Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dungeons & Harpsichords

John Chuang of The University of Vienna has an ancient site (1995!) that describes a musical dice game that Mozart created:
In 1787, Mozart wrote the measures and instructions for a musical composition dice game. The idea is to cut and paste pre-written measures of music together to create a Minuet.

This site is an implementation of such a game. The music and table of rules for this game appear to have been published anonymously in 1787, and interestingly, the table of rules for this Minuet is identical to Mozart's. However, it is not clear who the composer of these measures is.

There are 176 possible Minuet measures and 96 possible Trio measures to choose from. The result of a dice roll is looked up in a table of rules to determine which measure to play.

Two six-sided dice are used to determine each of the 16 Minuet measures (i.e. 11 possibilities for each of 16 measures). One six-sided die is used to determine each of the 16 Trio measures (i.e. 6 possibilities for each of 16 measures). So in theory, there are (11^16) * (6^16) = (1.3 * (10^29)) possible compositions.

The site allows you to produce such a randomized minuet and hear it instantly! Just reload the page to create more random versions.
Blogger Alice on Sat Jan 28, 02:01:00 PM:
This piece of trivia was used as a clue in last week's Sunday crossword puzzle in the Times.