Towers of Hanoi
(again and again)

Photo Caja Maria Schöning

Towers of Hanoi derives from a math game of the same name. The rules of the game generate a structure which maps out all possible moves within the game, including the sequence of moves which represent the solution. The map is a fractal, self-similar structure which grows exponentially in size as the number of pieces in the game is increased.

Displayed on the screen in Towers of Hanoi are the color-coded maps for seven different levels of the game (for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 pieces). Upon this landscape three little musical automatons (robots) are let loose, where their task is to play the game, making move after move according to the rules. As they jump from one node in the map to the next, they interpret the attributes of each node they land on as a set of musical values: pitch, volume, duration, timbre. Thus they "play" the game in two senses: as a set of rules, and as a musical score.

As the robots explore the landscape, they leave trails marking their path. They often backtrack over where they've been, and they spend a lot of time making "wrong moves", but over time they generally move in a counter-clockwise path outwards through the map, towards the perimeter. Sometimes they pause a while, and sometimes a greater power plucks them from their current location and plops them down onto another spot, or onto another map altogether.

Towers of Hanoi runs continuously (the robots never do solve the puzzle), and generates an entirely new performance each time it is started. Every 6 hours the accumulated robot trails are erased, clearing the landscape. The two videos below are short excerpts from a much longer performance.

Towers of Hanoi was first shown publically at ANT Gallery in Seattle, Washington (2014), and in much smaller format at BJ Spoke Gallery in Huntington, New York (2014). The program runs on Mac OS-10.7 or later, and is made available here for personal and educational use. It runs in fullscreen mode, so use the <Cmd>Q key combination to exit the program. Please contact me directly for any public performance or display.

Download Towers Of Hanoi

Further Technical Information about Towers of Hanoi

Signals and Noises

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