Tableau: a generative music album based on the Sense HAT

Multi-talented maker Giorgio Sancristoforo has used a Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT to create Tableau, a generative music album. It’s an innovative idea: the music constantly evolves as it reacts to environmental stimuli like atmospheric pressure, humidity, and temperature.

Tableau Generative Album

“There is no doubt that, as music is removed by the phonographrecord from the realm of live production and from the imperative of artistic activity and becomes petrified, it absorbs into itself, in this process of petrification, the very life that would otherwise vanish.”

Creating generative music

“I’ve been dreaming about using portable microcomputers to create a generative music album,” explains Giorgio. “Now my dream is finally a reality: this is my first portable generative LP (PGLP)”. Tableau uses both a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Sense HAT: the HAT provides the data for the album’s musical evolution via its range of onboard sensors.

Image of Tableau generative music device with Sense HAT illuminated

Photo credit: Giorgio Sancristoforo

The Sense HAT was originally designed for use aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the ongoing Astro Pi challenge. It has, however, become a staple within the Raspberry Pi maker community. This is partly thanks to the myriad of possibilities offered by its five onboard sensors, five-button joystick, and 8 × 8 LED matrix.

Image of Tableau generative music device with Sense HAT illuminated

Photo credit: Giorgio Sancristoforo

Limited edition

The final release of Tableau consists of a limited edition of fifty PGLPs: each is set up to begin playing immediately power is connected, and the music will continue to evolve indefinitely. “Instead of being reproduced as on a CD or in an MP3 file, the music is spontaneously generated and arranged while you are listening to it,” Giorgio explains on his website. “It never sounds the same. Tableau creates an almost endless number of mixes of the LP (4 × 12 factorial). Each time you will listen, the music will be different, and it will keep on evolving until you switch the power off.”

Image of Tableau generative music device with Sense HAT illuminated

Photo credit: Giorgio Sancristoforo

Experiment with the Sense HAT

What really interests us is how the sound of Tableau might alter in different locations. Would it sound different in Cambridge as opposed to the deserts of Mexico? What about Antarctica versus the ISS?

If Giorgio’s project has piqued your interest, why not try using our free data logging resource for the Sense HAT? You can use it to collect information from the HAT’s onboard sensors and create your own projects. How about collecting data over a year, and transforming this into your own works of art?

Even if you don’t have access to the Sense HAT, you can experience it via the Sense HAT desktop emulator. This is a great solution if you want to work on Sense HAT-based projects in the classroom, as it reduces the amount of hardware you need.

If you’ve already built a project using the Sense HAT, make sure to share it in the comments below. We would love to see what you have been making!