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Intelligent MIDI Sequencing with Hamster Control 245

An anonymous reader writes "Levy Lorenzo managed to build a MIDI sequencer that is powered and operated by hamsters. The hamsters work in teams of two to control melody and rhythm, and Markov chains are used to modify the hamster-based inputs. The sample MP3 sounds pretty good." From the article: "The MIDI sequencer intelligently produced melodies by manipulating the musical elements of rhythm and note-choice. Guided by inputs based on hamster movements, Markov chains were used to perform such beat and note computations. In culmination, 3 simultaneous voices were produced spanning 3 octaves and 3 rhythmic tiers."
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Intelligent MIDI Sequencing with Hamster Control

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  • by FalconZero ( 607567 ) * <FalconZero AT Gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:39PM (#11791530)
    What you don't see is the small army of hamsters in wheels to power the thing
    like the article says (hmm... looks like mains to me). Either that, or he's
    utilising the bio-electric energy of the hamsters... as a means of control,
    to turn a hamster into this! [holds up battery] </matrix quote>
  • Incredible! (Score:5, Funny)

    by krikat ( 861906 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:42PM (#11791544) Homepage
    Unfortunately all of my hamster powered machines have had incredibly ugly results.
  • by Tyler Eaves ( 344284 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:43PM (#11791552)
    If by pretty good you mean "Sounds like a malfunctioning japanese fairground organ..."
  • hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by zorglubxx ( 513559 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:43PM (#11791555) Homepage
    But can they do the "hamsterdance" ?
  • "It's a living"
    • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @11:23PM (#11791793)
      Six hamsters against the world... They knew they'd be stars, but how long could the glory and fame last? Find out the true story behind this rodent story of music and glamor next... on VH1's Behind the Music.

      "Joel had a habit of coming into the studio with his cheeks stuffed totally full of seed and corn. You think you can make music like that? He was out of control. Worse, he was bringing the rest of us down. That's when we decided to have an intervention."
  • Dupe!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by unixbum ( 720776 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:44PM (#11791560)
    This appears to be yet another Dupe []...

    I don't know about hampster controlled midi sequencers, but our editors apear to be hampsters ;-)
    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @11:23PM (#11791799)
      My proposed solution to the mess the Slashdot front page has turned in to of late is to use moderation to select the stories that are posted to the front page.

      You give people with reasonable karma an extra set of mod points that only can be used to mode story submissions.

      You would need to give people with mod points the ability to mark stories as duplicates of recent posts and they would land in the trash bin immediately, there is something of an honor system there though meta moderation could catch people who can stories as dupes that aren't.

      The moderators would also need a way to move new submissions in to groups so that all the submissions on the same news are grouped together.

      Then the moderators start scoring submissions just like moderation does now. The top scoring submission within the group would be the one that gets considered for the front page.

      You would also need to choose the most highly moderated stories between all the groups on different news.

      You can establish how many stories you want to get to the front page each day say 12, so every 2 hours on average the current top moderated submission would be automaticly posted. Maybe you post a few more during peak reader hours in the U.S. and Europe.

      You might want to allow a higher top score than +5 for this system so really stellar stories get a really high score.

      Its sad to have to propose such a solution but its becoming pretty obvious that Rob and Co. aren't reading the site they moderate less than most of the rest of us. Presumably Slashdot has turned in to a job for them and they apparently don't like their job. Most of us read Slashdot when we should be doing our real job, while apparently they don't read it and it is their job.

      If you keep posting dupe after dupe it proves you aren't reading all the front page articles or you would remember something as "unique" as a hamster powered songwriter.

      Its also been suggested that they are showing some pretty serious bias, Michael for example always going with left leaning stories, and they all seem to have assigned submission god status to Rolan Piqa-whatever.

      I'm willing to guess, with some work, moderated control of the front page would be fairer and less likely to produce dupes and bias than the current system. I also wager they might do a better job of picking the best submission on a story and cull out the error filled, flawed and factually incorrect posts which also are appearing on the front page too often lately.

      After all this is an open source fanboy site so why is control of Slashdot's front page proprietary and closed.
      • Most of us read Slashdot when we should be doing our real job, while apparently they don't read it and it is their job.

