Algorithmic composition blog

X-UCInetID: dobrian
From: Christopher Dobrian <>
Subject: A blog on algorithmic composition
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009 08:48:13 -0700

I’d like to make you aware of a website that may be interesting for students and practitioners of computer music. is a blog of short lessons on the topic of algorithmic composition — the use of formal systems to generate music (and, by extension, other types of time-based art) with computer programs. The examples in these lessons are provided in the form of Max programs.

The fact that nearly each blog entry contains a simple, working, and carefully explained Max program, and the fact that it’s structured in more or less progressive chapters, combined with my annoyingly pedantic style of writing, perhaps makes it read like just more Max tutorials, but I think (hope!) it actually has a fair bit of useful general information and philosophical rumination embedded within. It’s not about Max, per se, and it really assumes that the reader is already pretty fluent with Max; it’s about specific aspects of algorithmic composition and related topics such as interactivity, computer-mediated improvisation, sound synthesis and processing, etc., with demonstrations and explanations of how to implement the ideas in Max. By its structure it may have value as an instructional aid or supplementary reading for university courses, as seems to have been the case with the original Max tutorials.

Whenever I have the time — which isn’t all that often, but every other week or so — I’ll write a brief essay and accompanying program on a particular concept or technique. The first chapters deal with some pretty basic concepts (a fact which also contributes to its tutorial-like tone), but I see this as just laying the groundwork for deeper topics to come. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to make the programs include visual examples as well as sonic/musical ones. All that’s required to run the programs is Max 5 Runtime. If you find the blog is interesting to you, you can receive RSS notifications of new entries.

I welcome comments, criticisms, requests, etc.


Christopher Dobrian
Professor of Music
303 Music and Media Building
University of California, Irvine
Irvine CA 92697-2775

Tel: (949) 824-7288
Fax: (949) 824-4914

Mark Applebaum, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Composition
Department of Music
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-3076