# What does a picture sound like? How does music look?

What does a picture sound like? How does music look?

Wolfram’s simple cellular automata algorithm has proven to be a gold mine. Cellular automata is the idea that each element in subsequent generations is dependent upon the state of its neighbors. For a detailed explanation of it, see the Wolfram Math world link below:

https://mathworld.wolfram.com/ElementaryCellularAutomaton.html

For my works, I tweaked it to include three and in some cases five possible states instead of two. I also played around with generating geometric shapes instead of just pixels. You can see some results here applied to a coffee mug:

https://jwcoenartist.com/collections/mugs/products/cellular-automata-1-mug-11oz

In making these, the program generates the first row randomly, unlike the example shown on the Wolfram page linked above. So the first row ends up being a randomly generated line of pixels or in case of the coffee mug, small shapes. The rest of the picture depends upon the rules for generation; like a white circle sitting between a black square and a red triangle begetting a red square. I can still pick out patterns forming in some of these creations, especially those involving two or three states. However, once the possibilities climb into five possible states, I can’t tell much difference between a picture generated through a purely random approach to placing shapes and colors and using the Wolfram algorithm. Perhaps more sophisticated eyes than mine can see one. I’m sure a thorough statistical analysis of two pics would reveal a difference, but I haven’t done it.

I think the next time I play around with the program, I’m going to generate the first row using the same algorithm I used to make fractal music. I talked about that in a previous post. I’d probably have to reduce the number of elements possible, as that musical algorithm produces 12 or 8 notes depending on the one I use. I do have one written to produce a pentatonic piece using only 5 notes. Will that look chaotic and random once the Wolfram algorithm starts working on it? Interesting path to explore.

The other possibility here is to use the Wolfram algorithm to produce a tune. The Processing program stores a picture matrix as an array anyway, so there’s a kind of built in melody there. It’s just VERY long. Another path to explore!