        Which makes one wonder what they are doing instead of their real jobs. Tediously maintaining databases and web sites, as those of us posting slashdot are supposed to be doing at the time?

        No, that can't be it.
      • by damiam ( 409504 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:56AM (#11792236)
        That will never happen []. Aside from Taco's view that editors can do a better job than pure mob rule, such a system would be open to immense abuse. Also, Slashdot gets dozens, maybe hundreds of submissions an hour. Do you really want to spend your time looking thtough all of them? That's a lot of drudgery, and the only people willing to do it would be those with an agenda or without a life. That's not exactly the crowd I want picking my stories.
        • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:25AM (#11792348)
          "That will never happen."

          That FAQ answer was 5 years ago, things have changed. Back then I think Rob probably still cared, he probably was still aiming to cash in on the boom, probably hadn't cashed in any stock yet, and it was before moderation. All the complaints he had there about what the mob would pick can be said about moderation on posts too but we still do that now. I wager he cares a lot less about Slashdot today than he did then or he would have taken some action to put an end to all the dupe front page stories. I'm wondering if:

          A. he hasn't even noticed the massive number of dupes and bogus stories lately
          B. he doesn't care

          "That's a lot of drudgery, and the only people willing to do it would be those with an agenda or without a life."

          Uh no, it would be the same people who moderate posts, everybody would do a little. Either moderation works or it doesn't. If it doesn't work it shouldn't be used on ordinary posts. If it does work it will work on submissions too with a little tweaking. You could start out just taking one or two moderated front page stories a day to work out the details and see if it works.

          I can also see a big benefit of having all raw submissions being publicly viewable. If you are about to submit a story you can look and see if its already submitted and not waste everyone's time posting it again if a good submission is already in the queue. It would be kind of interesting to see all the things people are submitting that are getting rejected.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:46PM (#11791574)
    So now we can outsource the music industry jobs to hamsters !!
  • Zonk, this is old. Get with the program and search before you post.

    here is the OLD article [].

    Amateur........the quality of Slashdot is bad enough with Tim, now we have Zonk. Great.....

  • MIDI (Score:5, Informative)

    by drxray ( 839725 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:47PM (#11791583) Homepage
    If this was a MIDI file, why distribute by MP3? The same music at 10 times the file size...
    • More like 1000 times the file size...
    • Re:MIDI (Score:3, Funny)

      by FalconZero ( 607567 ) *
      It's for easy of transfer to I-Pods. :D
    • Buggy MIDI drivers (Score:4, Informative)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:59PM (#11791657) Homepage Journal

      When I was in college from 1999 to 2003, I heard my compositions through the speakers of several brands of laptop computers. Many of these had buggy MIDI drivers that would do Weird Shit(tm) to pitch bends. I had to switch to S3M, a tracked music format similar to the MOD format popular on Amiga computers (or to a MIDI plus a sound bank), to get music to sound decent on every machine.

    • Basically all of pop and hip hop is produced using MIDI. "MIDI" is the protocol used by these devices to communicate. It has absolutely no bearing on the quality of the sound being produced.

      I can trivially produce an MP3 of a MIDI project that your hardware would have been incapable of reproducing with the MIDI file. Why distribute via MP3? Because MP3 is an audio file, a MIDI file is a protocol file, and with the MP3 file, you can actually hear the music rather than a chintzy recreation based upon the

  • by ABeowulfCluster ( 854634 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:47PM (#11791584)
    I feel that with the hamsters 'controlling' rythym and speed, that you would get the same results if your had a random number generator replacing the hamsters.

    The true test would be to see if an observer detects any difference between random controls and a hamster.

    • That's a sign of a true geek - a desire to replace real life with random number generator.

      Actually, to me the most amazing thing was to see somebody who knows which end of a soldering iron to hold, can program in C, and understands Markov chains to the point of "daisy chaining" hamsters to it :-)

    • This is actually the most insightful post so far.

      The Markov chain-based note selector simply takes the current note and chooses among neighboring consonant (i.e. sounds good) notes, so you won't hear anything that sounds really awful.

      The reason why this sounds so much better than other "random" or fractal compositions you might have heard is because the others effectively choose from any note on the chromatic scale and thus pull dissonant (i.e. bad-sounding) intervals about as often as consonant ones. But with this system, you're more or less guaranteed something that will at least sound somewhat coherent.

