Chess-Based Composition and Improvisation for Non-Musicians

Parson, Dale E.

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

”Music for 32 Chess Pieces” is a software system that supports composing, performing and improvising music by playing a chess game. A game server stores a representation of the state of a game, validates proposed moves by players, updates game state, and extracts a graph of piece-to-piece relationships. It also loads a plugin code module that acts as a composition. A plugin maps pieces and relationships on the board, such as support or attack relationships, to a timed sequence of notes and accents. The server transmits notes in a sequence to an audio renderer process via network datagrams. Two players can perform a composition by playing chess, and a player can improvise by adjusting a plugin’s music mapping parameters via a graphical user interface. A composer can create a new composition by writing a new plugin that uses a distinct algorithm for mapping game rules and states to music. A composer can also write a new note-to-sound mapping program in the audio renderer language. This software is available at