Music machine multi-player game

Music Machine 4 for 8 players uses nine Raspberry Pis and eight Novation Launchpads to make music.

Video courtesy of the maker, Simon Belshaw’s YouTube channel

Simon Belshaw‘s creation was due to be performed as an installation in early 2020, but when that was cancelled due to COVID-19, he didn’t want to leave the project unfinished. Simon decided to adapt Music Machine 4 for 8 players as both a web-based and a physical version.

How does the physical version work?

The players use Novation Launchpads that are connected to a Raspberry Pi running the game’s code. The piece uses a number of musical cells and runs for eight minutes. It begins by choosing only one note, then two, and develops from there. It starts slowly with short cells and long intervals between them, and ends playing long cells with short intervals. By the end there is a wall of sound with many notes overlapping.

music machine
Raspberry Pi powers each of the musical launchpads

How do you play the web-based version?

You can try this yourself using a tablet, mobile phone, or computer by following this link. And you won’t need any fancy launchpads or Raspberry Pis — you can just use your own devices.

You’ll need to get a group of eight people, and everyone must have their own mobile phone, tablet, or computer to use.

Get everyone to load this page and spread out in a big circle or square or maybe a rectangle if you live in a refurbished church with a long aisle or something.

Choose a player to give the signal for everyone to press the start button. Then everyone will start seeing a series of differently sized and coloured circles pop up on their screen. You need to be quick and click on the shapes before they disappear, and if you catch them, you’ll hear some music from your device.

The piece lasts for eight minutes and starts slowly and quietly. You could all decide beforehand that each player will only play a particular colour, turning your devices into a digital orchestra of sorts.

Restrictions depending, this could be a good techy twist on the (usually) insufferable group games we’re forced to join in with in the name of the season and fun and getting into the spirit of it.

The first proper installation

Thanks to Jez Winship for all of the photos of Music Machine 4 for 8 players, taken when it was installed, as originally intended, ready for the public to play with at Exeter Library.

music machine
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I have always wanted to own a device like this to satisfy my passion for music.

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