      I seriously doubt that there is any meaningful feedback loop going on or that the hamsters are "feeling" they should go from that G# to A right now and then rest for 2 beats, or whatever. And even if they did, it's doubtful that they'd know that stepping forward would cause that note vs staying put or moving backwards.

      So it would be interesting to compare to a random number generator (or some randomized approximation/model of hamster movement.)

      I can't believe I just wrote 3 paragraphs about this shit. God help me.


  • The hamsters are going to sue for IP rights.

  • A Dupe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:47PM (#11791587) Journal
    ...But a cute dupe. Nice littly fuzzy hamsters making music.

    Slashcode needs a system to detect dupes. Here is what I propose:

    All submissions will include a link to the "article text." This is the primary link in the submission: what the /. article is about.

    These links will be kept in a database. Any time an article is submitted to slashdot its primary link will be searched for in the database. If found, the article will be flagged as such (NOT automatically rejected, someone might notice something new about an old document (probably legal or similar) or some such.)

    Now to go off and learn to program, so I can add that into the mess that is slashcode... ugh.
    • Re:A Dupe... (Score:3, Informative)

      by rokzy ( 687636 )
      /. makes money from dupes (more page views, more adverts). for that reason the system will never be fixed despite how trivial it would be to do so.
      • True, but with the volume of potential nerd news articles eliminating the dupes could cause more customers. Fark has a good system: No dupes, (well, not many) but they do have "Follow Up!" tags. Just add that, and people will read both the new article AND click to go to the old, viewing yet another set of ads.
    • Sounds good, and it's surprising that such a system hasn't been implemented yet. One problem though: It often won't work for news article dupes because different story submitters may submit links to different news sources reporting the same story. Similar case with many different types of articles.

      However, the point remains the same -- we would see far fewer dupes if our dear editors showed a little more enterprise. There are plenty of ways in which they can reduce dupes. (Actually reading Slashdot once in
    • I proposed this [] years ago.

      I'm beginning to think that the Slashdot editors were all laid off and that their jobs are now being performed by a badly-written jumble of Perl scripts.

  • Grammy (Score:5, Funny)

    by romper ( 47937 ) * on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:47PM (#11791589)
    And the Grammy goes to... Muffy and Scribbles?!
  • 14 posts, and the server is still serving up mp3s. I felt sorry for the guy when I first saw the link, but he might do alright afterall.
    • I wouldn't worry too much, if you look the address is '' However if they pay per byte (which they probably do), every visit to the site costs Cornell (and therefore the students) a fraction of a cent.
      • Generally, that's not actually the case. The industry standard for usage-based bandwidth billing is a formula called "95p". What happens is that the circuit load is constantly measured (typically in 5-minute averages) throughout the billing period. The highest 5% of those measurements are then thrown out, and the highest measurement remaining is what the month's bill is based on.

        This has two implications: First, a customer doesn't get bent over if they get a traffic spike or DoS that is c
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:50PM (#11791610)

    dance []?

    (I'm pretty sure that's the original song before the first site or two "sold out").

    Man, I can't believe I just talked about hamsters selling out.

  • "Here we come
    Walking down the street
    We get the funniest looks from
    Everyone we meet."

    "Hey, Hey we're the Hamsters,
    and people say we hamster around.
    But we're too busy singing,
    to put anybody down...."
  • by zalas ( 682627 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:53PM (#11791626) Homepage
    When I first read the article, and saw that the link was from Cornell, I had a sneaky suspicion that Dr. Land was involved with this somehow. Something about his "dress in Hawaiian attire to class in freezing temperatures" manner made him feel like someone willing to work on crazy things. Whether for a Masters of Engineering project or for class []
    , he seems to always encourage interesting and wacky ideas, like a radio controlled helicopter, a sound seeking robot, a Wonderswan cartridge, etc.

