Music and Visual Effects

Blog Entry #2 November 30th 2019


A lot of you who visit my page probably don't know this about me. Growing up I was a band geek. I had the braces, the acne, the comic books, and the trumpet and french horn in hand. Yeah...I was that girl.I was on pretty much every band trip my high school sent us on. I loved it. But entering the world of visual effects and animation, I had to put that aside. Mainly because I lived in a residence in college. That meant no loud noises after 6pm. Plus, I now hand zero time to practice due to school work. Awhile later I discovered something called an L-system. For anyone reading this who doesn't know what an l-system is, feel free to visit my L-system page.


In Summary, an L-system is a mathematical formula that relies on letters instead of numbers to operate. While in the process it creates mathematical patterns. Leaves, shells, wheels, etc. Being the music nerd that I am, the first thing that I thought of after seeing letter based math was a music score. Confused? Let me break it down.

 A musical score is a sheet of letters going up and down in what you would call a musical value. On a treble clef the corresponding repeating notes going up and down are EFGABCDEF. We'll stick with the treble clef for now for simplistic sake. But feel free to consider the bass clef for this exercise.


So these repeating notes have a value that when played in a song equal to an audio created mathematical formula that we consider music. Let's talk about whole notes, sharps, flats, half notes, and quarters, etc. Notes are divided into quarters that progressively get smaller or larger. These are longer and shorter notes that a musician can play in a song. You can also mix and match notes to extend how long a musician holds a note, or add rests in the song to tell the artist to stop playing. A Sharp or a flat note tells the artist to pitch the note up or down half a step. And a natural note cancels out sharps and flats. So already I'm hoping you can see a pattern. We have a formula that people create with letters to create  patterns that we enjoy. So theoretically we could take Twenty One Pilots hit song: Stressed Out, and turn it into an L-system.

L-systems also rely on a formula similar to a sheet of music. Here is SideFX's main article on it HERE. Please read it if you would like to view all the rules of an L-system. I can't really go over them all here. But an L-systems formula goes like this. There are variables; A, B, a, b, c, C, etc. Plus modifiers to add to them to tell the L-System to grow to the left, right, up, down, or to add, multiply, or subtract values.

So we have two systems that can go up, down, subtract and add values, plus have similar letters. So feel free to knock yourself out with this idea and/or hypotheses. Then overlay any musical score with an L-System. I'd love to see what Stressed Out looks like as a tree.

Edit: This article will bit tying into another article I will be creating on Procedural Music and Storytelling with Houdini.

I will link the pages here as they are being explored and created. So far the reference page for these articles are available HERE