Colin Sullivan

Fibbass 2011

Last year I developed a short composition based on the Fibonacci numbers in which various accompaniments were generated algorithmically, you can listen to it here.

This semester, I am working with Prof. Curtis Bahn in a much greater capacity, and will be hopefully be developing this idea into the composition that I have always wanted it to be.

I am taking an Independent Study with Bahn in "Algorithmic Music Composition Theory", as well as one of his classes, "Advanced Computer Music". I will be working on the same project for both courses, but in much different capacities. My project proposal is below, and can be found here in pdf format.


To build a more complex composition based upon my previous "Fibbass" sketch by looking at many aspects in greater detail.


  • Study the history/theory of computer-aided music and algorithmic compositions (Independent Study)
    • Study the work done in the intersection of musical composition and mathematical structures
    • Using myself as a case study, utilize this knowledge to build upon my compositional ideas
    • Develop theories and a plan for a more complex composition based my previous "Fibbass" sketch
  • Actually implement this composition on the computer (Advanced Computer Music)
    • Utilize the computer to generate various alternatives to rapidly build the composition
    • Develop/utilize more complex timbres and sound effects
  • Document all work in a comprehensive paper


Listed above there are two major categories, each of which I hope to spend equal time on throughout the course of the semester. The first focuses on the history and theory behind the composition, while the second focuses more on the composition itself and the implementation of the piece.


Study History
I will begin by studying the history of computers used for musical purposes, such as when they were used to generate scores, or when they were used to study contrary motion and counterpoint to determine "rules" on what melodies are beautiful and which ones are not.
Use Myself as a Case Study
Incorporating theories developed by these computer musicians, I will produce a theoretical outline for the piece that I will iteratively develop upon as I begin to actually implement the piece. This outline will include such aspects as the overall structure of the piece, the structures of individual sections, or thoughts on melodic relationships.


Rapid Prototyping
I will build a "development" environment in Max/MSP, ChucK, or Python that will allow me to rapidly test various scales and melodies, so I can determine what I like best for the composition. All of these decisions will be guided by the goals that I have developed in my history/theory study, which I will also be iterating on as the semester progresses.
Developing Timbre
Once I have a base composition that I am happy with, I will begin to spend time on the actual production of the piece. This will include experimenting with MSP/ChucK patches that have already been created and attempting to manipulate various parameters of these effects based on Fibonacci sequence to assist in creating the texture/mood that I want for the different parts of the piece. I would also like to experiment with manual manipulation of some parameters to keep the performance aspect of the piece in mind.