June 24–July 13, 2018

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Wolfram Summer School

June 24–July 13, 2018
Bentley University, Waltham, MA


Marnen Laibow-Koser

Class of 2010


Marnen Laibow-Koser is a composer, performing musician, and software developer living in Albany, New York. After undergraduate training in composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Purchase College, he started exploring ways to bring together his lifelong interests of music, mathematics, and computer science. While attending the Workshop in Algorithmic Computer Music (2007, University of California, Santa Cruz), Marnen was exposed to the idea of using cellular automata and NKS to generate music. He is delighted to be attending the NKS Summer School for the first time, and looks forward to exploring the intersection of NKS, math, and music!

Project: Generating Musical Form with Substitution Systems

One of the lingering problems in the field of algorithmically composed music is the issue of form. In Western classical music, a composition that holds the listener's interest for more than a minute or two does so largely by means of a formal structure (comparable to a linguistic parse tree) that must be perceptible without being too regular; this lack of regularity has made satisfying musical forms surprisingly hard to create by algorithmic means.

One-dimensional string substitution systems are an extremely promising mechanism for generating musical form with NKS methods. They are capable of generating structures that are self-similar without being completely regular—structures which can be applied to musical material to yield aesthetically satisfying results.

Favorite Four-Color Totalistic Cellular Automaton

Rule 685170