Sound Garden

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This project explored the potential for a site-specific sound installation that would demonstrate algorithmic music synthesis seeded by the path that visitors take through a formal garden. The ultimate objective is to create an installation that could be showcased at the Dagstuhl centre for computer science research, building on the Dagstuhl seminar on live coding.

This Cambridge project was carried out in collaboration with client Jonathan Baldwin from Madingley Hall, where there is a beautiful formal garden. Proximity triggers were created using Bluetooth low-energy beacons from CSR

Design brief:

Surprisingly satisfying music can be defined in terms of simple regular grammars. Simple grammars can be derived from observing the traversal of a graph. Your task is to make a system that automatically generates original music, according to rules that are derived from the path of visitors walking through the formal garden at Madingley Hall ( A small number of infrared detectors hidden in the flowerbeds will detect people passing. A Raspberry Pi should use these signals to create a grammar that can also be viewed and modified by members of the public, in the form of source code (any language – or your own invention) that can be edited from any web browser via an HTTP server on the Raspberry Pi. Of course, everyone should be able to hear the resulting music, whether played over speakers in the garden, or by remote viewers from their browsers. As an example of the kind of generative music that might result, check out the video of Dave Griffiths' techno music composing robots in al‐ jazari.

Undergraduate group design projects