Aleph Null makes color music. Colors are tones. Musical notes are tones. Music is tones moving in time. Aleph Null makes changing color tones move in time. There is no audio.
Aleph Null is an instrument of color music. This is about how to play it. It’ll play on it’s own. But it profits immensely from a human player interceding continually. It’s interactive online art.
Color music in Aleph Null has a simple structure. There is a central color. It’s the main color. All the other colors are within a certain distance from the central color. That distance is called the color range.
Here’s how to change the central color.
- Click the Aleph Null logo at top left or press the ‘1’ key to make the controls visible.
- Press the ‘2’ key or click the input box labelled ‘central color’ to make the central color color-picker visible.
- Click around in both parts of the color-picker to see how it works. The current central color is displayed in the central color input box.
The colors Aleph Null uses are all random distances from the central color and these distances do not exceed the color range value. The lower the color range value, the closer all the colors are to the central color. The higher the color range value, the greater the range of colors that Aleph Null will use. If the color range is set to 0, Aleph Null only uses one color: the central color. If the color range is 255, any color might be used.
To change the value of the color range, you can use either the mouse or the keyboard. To use the mouse, click and hold on the handle for the color range slider and slide it. To use the keyboard, press the ‘3’ key to select the color range handle. It turns blue when selected. Then use the right and left arrow keys to (respectively) increase or decrease the color range value.
Changing the central color and the color range are sort of like tuning the instrument. The main control for color music in Aleph Null, at least as I play it, is the ‘c’ key. If you press the ‘c’ key, that changes the central color a bit. That’s like moving the melody along to the next phrase. What happens when you press the ‘c’ key is that the central color is moved about ¼ way along the color spectrum. The colors are not too far from what they were previously, but the result is visibly different from what it was before.
In music, when the melody is moved, it’s like successive lines in the lyrics. The lines play off one another. Perhaps it’s a rhyming couplet and just as the rhymed words jangle or play off of one another, the melody of the first line is in interesting relation with the melody of the second line—well, they are not different melodies, but part of the larger structure of the melody. Similarly, when you press the ‘c’ key, the new colors are in relation to the previous colors.
When you are experiencing color music in Aleph Null, you’re not trying to make beautiful still images. You’re experiencing the ebb and flow of colors dynamically, in the flow of time. You can make beautiful still images with Aleph Null, but that’s a different experience than experiencing color music. It takes less skill to experience color music than it does to compose beautiful still images.
What I’ve described above are the controls for pure color. There are other controls for changing the shape that is drawn. And that’s part of color music too, but not as important as the color controls. If you work your way through the instructions at bottom right—in the ‘How to play with Aleph Null’ window, you get a complete sense of how to use Aleph Null.