Anthony Ferraro, ‘Hypothetical Beats’, 2015, Algorithm Auction
Anthony Ferraro, ‘Hypothetical Beats’, 2015, Algorithm Auction
Anthony Ferraro, ‘Hypothetical Beats’, 2015, Algorithm Auction
Anthony Ferraro, ‘Hypothetical Beats’, 2015, Algorithm Auction
Anthony Ferraro, ‘Hypothetical Beats’, 2015, Algorithm Auction
Anthony Ferraro, ‘Hypothetical Beats’, 2015, Algorithm Auction

An algorithm that converts other algorithms into music, Hypothetical Beats allows computer languages to sing. This lot includes a full-use license to a novel program that recognizes patterns in lines of code and interprets these as rhythmic sound.

Those who write computer programs might not generally consider themselves musical composers, but Anthony Ferraro begs to differ. Drawing on ideas first advanced by composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, and John Cage, as well as by the work of later “generative” music composers including Brian Eno and Richard James (a.k.a. Aphex Twin), Ferraro has devised Hypothetical Beats, an algorithm that converts other algorithms into music.

Hypothetical Beats does not directly translate bytes into notes. Rather, the program recognizes patterns in other codes and interprets these as rhythmic sound. Hypothetical Beats, Ferraro says, “grants any individual—coder or non-coder, musical or not—the ability to participate meaningfully and intuitively in the creation of music.”

Listen to Brian Kernighan's Hello World algorithm expressed through Hypothetical Beats.

Read the technologist's statement.

This lot includes a license permitting the buyer to access and use the Hypothetical Beats software (see the full lot listing for license terms and conditions). This lot also includes a commemorative 3D-printed Babylonian styled tablet containing the password to a private Github repository where the buyer may access the full source code of the Hypothetical Beats software. The tablet is in two parts with combined dimensions 6.9 x 3.4 x .76 in.

Code License and Seller's Warranty

This lot (“Lot”) offered for sale in the Algorithm Auction (“Auction”) includes a license (“License”) to use certain computer code related to this Lot (“Code”), subject to the following terms (“License Terms”), which include the Seller’s Warranty provided below. The party selling this Lot in the Auction, Anthony Ferraro (the “Seller”), grants (and agrees to grant) the party that purchases this lot in the Auction (the “Buyer”) a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, sub-licensable (through multiple tiers), transferable license (the “License”) to download, store, use, reproduce, distribute, adapt, modify, translate, create derivative works from, publish, publicly perform, and publicly display the Code, in any and all media now known or later developed, for any and all lawful purposes, commercial and otherwise. This License is subject to the Buyer fulfilling all of its obligations under the Artsy Conditions of Sale, which apply to the Auction and are posted at: https://artsy.net/conditions-of-sale. This License is non-exclusive, and subject to this License, the Seller retains any copyright they may have in the Code.

The Seller represents and warrants to the Buyer that: (i) the Seller has all necessary rights and authority, and has obtained any and all necessary third-party licenses and permissions, to authorize the sale and transfer of the License to the Buyer as part of this Lot; (ii) the Code is not subject to any additional third-party licenses; and (iii) subject to these License Terms, the Buyer may exercise the License without violating any intellectual property right or other right of any third party, and without needing to obtain any additional license or permission from any third party (“Seller’s Warranty”). This Seller’s Warranty will supersede any disclaimers made by the Seller in the Artsy Conditions of Sale. The Buyer acknowledges that neither Artsy nor Smithsonian Institution is in any way responsible for the Seller’s Warranty, and the Seller alone is responsible to the Buyer in these regards.

Please Note: The buyer of this lot may not deduct any part of the purchase price as a charitable contribution. Access to Github is not guaranteed and is subject to Github's terms of service. This lot is not part of Smithsonian or Cooper Hewitt collections or property.

About Anthony Ferraro

A promising classical pianist in his youth, Ferraro was prompted to redirect his creative energies due to severe arthritis. He was accepted into the Computer Science department of the University of California, Berkeley, but switched gears midway through his collegiate career and returned to his early passion for music. He graduated from the University of California with a degree in musicology, and a latent fondness for technology had led him to study computer science. Reconciliation of the two fields has been of abiding interest to Ferraro. In 2013, he joined the psych-funk band Toro Y Moi as a keyboardist and signed a recording deal to produce his own music under the moniker Astronauts, etc. The following year, Ferraro began to write the code for Hypothetical Beats, the algorithmic project featured in this auction.