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Generating Art with Code: A Handbook to “Little Planet Procedural” (alanluo.com)
107 points by happy-go-lucky 143 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments



The actual software seems to be https://github.com/alan-luo/planetprocedural

On a related note, I’m quietly amazed why there isn’t yet a working generator of electronic music. I mean something that I can download, run, and it would stream believable IDM/techno/trance into my earphones. It sounds like it should be so possible, if not outright easy — yet it’s still humans who are toiling away at their Abletons weeding through that search space. I wonder what crucial problem I’m not seeing.


https://www.brain.fm/ does this. I enjoy using it while working sometimes and I think it works very well as believable background electronic music.


I believe that if you look at the work done at IRCAM since 1977, you'll find a lot on generating music—from scratch, or from interacting with musician, or from gestures… (Max/MSP was also invented there before it was a Cycling74 product.)

So there is research on generating music, but like a lot of cool research, nobody is making an effort to turn it into products.


AAA game studios have 100s of artists toiling away at Maya and ZBrush, so I guess that means there isn't a working generator for computer graphics either ;).

In this case the author is using math to paint shapes and fill in colors, but the wider scene composition is authored. The equivalent of this for music would be hardcoding music composition/sequencing using code and writing procedural synths using math (like http://www.shadertoy.com music shader!), not a server somewhere generating music with no human involved.

Entirely procedural music is a genre though, as far as procedural music being "believable" (I guess aesthetically pleasing?) for you it probably depends on the right artists coming along and developing a sound you like, moreso than it not being possible.


There was http://www.abundant-music.com/ and although it doesn't seem to work now, you can look on YouTube for some examples of what it can generate. It's massively configurable.


Maybe it's that music matters and even instrumental music contains a similar level of content and meaning as speech.

The minute we realise music isn't the authentic voice of another human being we reject it.

Even my enjoyment of arguably mechanical music like some of the early minimalist stuff - where to a degree processes determine the structure and unfolding of the work - is mediated through my awareness of the authorial intent of the composer. (I'm talking more about Piano Phase than Pendulum Music here - the latter is slightly too devoid of human intervention to be 'real music' for me)

How would you feel about a novel generator? Why is that so different?


Are you familiar with modern electronic dance music? There’s definitely no “authentic voice of another human being” in regular trance music, for example. It’s hours upon hours of repetitive structural patterns overlaid on similar timbres. Now, I’m not a very big fan of trance music, but it would be something, and I feel like the gap between that and more interesting music like IDM should be quantitative (more code to produce more complex patterns over more varied timbres), not qualitative.


Modern "EDM" producers actually receive a lot of criticism for these practices from both critics/academics and laypeople. I think the massive commercial success and general enjoyment of this music actually comes from the spectacle of the "live" events, and so as an extension even just listening to it at home, the spectacle is implicit and can be experienced vicariously to some degree. On top of this, this music as a product is obviously extremely easy to produce in comparison to other genres/processes and is thus lucrative to profiteers.

Another reason why such utterly cheap production habits have been wildly accepted is because of the already established history of house music and techno, which was originally revolutionary, because those sounds and the contexts for which they were experienced ironically represented newfound human feelings of liberation, from a youth movement to escape a bankrupt Detroit to the fallen Berlin wall. Techno was a way for people to grab the rising technocracy by the horns so to speak and make something specifically human out of it.


To me, this just indicates that you aren't familiar with what the human element of modern electronic music is. I definitely understand where you're coming from with trance, I'm not the genre's biggest fan either, but there are certainly methods and techniques of production that give artists unique characteristics. "EDM" that doesn't sound like it was produced by an artist with some sort of vision or goal in mind is simply bad EDM. It's extremely obvious when someone releases a by-the-numbers boring dance track, it's the same thing as the awful pop that plays on the radio.

Anyway, my point is: even music with "repetitive structural patterns overlaid on similar timbres" cannot be replicated with any genuineness by computers. Not yet, and probably not for a very long time. We, as people, can sense the insincerity. Now, if the goal is literally to have repetitive background noise with no real melody or structure then sure we can certainly already do that. But I also would not call that music in the true sense of the word.


Ah, good find of the github link! I imported it into glitch so I could see it run: https://honey-climb.glitch.me/


Original dev here. I'm actually working on something like this, too. :)


Here's the final 3d project, Big Planet Procedural: http://alanluo.com/procgen/final.html


Hi guys! Original dev here. I'm you guys enjoyed it! I had no idea this was x-posted to Hackernews, but I noticed a surge in hits on my site and so I investigated. I'm working on an expanded version of this currently. Let me know if you have any other thoughts or questions!


A Response: "After Alan Luo" [http://imgur.com/fmt1Kib]

Being an Artist with a background in technology I can't help but appreciate this differently than I believe intended. I've been thinking a lot recently about the boundries of what is and isn't art in regards to technology (up to and including the division of Arts and Sciences at the Academic level) and feel like I need to say something about the use of the word Art here.

To me, the Art is your unique contribution to the Art World, which is always the aspect of the work the Artist puts their heart into the most. Unless someone really picks up this tool as their medium of choice and makes true Art with it, the Art to see here will always be the code Alan Luo has writen. Code is poetry and deserves every bit as much respect as forms of it like concrete poetry, where things like indentation matter. It just kind of irks me to see Art get demeaned by people I would consider Artists if they reframed their work.


Hey! Original creator here. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I think you bring up some very interesting ideas.

With the rise of the likes of Google's Magenta project, the use of the word 'art' is brought into question, just as you mention. So as the original dev, I'd like to give my two cents.

I do not consider the outputs of this program as 'art.' Whether or not the code is art is an entirely different question that I don't think is really important to address.

The documentation was a little hastily assembled for a deadline, so the following sentiment is not reflected in it, but the purpose of this project was never to create 'art' with code, it was to demonstrate that there exists a bridge between creativity and code. For me, the output of this program is not art in itself. However, I have used the output as a place to draw inspiration for other pieces of work that I would consider art. In this case, I use the program as an infinite source of inspiration rather than as the art itself.

By the way, I may write a blog entry about this topic in the future. You've brought up very interesting ideas. :)


The HTML5-powered renderer: https://alan-luo.github.io/planetprocedural/


This is great. It gets across some really useful concepts, without seeming inaccessible, by having some uber finished shiney 3d render in it.




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