Algorithmically Generated Music…Yeah, It’s as Nerdy as it Sounds


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Early videogames, especially in the 1980s, had fairly substantial limitations on memory. As a result, the space for music was generally quite limited in both voicings (think different instrumental lines) and sounds (think different instruments). A typical nintendo game, for example, had two tracks for monophonic melodies, one track for a bass monophonic melody, and two tracks for percussion, and the available sounds were primarily variations of squarewaves and sawtooths. Since these lack of options limited the scope of composition depth, composers generally made their arrangements particularly melodically and rhythmically complex. Videogame music typically contained complex melodies, unusual time signatures, complex counterpoint, and even atonal compositions. Some composers took it a step further and wrote programs to algorithmically generate the song on the fly.

Algorithmically generated music is music that as arranged by a computer program according to a set of rules. Algorithmically generated music can be as simple as a…

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