Music synthesized from the Game of Life


[vtol] has built a very elaborate system of electronic sound machines, which can be patched together in various ways in order to create all sorts of sounds and sound effects. The modules range from simple noise synthesizers to pitch shifters, sequencers, and effects processors. The most recent addition to his synthesizer system is a matrix sequencer named 2112, which focuses on generating random sounds from a very familiar mechanism.

The sequencer simulates Conway’s Game of Life, representing the colony movements in beeps and buzzes, creating a nearly infinite array of random sound effects. Using firmware from the Game of Life board by Ladyada, the sequencer generates different sound patterns based upon the number of colonies on the board. The output varies according to the shapes and proximity of the organisms to one another. Since it is part of his already modular system, the 2112 board can be combined with any number of his other sound generators and effects machines to make all sorts of circuit bent music.

Keep reading to check out the trio of videos below demonstrating the Game of Life board in action.


  1. jAMES says:

    listening to that made me angry. if art is defined as something that causes an emotional response, this is a win.

  2. Fili says:

    Sorry but random annoying noises can’t be called music. You need rythm and melody to create music. You can’t put a cat on a piano keyboard and call that music (unless it’s this cat or this one—aiyznGQ )
    I’ve seen random music generators that take input from something (like a text file or, let’s say, the game of life) and generate patterns that really sound ok. This just creates random noise. So epic fail from me.

  3. okmijn says:

    the waveforms used makes it ‘painful’, next time try to plug it in a moog synth :)

  4. hmm says:

    you need a much bigger playfield. This kinda, well, sucks.

  5. desearcher says:

    It needs more gliders.

    Now I’m wondering how a state machine synthesizer would sound.

  6. Acedio says:

    There’s an old-ish bit of DS homebrew called GlitchDS ( that using the Game of Life to trigger samples. Much better, IMO. Still a cool project, though.

  7. Paul says:

    Just a small point. “Aleatoric music” does not mean “random noises”.

  8. Oddish says:

    The bottom video sounds like the soundtrack to some sort of cyberpunk slasher flick.

  9. Anonymous says:

    it sounds like it’s malfunctioning

  10. bty says:

    also would of been a lot easier and cheaper to do in software.

  11. HRpuffnstuff says:

    2112 = Rush reference FTW

  12. Happosai says:

    I’ve been messing around with glitchDS, a sample sequencer based on cellular automata, on the Nintendo DS for a couple of years:

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