    Speaking of which, I tried to create a musical "generator" that used a random number generator as the core and used a Markov chain obtained from computer analysis of a composer's music style. Unfortunately, it seemed that above all, the very high level aspects of the music seemed totally chaotic, and the amount that did not seem chaotic were dependent on how much data I input or assumed. Compare it to generic "normal" music, and you'll find that normal music tend to have very non-chaotic higher level structures, and might be more chaotic once you get to lower levels such as individual notes and runs. Looks like they have done a similar thing, but they must have had trained the Markov chain with a lot more data than I had. However, you can still hear the higher order chaos, since the music sorta just plays, but doesn't really go anywhere.
    • His article is very interesting, covering topics from music to coding Markov Chains. His discussion of beat dissonance was very interesting, developing an idea which parallels to tonal dissonance. However two problems arise. As the above poster notes, using Markov chains as he does creates some doubt as to the importance of the hamsters in the experiment.

      The way that the hamsters control the music is fairly random over a short time. The tone and rhythm is controlled by an individual hamster, with more or l
  • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @10:55PM (#11791635) Homepage
    Nothing will sound particularly 'wrong' if the finished product only sticks to the pentatonic subset of the chromatic scale. Nor will it sound anything like decent music though.

    We want a key centre/s, proper cadences, augmented/diminished triads and whatnot, interesting melodies, and groovy bass lines! Oh and more of the 12 notes please.

    More importantly, were the hamsters tortured with the very music they were 'creating'? I kinda feel sorry for them :)
  • Now the question is, who will make better music, Hampsters, or Badgers? The Battle continues.
    • Well, aside from the fact that there's no p in hamster...

      I think it'd be best determined by Joel Veitch of []

      I think it'd actually turn out to be the Ineffable Crab of Wisdom who'd come out on top in a Battle of the Animals.
  • Fartman (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    I hope Howard Stern does not get ahold of this technology. He has already tried way too many things with farts.
  • Critique (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vcjim ( 602423 )
    The first movement showed potential. Then the artist relied on repetative motifs remaniscent of a drunken irish jig. While approaching the cheery playfullness of Mozart at his finest, Mr. Hamster falls short of brilliance. 8/10 overall.
  • by TheTranceFan ( 444476 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @11:14PM (#11791744) Homepage
    He would swear he had heard it before...perhaps it was the complex interplay of the rhythmic patterns, or the odd dominant in the second part of the melody. But something about it was stirring, it was an emotional connection.

    Before he could place the tune, his reverie was interrupted.

    "Mr. Gere, your limousine has arrived."

    "Thank you, Miles," he said distractedly, but not before the tiniest hint of a smile crossed his face.

  • by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @11:15PM (#11791749)

    Sorry, but anything with "hamster" in it makes me think of this:

    RealHampster - Elastic flesh, luxurious fur, a cybernetic infrastructure []

    I'm ruined for life.
  • Without any particular harmonic structure or tonal center changes, it sounds more like Gamelan. To my ear, it might as well be a wind chime. But, considering that's it's generated by a rodent, it's not all bad and interesting rhythmically.

    On a deja vous note, it's interesting how we're looking for musical patterns in nature. It's not unlike Boethius's (ca. 480-524) theory of musica mundana, or "music of the cosmos," where he theorized that the macrocosmos was held together by this mysterious musical pow
  • Where's the MIDI file ??
  • Wow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cyberfunk2 ( 656339 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @11:26PM (#11791813)
    Is anyone else suprised by how this server is withstanding a slashdotting? Its' got MP3's , and a Movie on it, and i'm pulling 200k+/sec from the server right now.

    There's gotta be some might big bandwidth here. Of course, it IS cornell.
    • It's Bruce Land. He's used to slashdotting by now. I still remember him talking about his first slashdotting and the frantic move to get everything back to working order. Now he has a special setup so that it should still be fine.
      • Not being a webserver specialist, what kind of resources does it take to withstand a full-on assault /.'ing?
        • The problem is not usually, as is often thought, bandwidth. So even fairly large static files are okay as long as your own a decent link (Say, at least 10mbp/sec upstream). Problems are usually poorly coded dynamic sites, where either the DB shits itself, or the server grinds to a halt from the cpu load.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, last time /. posted this story, the poor neuro-bio server went down hard. After that (IIRC), this page was moved to a different server that (with luck) should handle the load.

    What you're looking at in the picture is my old office. Levy worked with me during the course of a summer a couple of years ago, and I remember when he took that picture. Mostly, I remember that the hamsters were stinking up the lab!

