# Randomness

Reference:

This guide shows how to use randomness to introduce variation to our music, specifically through the idea of a random walk.

Music that relies at least to some degree on randomness is said to be stochastic, or aleatoric.

## #Random Walk

Another approach to generating a melody is sometimes called a random walk. The idea is to start on a particular note and treat the sequence of random numbers as intervals, rather than as pitches.

In 2D graphics, a random walk involves drawing a path by repeatedly choosing a random direction in which to move. On this 2D plane, each step can be one of four directions: up, down, left, or right (plus a fifth choice if you include not moving as an option). Given a certain set of rules, this might look as follows: How might we apply this idea to music? As we've seen, a piano has 88 keys, giving it a range from A0 to C8, which map to the MIDI numbers 21–108. We can treat this as a 1D plane, and say that at each moment we have 4 choices: 1) play a higher note; 2) play a min note; 3) play the same note; 4) play nothing. The range 21-108 and the 4 choices define the "possibility space" for our random walk. ## #Random Notes

Let's start simple and just play random notes by repeatedly picking a random number between 21 and 108. This gives us a random distribution, where each of the 88 notes have an equal chance of being played.

### #Random Numbers

For this example, we'll need a way to generate a random number within a given range, which JS doesn't have out-of-the-box, so let's create one:

`const random = (min, max) => {  return min + Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min + 1))}console.log(random(1, 10)) // => a random number between 1 and 10`

### #Random Stream

Before actually making any sounds, let's just create a regular stream of random numbers within our desired range. We just need to convert our random number function to an Observable:

`const { interval } = rxjsconst { map } = rxjs.operatorsconst random = (min, max) => {  return map(x => min + Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min + 1)))}const numbers\$ = interval(1000).pipe(random(21, 108))numbers\$.subscribe(console.log) // => a random number between 21 and 108 every second`

### #Random Notes

Now, let's plug in the `sampler()` function from Gen.js and hear some notes:

`const { interval } = rxjsconst { map } = rxjs.operatorsconst { sampler, samples } = genconst random = (min, max) => {  return map(x => min + Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min + 1)))}// TODO: our piano samples only support this range, should be 21, 108const notes\$ = interval(1000).pipe(random(24, 107));(async () => {  const context = new AudioContext()  const piano = await sampler(context, samples.piano)  notes\$.subscribe(note => {    piano(note, { duration: 2 })  })})()`

Let's refactor this using the `program()` structure from Gen.js:

`const { interval } = rxjsconst { map } = rxjs.operatorsconst { program, sampler, samples, random } = genconst model = {  note: null,  piano: null}const messages = (model, send) => ({  note: () => {    const notes\$ = interval(1000).pipe(map(x => random(21, 108)))    notes\$.subscribe(note => send({ note }))  },  piano: async () => {    const piano = await sampler(model.context, samples.piano)    send({ piano })  }})const render = model => {  const { piano, note } = model  piano(note, { duration: 2 })}program({ model, messages, render })`
`const {  program,  sampler2,  sampleMap2,  metronome,  resolution,  random,  noteName} = gen// -- MODELconst model = {  bpm: 60,  tick: 0,  note: null,  sampler: null}// -- MESSAGESconst messages = (model, send) => {  const { context, bpm } = model  const msgs = {    tick: () => {      const metro = resolution(metronome(context, bpm), 4)      metro.subscribe(tick => send({ tick, ...msgs.note() }))    },    note: () => {      const rng = random(24, 107)      return { note: noteName(rng()) }    },    sampler: async () => {      const samples = await sampleMap2(        context,        '{{PACKAGE_URL}}/samples/piano/'      )      send({ sampler: sampler2(context, samples) })    }  }  return msgs}// -- RENDERconst render = model => {  const { sampler, note } = model  sampler(note, { duration: 2 })}// -- PROGRAMprogram({ model, messages, render })`

This probably sounds like the bleeps and bloops you imagine when you hear the phrase "computer generated music". At strict intervals and constant velocity the results sound rather mechanical.

## #More randomness

By also applying some randomness to the timing and velocity, we can add more nuance.

`import { instrument, metronome, midi } from 'gen'const rand = (min, max) => {  return Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min + 1)) + min}midi().then(output => {  const metro = metronome(10)  const inst = instrument({ output, metro })  // Play a random note, at a random velocity, for a random length of time  metro.onTick(() => inst(rand(21, 108), rand(0, 127), rand(250, 2000)))  metro.start()})`

This makes things feel more natural, emulating the variations of timing and touch of a human player.

Whilst initially quite interesting though, pure randomness doesn't hold our attention for long, as, by definition, it lacks the patterns and structure that are a key aspect of our enjoyment of music.

## #Relative notes

If we think about taking a walk, even if we're just wandering, we're not taking random steps and leaps. Our movements have direction, each step is related to the previous ones to keep us moving along a certain path.

Rather than choosing randomly, we can pick our next note relative to the current one.

`navigator.requestMIDIAccess().then(midi => {  const outputs = midi.outputs.values()  let output = outputs.next().value  function random(min, max) {    min = Math.ceil(min)    max = Math.floor(max)    return Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min + 1)) + min  }  function playNote(note, length, velocity) {    let noteOn = 0x90 // 144 = channel 1 note on    let noteOff = 0x80 // 128 = channel 1 note off    output.send([noteOn, note, velocity])    output.send([noteOff, note, velocity], window.performance.now() + length)  }  let startNote = random(21, 108)  let startVelocity = random(0, 127)  let step = 5  function play(note, velocity) {    let nextNote = random(Math.max(note - step, 21), Math.min(note + step, 108))    let length = 500    let nextVelocity = random(      Math.max(velocity - step, 0),      Math.min(velocity + step, 127)    )    let timer = setTimeout(() => {      playNote(nextNote, length, nextVelocity)      clearTimeout(timer)      play(nextNote, nextVelocity)    }, length)  }  play(startNote, startVelocity)})`

This gives us something that has more of a flow and sense of direction. We've constrained the options from all possible notes, to just those that are 5 notes (a 5th) either up or down from the current note. This gives us some control, but we're still very much at the whim of chaos to determine our path.

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