The name Clang is an homage to Arnold Schönberg's concept of Klangfarbenmelodie (tone color melody), in which "melody" is created not by changes in pitch, but by changes in tonal color, that is, instrumentation. This basic idea was one of the original germs of Clang, although realized in a different fashion than Schönberg himself used it.

Clang employs concepts from nonlinear dynamical systems (chaos theory) and cellular automata within a simple set of rules for generating sound. The code which embodies the rule-set and the means to perform its output constitutes what is, in essence, an autonomous machine, a musical robot. Depending on version and configuration, anywhere from one to eight or more of these clang-machines might be playing together at any given time (like musicians in a band). Each of their performances is unique—every time they start playing together, a completely different sequence of events unfolds.

Chaotic systems exhibit behaviors which vary from being completely predictable (periodic) to being completely unpredictable (random). In between these extremes exists a subtly patterned quasi-randomness, a randomness with "quality" that is perceptibly quite different from the character of white noise, Brownian motion, Gaussian distributions, or other statistical distributions.

To coordinate action among the separate parts, Clang utilizes concepts from the study of cellular automata, in which very simple rules governing the behavior and interaction of discrete cells are capable of producing profoundly complex and interesting behaviors in the relationships among the cells.

Indeed, chaos theory and cellular automata are now widely used to model a wide variety of natural and social phenomena: weather, predator-prey relationships, foraging of ants, chemical and nuclear reactions, flocking in birds, schooling in fish, epidemics, mutation of viruses, the stock market, effects of taxation policies, ethnic & racial mixing in cities—to name but a few. Clang is a study in the application of these ideas to the automatic generation of music. Clang is a work in progress and it is constantly evolving.

There is a graphical component to Clang as well. The rules which drive the musical output are also used to produce an animated graphical "score", a kind of visualization of the music. The output of each musical part (clang-machine) is displayed in its own square panel, inside of which each note is displayed as a thick line with particular graphical characteristics (color, length, orientation, position) which are derived from the musical characteristics (pitch, duration, intensity, timbre) of each note.

At any given time, a part may be in one of three modes, or muted entirely:

Orchestra (Clang)
uses the Roland GM/GS sample set that is installed as a standard component of the operating system on virtually all personal computers today. In addition to all of the common western musical instruments, the collection includes many non-European instruments, sound effects, and animal and environmental noises.

Voice (Panlingualia)
uses a set of 216 recordings of spoken vocalizations (half male, half female) that represent the core sounds of the International Phonetic Alphabet; that is to say, the basic phonemes of all human speech. Thanks to Jill House and John Wells of the Department of Phonetics and Linguistics at the University College London for the speech samples.

Drum (Different Drummer)
uses a collection of over 500 samples of handmade wooden drums, played with a variety of hand strokes. Thanks to the good folk at Fat Congas for the generous donation of their sample library.

Clang is dedicated to the memory of
Richard Zvonar (1946-2005)
Allen Strange (1943-2008)
Torben Winkler (1984-2011)

Signals and Noises

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