Making Minty Fresh Music With Markov Chains: The After Eight Step Sequencer

Step sequencers are fantastic instruments, but they can be a little, well, repetitive. At it’s core, the step sequencer is a pretty simple device: it loops through a series of notes or phrases that are, well, sequentially ordered into steps. The operator can change the steps while the sequencer is looping, but it generally has a repetitive feel, as the musician isn’t likely to erase all of the steps and enter in an entirely new set between phrases.

Enter our old friend machine learning. If we introduce a certain variability on each step of the loop, the instrument can help the musician out a bit here, making the final product a bit more interesting. Such an instrument is exactly what [Charis Cat] set out to make when she created the After Eight Step Sequencer.

The After Eight is an eight-step sequencer that allows the artist to set each note with a series of potentiometers (which are, of course, housed in an After Eight mint tin). The potentiometers are read by an Arduino, which passes MIDI information to a computer running the popular music-oriented visual programming language Max MSP. The software uses a series of Markov Chains to augment the musician’s inputted series of notes, effectively working with the artist to create music. The result is a fantastic piece of music that’s different every time it’s performed. Make sure to check out the video at the end for a fantastic overview of the project (and to hear the After Eight in action, of course)!

[Charis Cat]’s wonderful creation reminds us of some the work [Sara Adkins] has done, blending human performance with complex algorithms. It’s exactly the kind of thing we love to see at Hackaday- the fusion of a musician’s artistic intent with the stochastic unpredictability of a machine learning system to produce something unique.

Thanks to [Chris] for the tip!

7 thoughts on “Making Minty Fresh Music With Markov Chains: The After Eight Step Sequencer

    1. Her results sound better than mine were to read.
      I played with Mr. Markov on texts in the early 80s.
      The result was either boring or “too dada”.
      I never found the right fine tuning.

  1. Christ alive this is delightful. Seeing LMNC’s high-key-punk low-key-boffin approach done as high-key-boffin and low-key-punk is wonderful. It’s incredible to hear how musical the result is; I expected something much more someone dropping a Mutable Clouds down some stairs.

  2. Wonderful creation and engaging video. What cautght my eye first though was the tin. Back in January Mrs cdilla was throwing out the christmas trash and thrust the exact same box at me saying “Here, create something for this box”. It’s still in the corner with an Illy tin and a couple of altoid tins. I’m about as musical as a brick – but it has made me look at the box again…

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