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FontanaMixer

generative sound environment after "Fontana Mix" by John Cage
© 2004-2012 by Karlheinz Essl


Basics | License | System Requirements | Download | Reviews | Article


  vs. 2.0    NEW
released: 3 Feb 2012


Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl's software implements the chance operations of John Cage's Fontana Mix - which originally involved the placement of transparent sheets over each other to determine the parameters and timing of each sound object - as a computerized chance algorithm. This program generates a realization of Cage's work on-the-fly, visualizing the random decisions of the algorithm as they are made by the software.

Essl's recreation of the Cage work not only transfers it from the analog to the digital domain. It also crucially delays the execution of the chance operations from the moment of composition to the moment of performance (on each listener's own computer). And each performance is unique not only because of the different results of these chance operations, but also because listener-collaborators control the performance by determining its duration and by selecting the source soundfiles to be used. (Jason Freeman)

in: Mediation Station - an unauthored music terminal
Software art exhibition within the Perform.Media Festival (Indiana University, 2006)

About

FontanaMixer is a generative sound environment based on John Cage's conceptual piece "Fontana Mix" (1958) which can be seen as a set of instructions for creating any number of compositions. The "score" supplies a number of transparent foils with dots, lines and graphs which have to be overlapped in random positions and placed over a page that contains 6 curved and intermingled lines. By measuring positions of crossing lines one will obtain 6 parameter values which are needed to determine a single sound event. The choice of the parameters is free:


10 transparent sheets with points, 10 drawings having six differentiated curved lines, a graph (having 100 units horizontally, 20 vertically) and a straightline, the two last on transparent material.

Place a sheet with points over a drawing with curves (in any position). Over these place the graph. Use the straight line to connect a point within the graph with one outside.

Measurements horizontally on the top and bottom lines of the graph with respect to the straight line give a 'time bracket' (time within which the event may take place).

Measurements vertically on the graph with respect to the intersections of the curved lines and the straight line may specify actions to be made. Thus in case of tape music, the thickest curved line may give sound sources. (...) Intersections of the other lines may specify machines for the alteration of original material. Amplitude, frequency, overtone structure may be changed, loops and specific durations introduced.


John Cage: Fontana Mix (1958) - Preface


Cage used this (graphical) random procedures to create music which is free of personal taste - a music which sounds just by its own, like nature: "It is therefore very useful if one has decided that sounds are to come into their own, rather than being exploited to express sentiments or ideas of order." (John Cage: History of Experimental Music in the United States; in: Silence, 1961).

In 2004, I received a commission by the festival WIEN MODERN for creating a new realization of this piece. After starting using the graphical procedures as they where described in the score, I realised that I would not come any further: It would have taken me months to finish the piece if I had measured thousands of parameter values. Instead of the graphical random generator that John Cage supplies with his piece, I used realtime random generators of my Realtime Composition Library in a computer program written in Max/MSP. By sticking to the concept of Cage I created a version which duration is not limited, but infinite, and which would always create new and unpredictable structures.

The structural core of FontanaMixer is a realtime granular synthesis engine that was originally developed for my realtime sound shredder REplay PLAYer which is distributed as shareware.

This sound generator creates new variants and hybrids of a given sound material, and is controlled by randomly obtained values for compositional parameters like phrase length, speed, grain duration, granular offset, transposition and reverb.


FontanaMixer 2.0

User interface of FontanaMixer 2.0


System Requirements


License

FontanaMixer is a composition of Karlheinz Essl based on John Cage's concept piece Fontana Mix (1958). It is distributed as shareware and protected by copyright. As far as the entire content of the original distribution is not changed and no money is charged, this program may be spread freely and can also be included in CD-ROMS and Internet archives.

FontanaMixer is computer program by Karlheinz Essl which is released *as it is*. It is distributed as freeware and protected by copyright. As far as the entire content of the original distribution is not changed and no money is charged, this program may be spread freely and can also be included in CD-ROMs and Internet archives.

The work provided here for download is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. You are free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work under the following conditions:

Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.


Reviews

From: Electronic and Experimental Music: Technology, Music, and Culture (Routledge 2008)

From Tape Recorders to Laptops - The Evolution of Fontana Mix (Thom Holmes)
Yet another laptop version of Fontana Mix was developed by the Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl (b. 1960) in 2004. Essl's version, also called FontanaMixer, is a completeley self-generating sound environment that the composer programmed using Max/MSP. Adhering to Cage's instructions, and providing for sound channels as in Cage's four-track tape version, Essl's program uses chance-based operations to assign values to each of six possible parameters affecting the sound source. The audio sources become highly modified using granular synthesis techniques. Essl's FontanaMixer is provided with four sound sources including the voice of John Cage and nature sounds, but the user is invited to replace any of the given sources with audio tracks of their own.


From: Mediation Station - an unauthored music terminal
Software art exhibition within the Perform.Media Festival (Indiana University, 2006)

Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl's software implements the chance operations of John Cage's Fontana Mix - which originally involved the placement of transparent sheets over each other to determine the parameters and timing of each sound object - as a computerized chance algorithm. This program generates a realization of Cage's work on-the-fly, visualizing the random decisions of the algorithm as they are made by the software.

