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WolframTones: Ringtones for Geeks

Thu Aug 3, 2006 - 2:33 PM EDT - By Dieter Bohn

So far, I have not found the science

I've been told that I missed my calling - I went for English and Philosophy despite a pretty good proficiency in Math and Physics. What I've become instead is one of the many hobbyists who's interested in abstract math and physics but don't actually understand how it all works. I admit this a little sheepishly, because in my academic field there are way too many people that cite scientific theories, for example Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, without actually knowing what they're talking about.

So I write this review with sly grin on my face because I honestly can't pretend to fully understand the science bethind WolframTones. It's like art for me: I don't know what's good, but I know what I like.

Before I try to explain how WolframTones works, I'll just jump to the end result. Go to Generate a composition page and start clicking around (note that this link will make noise the moment you open it). You'll find all sorts of options for changing instruments, genres, tones, pitches, etc. I'm even more clueless about music than I am about science, but I like this stuff a lot. They're all midi tones, but they're complex , unique, and, what's more, built automatically from the patterns of "the computational universe" (more on that in a bit).

Me, I just like clicking the "Random Style" button and seeing what I've come up with. They've even given me a static page for my favorites. Something about the tones I've saved remind me of Philip Glass (I can hear half of my readers cheering and the other half gagging as I write this).

Once you've found yourself a tone that you like, you can click the "Download" button and a window will pop up that allows you to SMS/MMS a direct-download link to your phone (or just email it to your desktop). Since they're just midi files, don't expect anything too fancy, but do expect that it will work just fine. I had to choose Palm's Treo 650 as my phone option, but the "Send as link" worked just fine on my 700w (though I had to cut and paste it). "Send as an attachment" also worked like a charm - just showed up in my MMS messages. Slick!

The service is free, though that may change after it goes out of beta.

I recommend just perusing the different sounds - some are grating, some are too simple, but some are beautiful and hypnotic. But what really gets me is thinking about how these tones are made.

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