    Any way, Levy, if you read this, congrats on getting /.'ed (again).

  • mouse organ (Score:3, Funny)

    by kent_eh ( 543303 ) on Saturday February 26, 2005 @11:29PM (#11791833)
    Was anyone else thinking of this [] when they saw the headline?
  • it may bebecause i drank a ton of whsiksey but thats beaitful!!
  • Who took my hamsters! Jerk ruined my fusion project, just so he could play piano. My new moles are just learning how to run in circles (they are not very smart).
  • The hamsters' music sounds something like the Team Metlay [] album Ballistic []. Especially a song like Trajectory []

    This is a great album by the way..."Aqua Regia" is one of the best uses of 30 minutes worth of CD media that I've ever heard. Team Metlay is the Internet's first supergroup...a bunch of e-musicians get together every year for a few weeks, and write, record, and produce an album, and have been since 1994 or so. Pretty eclectic stuff, for people that like the Mind/Body industrial compilations [] or Mus []

  • by Anonymous Coward
    How many hamsters at what temperature produce enough steam to power a MIDI sequencer. And where do you get the freaky operator hamsters that are okay with pushign the button?
  • Chipmunks [] don't need no steenkin' Markov Polov to make music [].

  • Is someone who deliberately aids and abets the creation and distribution of Hamster Dance. This is nothing more than a fiendish scheme to create a self-replicating Hamster Dance device, which, left to its own ends, will destroy humanity!
  • My Car (Score:2, Funny)

    by epedersen ( 863120 )
    It reminds me of the car I had in high school, powered by 2 hamsters and a rabbit. But I didn't know that the radio was controlled by hamsters also.
  • Ok, this is BIZARRE:

    I played about a minute of the mp3 using Realplay, got bored with it (cute, but not my kind of music) and closed the Real Player window.

    About three seconds later, this nasal wench started giving me a spiel about Vonage! Which is some kind of VOIP telephone thing, I guess, but nothing I have any use for. RealPlayer wasn't visibly running, nothing was displayed on my desktop, but in the background this woman blathered on for about 30 seconds.

    I tried to get it to repeat itself, but I cou
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:12AM (#11792060) Homepage Journal
    Speaking of hamster projects, check this one out:

    Hamster [] project shows a symbiotic exchange of hoarded energy in aiming to establish a symbiosis between a population of hamsters and a group of vehicles with intelligent steering units. It is a documentation about the development of the project. There are photographs and a few streaming Real [] videos. The installation was part of the "Cyberarts 1999"-exhibition in the "OK- Museum of Contemporary Art" during the "Ars Electronica 1999/ Life Science"-Festival [] in Linz/Austria (September 4-18). /. rejected my submission. :P
  • by Zorilla ( 791636 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:31AM (#11792136)
    ...Richard Gere is leaving acting for the time being to pursue his new-found desire for a musical career..
  • Excellent! (Score:3, Funny)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:32AM (#11792140) Homepage Journal
    I've been commissioned to score the soundtrack for the new Richard Gere movie. This will really come in handy. Thanks, Slashdot!

  • by ewe2 ( 47163 ) <ewetoo@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:49AM (#11792213) Homepage Journal

    Beats bashing mice with a mallet. Anyone for 'The Bells of St. Marys' ?
  • I don't know why I like it so much but it really sounds pretty nice! I hope this guys makes several tracks like this.
  • But did any of them manage to play Whistle Stop []?
  • You're not getting dates because why?
  • Well, it seems clear that hamsters can compose music better than those pop-tarts...
  • some of the tracks on Sanford Ponder's Etosha album on the old Private Music label. No offense intended to Mr. Ponder, whose work I like a lot, but I swear it reminds me of one of the tracks on that album.
  • by Zakabog ( 603757 ) <> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:13AM (#11793273)
    An interesting experiment would be to see if the hamsters would change the music if they could hear it. Would they figure out that when they do a certain thing it makes a certain noise? And would they continue to do that certain thing because they like/dislike the noise? Or would it just stress them out?
  • by Chris Kamel ( 813292 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:31AM (#11793297)
    The first few seconds sounded like a telegraph being sent in Morse code, maybe the hamsters want to tell us something?

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken