Rainbow fugue machine

Today I found myself in a bit of a fugue state, and it wasn’t all that bad. So I decided I would make a candy button machine to create fugue states.

Drawing inspiration from Xiao’s comment about the circle of fifths, I realized that if I could make a melody go around the entire circle of fifths, then my machine could use every candy button of the rainbow.

Coincidentally, today I reached page 152 in Vernor VInge’s novel Rainbows End. That’s the page where it is pointed out that the title of the book is actually a declarative sentence (and, when you think about it, a very sad sentence at that).

But in fact rainbows do not end, because rainbows are actually completely circular. Like Skittles.

So I decided to make a candy button rainbow fugue machine. In other words, a machine to generate never-ending fugues that go all around the circle of fifths, visiting every color of the rainbow on the way.

As you can see in the picture below, the machine has 12 spiral arms arranged around a circle (the circle of fifths, in fact). Each arm consists of the four notes of a dominant seventh chord in some random order, as candy buttons.

There are only two kinds of controls: less ↔ more to vary the number of voices, and thin ↔ wide to vary how far those voices spread around the circle of fifths.

It’s surprising how many musical variations you can get with just those controls. But don’t take my word for it. Try out the applet for yourself, by clicking on the image below:



4 Responses to “Rainbow fugue machine”

  1. x says:

    Wow awesome!!!

    Strictly speaking, I think what you have made is not a fugue machine but rather a Candy Canon Contraption (or the more general Candy Contrapuntal Contraption). The alliteration makes it better anyway :-)

    I wonder what it would sound like if each line caused the candy to produce a slightly different timbre. That way, it would be easier to distinguish the multiple voices.

    (Also, not to be nitpicky, but shouldn’t “less” be “fewer” since we’re talking about discrete number of lines?)

  2. admin says:

    I’m glad you like it! It is indeed a contrapuntal machine, but it can be used to build fugues. To build an entire fugue with it, you would need to hit buttons at the right time, while timing everything so that you end on the same key where you started.

    I wanted to make it multiple instruments – I agree it would be richer, but ever since Vi told me that her computer wouldn’t run these Java applets with setInstrument() calls, I’ve been staying away from that.

    The five letter word “fewer” didn’t look as pretty on the button (I tried it). This way it’s less intricate versus more intricate, more or less. :-)

  3. Mari says:

    Hmmm very strange it crashed both my Safari and Firefox… will try again…

  4. Mo says:

    Listened to and stared mesmerized at the fugue machine for several minutes…immediately on return to the blog page, experienced an illusory motion aftereffect…the text of the blog page appeared to be rotating counterclockwise. Extra points for that.

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