Colin Sullivan

Fibbass 2010

Here is the result of this semester's work on my Fibonacci composition:

Apple Lossless .m4a .mp3.ogg

If you are interested in my process, please feel free to read my final report below, or email me.

Original Objective

To write a bass guitar composition and design algorithmically determined accompaniments, all based on the Fibonacci sequence.


My process in developing this project was very linear due to my limited time frame. In the beginning of the semester, I set up a list of goals to accomplish, and mapped them evenly across the remainder of the semester. Initially all of my goals were technical, proof of concept pieces, which became the individual components that I would later combine into a larger signal-flow. Some of these components took more time to implement than I had anticipated and some took much less, so I was able to complete them all on time. After completing any one of these smaller components, I hardly ever went back to revise or rewrite it. For example, I spent approximately an hour choosing the percussive sounds that I used in the piece, and never looked back after that. I feel that my ability to perform the piece successfully is partly due to this lack of perfection, as I would have never had enough time to finish writing the composition, let alone practice playing it, if I had attempted to make every aspect perfect.

As far as the composition itself, I did not spend that much time on the general structure, nor on any other aspect of it. For the central melody, I arbitrarily chose a center (pitch), and used successive Fibonacci numbers to determine how many semitones will be between the current note, and the next note. I alternate the direction of the pitch, i.e. up 1 semitone, down 1 semitone, up 2, down 3, up 5, down 8, etc. The amount of quarter-note rests between each note is also based on this "global" Fibonacci number. This ended up not sounding too bad at all.

To integrate this in to Max/MSP, I basically just fed the MIDI into Max, and devised algorithms to keep track of this global Fibonacci number based on the notes that I am playing. All percussion is generated based on this number, and other randomly generated numbers. The number sometimes denotes how many percussive notes to play, how long to wait between them, etc.

Final Result

Although I didn't get to accomplish some of my original goals, I am satisfied with the way this project turned out after a semester's work. My plan was to get my hands dirty with this concept, and to see what I could make of it. The result is a fairly polished, proof of concept, of what I hope to become a much bigger composition next semester.

This semester allowed me to work out many of the technical issues that I had considered while planning this project such as exactly how the signal flow would occur during the performance. I was also able to experiment briefly with many of the aspects that I hope to exploit further next semester, including audio effects, and melody generation within Max/MSP. Because of my limited amount of time and the vast amount of elements involved in this project, I was only able to spend a short amount of time on each element. In the future, I would like to spend much more time choosing and manipulating the elements of this project, to make sure that every aspect is intentional.

The hardest part for me, due to my lack of formal music training, is the actual composition. I have been discussing with many classically trained musicians and music professors (Prof. Curtis Bahn, Prof. Scott McCoy, Garrett Smelcer, Garrett Sullivan) over the past semester various techniques and concepts relating to this project, and am looking forward to my elaboration of these ideas in the future.

Now that I have a general concept, and ideas of how to implement various techniques, next semester I plan on taking this project further, and hopefully expanding it into what I originally hoped it would be.