LYCAY (Let Your Code plAY) by Ilia Malinovsky
Rhythm and music are the earliest and most natural forms of human self-expression; they are also methods of transmission and perception of information. Rhythm and music act not only on the level of consciousness, but also on the one of subconsciousness, creating images. Programming as a kind of art is a process of operating with pure semantic forms, which means the highest level of involvement of [...]
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LYCAY (Let Your Code plAY)

Ilia Malinovsky’s "LYCAY - Let Your Code plAY" generates music from software source code. It can be used by programmers to “hear” their code while they are developing it.

What LYCAY is not:
LYCAY is not data sonification (it makes music from algorithms – i.e. processes - not just static data). It is also not livecoding [1], as Malinovsky himself points out. In livecoding, as in other forms of software-based composition, code outputs music when it executes. In LYCAY, code causes a specific result independent of its output when executed; in fact, the code need not be executed at all [2]. LYCAY also differs from livecoding in that it does not have any requirement to be performed live. LYCAY can be used with source code for any type of application; the application itself need not be music-related.

What LYCAY is:
LYCAY is metaphor. LYCAY makes concrete the metaphorical thought processes that many programmers find themselves having about their code when they get "into a groove" as they work. Some programmers begin to think about their algorithms visually – as, for instance, a dance or an animation. LYCAY depicts them sonically. This seems a reasonable choice, since traditional musical phrases have a lot in common with programming algorithms. For example, a musical phrase is often "looped;" a musical theme and variations could be thought of as a subroutine executed multiple times with varying parameters. One can imagine listening to LYCAY renditions of various pieces of code written by the same author. We would begin to "hear" a programmer's style.

LYCAY is a work under continued development, and the results at the moment
can be a bit confusing. What's interesting though is the emerging character of the output. On the one hand, LYCAY’s music certainly exhibits elements of stereotypical "random” sounding atonal computer generated compositions. On the other, there's something strangely human sounding about it: there are moments of tension build-up, frantic acceleration, then release. Software code is human expression, but its primary "audience" is still the processor. Perhaps if LYCAY's musical expression of code sounded more like human music it would be dishonest.

Amy Alexander

[1] Livecoding is an audiovisual performance practice in which software that generates music or visuals is written or modified onstage as part of the performance. See http://toplap.org.
[2] One can imagine creating a piece of software whose output when executed is music identical to its LYCAY output -it might be an interesting new form of quine. (A quine is a computer program whose output is its own source code. Programmers typically write quines for amusement and challenge.)

by admin, posted 16 Feb 2006


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