saying “Nom nom nom!” in the correct place in the stereo field. I got top 11% ratings in humor and top 34% in audio. You can play or download The Circle Of Life.

So, I originally saw a video for Molecular Music Box by Dr. Duncan Lockerby, a professor in the UK. With an algorithm, you can create solo piano music using 2 numbers and a starting note, for example 4 E 3. 4 is the “initial length” and 3 is the “secondary length.” The algorithm is hard to explain in the just audio, so I wanted to play a song first to demonstrate. I then played 9 D 1 1/2.

So you start with a low D and hold it for 9 beats. You then play the next white key up, an E, and hold that for 9 beats. You continue up the white keys. While this is happening, you use a “loop pedal” to record and repeat 4-measure loops. So, whatever sounded during the first 4 measures gets played again in the 5th measure while you add new notes. Each time you loop the 4 measures, there will be additional notes played.

You continue doing this until you are starting a new note at the same exact time an existing note is schedule to sound. In that case, you change from the initial length (9) to the secondary length (1 1/2), and play all the notes for 1 1/2 beats each until you again have a note already starting at that time. When that happens you switch back to the initial length (9 beats).

If you’d like to try Molecular Music Box, you can play around at MakingMyOwnMusic.com/mmb. The program has sliders for initial length and secondary length so you can make them go from 1/2 to 16, and the initial length can go from C2 (two octaves below middle C) to C4 (middle C). I also added three advanced features. You can adjust tempo from 60 to 300. I also added a “key” slider so you can have the song use any key instead of all white keys. I also allow you to change the loop length to go from 8 beats up to 32 beats.

The piano sounds come from Mildon Studios; he published a free SFZ library.

In 8 C 14 1/2, I am using the key of Eb making the song in natural minor. I also changed the loop length to 15, so the song has 3 measures of 4/4 followed by 1 measure of 3/4. I then played 8 C 14 1/2.

Down the line, I might release this app for iOS or Android, and maybe can allow users to save their songs as MP3s. Composer Michael Chadwick used Molecular Music Box as one part in a larger song called Chemical Music.

Send me your feedback by emailing tom@makingmyownmusic.com.

I am also going to re-brand this podcast; it will no longer be called “Making My Own Music.” The new podcast will have a slightly different focus, and I will try to make an effort to release episodes every week.

You can play the podcast using the play button at the top of the post, or right-click on the “Download” link to save it to your computer.

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About Tom Snively

I am a freelance composer and compose and record music in my home studio. I record electronic music such as new age, video game, dance and trance and non-electronic music such as smooth jazz, rock and classical music. Contact me for the following: Commission me to write and/or record your song for you. License one of my songs for your use. Have me record a saxophone part for your song.

2 Responses to 028 MMOM – Molecular Music Box

  1. Thomas Furniss says:

    Hello, Ive been trying to work out how to compose using the molecular music box method all day using MIDI and i just can’t get my head around it. Is there any chance i could see what a photo looks like using midi? Thank you.

  2. Tom Snively says:


    I don’t understand what you mean re using MIDI, and what kind of photo you are talking about? Can you elaborate?


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