Essl's recreation of the Cage work not only transfers it from the analog to the digital domain. It also crucially delays the execution of the chance operations from the moment of composition to the moment of performance (on each listener's own computer). And each performance is unique not only because of the different results of these chance operations, but also because listener-collaborators control the performance by determining its duration and by selecting the source soundfiles to be used. (Jason Freeman)


From: TidBITS #761
Date: Jan 10, 2005

Tools We Use: Random Noises With Sonic Mood (Matt Neuburg)
Composer Karlheinz Essl is single-handedly responsible for several interesting real-time music-generation applications. His FontanaMixer is an attempt to recreate a famous aleatory John Cage piece; it's remarkable, but it grabs most of your CPU, making it hard to get anything else done, and its sounds are raspy and clanky, involve a human voice, and are mixed with long periods of silence, as if someone were muttering while sorting through the garbage cans in an alley.


From: technofile: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries
Date: May 18, 2005
Great finds worth a download or two (Al Fasoldt)
Finally, I've become fond of a bizarre music generator called FontanaMixer, written by Karlheinz Essl and available free from www.essl.at/software.html. FontanaMixer was inspired by "Fontana Mix," a freeform piece by American composer John Cage. The music FontanaMixer creates is random, interesting and unexpectedly delightful. You'll also be able to listen to and order, on CD, audio performances of Essl's music from www.essl.at/sounds.html. I found them fascinating.


From: technofile: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries
Date: May 18, 2005
Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl's software implements the chance operations of John Cage's Fontana Mix - which originally involved the placement of transparent sheets over each other to determine the parameters and timing of each sound object - as a computerized chance algorithm. This program generates a realization of Cage's work on-the-fly, visualizing the random decisions of the algorithm as they are made by the software. Essl's recreation of the Cage work not only transfers it from the analog to the digital domain. It also crucially delays the execution of the chance operations from the moment of composition to the moment of performance (on each listener's own computer). And each performance is unique not only because of the different results of these chance operations, but also because listener-collaborators control the performance by determining its duration and by selecting the source soundfiles to be used. (Jason Freeman)


From: neural.it: Hacktivism, E-Music, New Media Art
Date: Jun 16, 2005
FontanaMixer, simulare John Cage con algoritmi (Alessandro Ludovico)
La codifica di lavori concettuali in codice di programmazione è una particolare forma di 'digitalizzazione' che implica passaggi mediatici (ossia da un medium materiale ad un altro immateriale) non trascurabili, pur se al contempo ne sublima le idee nella resa perenne degli algoritmi. FontanaMixer è un software generativo basato su 'Fontana Mix', lavoro concettuale di John Cage del 1958, programmato in ambiente Mac dall'austriaco Karlheinz Essl a quasi mezzo secolo di distanza. La partitura , composta di 'istruzioni' fatte da punti, linee e grafici, sovrapposte attraverso fogli trasparenti in maniera casuale, calcolava sei diversi parametri in base ai quali determinare ogni singolo evento sonoro, con la scelta degli stessi parametri lasciata libera all'interprete. Questa anarchica libertà d'interpretazione, che Cage collegava alla liberazione dal gusto personale ricollegandosi agli eventi naturali, senza un ordine apparente, si riflette nella codifica effettuata con quattro canali autonomi e parametri che si modificano autonomamente sotto gli occhi del fruitore. La teatralità del lavoro scompare, e con lei anche la presenza scenica delle apparecchiature (quattro registratori a nastro) utilizzate all'epoca, ma questo lavoro, commissionato dal festival Wien Modern, realizza una sorta di 'cover' software di una storica performance, preservandone, a differenza delle cover puramente 'musicali', i principi ispiratori, ossia il pensiero innovativo che li ha motivati e animati al loro tempo. L'indeterminazione, l'opportunità e il silenzio si ritrovano calcolati da un microprocessore imbeccato dalle istruzioni necessarie, e protagonista della stessa poetica automazione originaria.


Download

  FontanaMixer 2.0 for MacOS 10.6 or higher new
released 3 Feb 2012: ZIP archive (8.9 MB)

Universal Binary   FontanaMixer 1.1 for MacOS 10.4 or higher - Universal Binary
released 23 Aug 2007: ZIP archive (6.0 MB)


Softpedia Clean Award


More music software by Karlheinz Essl

  RP REplay PLAYer (© 2000-2007)
generative sound file shredder

REplay PLAYer is a computer program that de-constructs a given sound file and re-composes it by using realtime composition algorithms. It can be used as a tool to generate an infinite and every-changing sonic stream from a single sound file for artistic, compositional or mere recreational purposes. It can also be regarded as a computer based instrument for live performances, as an interactive sound installation or a generator for ambient music.

  fLOW fLOW (© 1998-2007)
ambient soundscape generator

fLOW is an audio computer program running on Apple Macintosh machines. It generates an ever-changing and never repeating soundscape in real time that fills the space with flooding sounds that resemble - metaphorically - the timbres of water, fire, earth, and air. This ambient sound scape generator adjusts itself through various parameters and controllers that are represented in real time on your screen.

And even more...



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Updated: 12 May 2013