Conway's Game of Life and Generative Musical Sequencers
July 23, 2020
Conway’s Game of Life is a cellular automata first devised by the mathematician John Conway in 1970. The game consists of a grid of cells that have two states, either dead or alive. Each round the state of a cell is decided by the following three rules.
- Any living cell with two or three living neighbours stays alive.
- Any dead cell with three live neighbours comes to life.
- Any live cell with less than 2 living neighbours or more than three living neighbours dies.
These simple rules lead to some interesting generative patterns and behaviour.
Not wanting to stop there I added a musical element to my design and a new iteration called the Sound of Life was born. This version uses the game of life as a generative musical sequencer. The board is divided up into zones. Each step the sequencer counts the number of living cells in the active zone and uses this information to trigger a note from a predefined scale.
The sound generation is handled by the Tone.js library. I used it to build a 2-op FM synthesizer that runs into a delay with a feedback control. The result sounds surprisingly good.