Variations on the Theme of Life

Grey Patterson

Download on the iOS App Store
I have always been fascinated by the emergent properties of mathematics: simple rules create complex structures. When you get down to it, this is how all of our modern technology works. Variations is based on that concept and was composed for performance through an application written for the iOS® operating system.
At the core of the application are cellular automata based on Conway’s Game of Life (1970), which is a grid where each square is either ‘on’ or ‘off’ and follows a strict set of rules. A square that is off (‘dead’) can become alive (be ‘born’) if it has the right number of living neighbors. A square that is alive can die if it has too few (loneliness) or too many (starvation) living neighbors. The rules are simple, yet they can create astonishingly complex patterns; there is an entire field of mathematics devoted to studying these patterns, Automata Theory.
Variations allows these patterns to play out both visually and aurally. Tap the screen to allow the grid to move through another cycle of living and dying, or just listen to the music created by a single frozen moment. No two people will ever hear the same set of sounds: the starting point for the patterns, as well as their evolution, are uniquely generated every time the Variations application is run.

(The recording above is from the premiere, in which the audience was asked to open the application simultaneously.)

Five After Six

Sophia Reinhardt

 Five after Six for Two-Channel Fixed Media (2017) was realized in the Composers’ Studio at Linfield College using Logic Pro X and recorded audio. In her poem, my sister shakes off sleep and drags herself to the coffeemaker to brew a mug, while she groggily waits for her sweetheart to stop by and say good morning. I set this musically with soft pads/synthesizers in the background behind the recording of the poem, while pre-recorded “early morning sounds,” like a brewing pot of coffee or chirping birds, play quietly throughout the piece.
Five After Six
Anastasia Reinhardt

Still dark. The coffeemaker
in front of me sleeps unawares
as I fill its craw with tap water.
The foggy glow of the streetlights
creeps into the kitchen through
the window behind the sink, thinking
that I won’t notice if it tiptoes soft
enough. I plunge my hand into the
solemn, self-important sack of coffee
grounds and measure out my life
for today. My other hand is holding
your voice close to my ear, while my eyes
flicker from the grounds to the window,
watching for your headlights. As a little
bird lights on the tree just outside
the window, I hear the heaviness of the
sliding door behind me, and your soft
voice hangs itself in the room like the fog,
smothering my slowly bubbling troubles
as your arms surround me.


Grey Patterson
Listen on Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, or most other streaming platforms.
I started working on the piece while abroad in Austria, following a summer spent in Louisiana. In between the two trips, I was home for just over a week, during which my family went camping in Eastern Oregon. It’s a long-standing tradition in my family – we went when I was very young, and I caught my first fish off the docks by Pelton Dam. A couple years after my parents got divorced, my dad started taking my sister and me up to a property his then-girlfriend had on the other side of the river. A year after they broke up, my mom picked up the tradition, and it soon expanded to include cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
The frequency with which my parents moved – they traded off, more or less, but I worked it out recently and I have, on average, moved twice a year over my entire life – has meant that I don’t really associate anywhere I’ve lived with the concept of ‘home.’ In general, I think of people – my parents, my sister, and so on – instead of a place. But, occasionally, the concept of home has to be linked to a place; it’s what the term means, after all.
This piece is devoted to the place I think of when I’m homesick; to weekend afternoons playing video games with my dad; to the halcyon days of my childhood.


Grey Patterson
Watch on YouTube

Ehren Cahill, piano
As the title implies, somnus is based on sleep. The opening section first took shape two years ago, as part of a Musicianship III assignment exploring the ambiguity between the parallel major and minor keys. The second section is more nervous, following the dreamer into restless sleep, before finally returning to opening material as the dreams settle once more.


Sophia Reinhardt
Watch on YouTube
flight, for video (2015, 2018) is a nostalgic piece, which reflects on personal difficulties while working through those challenges toward change. This is realized musically through the conflict between the F major and E minor chords that open the work; this idea ‘interrupts’ the musical progress when it returns throughout the piece. The version presented today is the result of a collaboration with animator Kailyn Nelson, choreographer Ivanna Tucker, and dancers Bella Reese and Jared Lingle.

One Giant Leap

Sophia Reinhardt
Watch on YouTube
The soundtrack for the movie, One Giant Leap (2017) was made in collaboration with George Fox University students for the Fox Film Festival in Spring 2017. In it, a girl learns about the first moon landing while watching television with her parents. The events inspire her to build a rocket with her friend so they can follow in the astronaut’s steps.
To support the story, I scored the movie simply, using childlike melodies, simple harmonic language, and instruments that might be found in an elementary school music room. This is an alternate version of the film, which includes my montage sequence.
The movie was written and directed by Emily Hamilton, and produced by Tayla Yogi.

Project Happy Days

Sophia Reinhardt

Project Happy Days for Two-Channel Fixed Media (2017) emerges from a creepy texture that develops into a peppy exploration of recorded audio, distortion effects, spatialization, and several software synthesizers native to Logic Pro X. The title is a bit of a misnomer: upon reading it before hearing the piece, one would expect a happy tune; instead the piece opens with the distressed wailing of sirens. However, a happy little melody does emerge eventually, playing over the sirens and pushing them to the background. This interplay stands as a metaphor for the way in which happiness can be achieved despite not-so-happy situations.
This piece was created in the Composers’ Studio at Linfield College using Logic Pro X software synthesizers and pre-recorded audio.


Grey Patterson
Watch on YouTube

Kristen Huth, vibraphone; Pedro Graterol, viola; Hannah Terrell, cello; Keelan Wells, mixed percussion; Sophia Reinhardt, conductor
Bioluminescence is inspired by the experience of diving in Puget Sound after sunset. The water swells to life with bioluminescent microorganisms – every move you make is trailed by a swarm of glowing blue lights.
The piece follows the course of a dive – walking from the shore to the water, swimming out to the dive site, and then the descent. Underwater is a very different world compared to our normal lives; you can see your own breaths drifting away, or get a taste of what it’s like to walk on the moon. But in the end, returning to the surface is a must; accordingly, the piece comes to a close with a mirroring of the opening motions.

GSV Empiricist

Grey Patterson

The GSV Empiricist, or General Systems Vehicle Empiricist is a ship in Iain M. Banks’ Culture series of novels. In its first physical appearance, the Empiricist is described as having “no single outer hull surrounding [its] hundreds of individual components, just colossal bubbles of air held in place by field enclosures.” And it’s enormous:

Comfortably over two hundred kilometres long even by the most conservative of measurement regimes, fabulously, ellipsoidally rotund, dazzling with multiple sun-lines and tiny artificial stars providing illumination for motley steps and levels and layers of riotous vegetation – belonging, strictly speaking, on thousands of different worlds spread across the galaxy – boasting hundreds of contrasting landscapes from the most mathematically manicured to the most (seemingly) pristinely, savagely wild, all contained on slab-storeys of components generally kilometres high.

In short, it’s a mobile city with a population of ten billion, and I wanted to try to capture a little bit of that scene here. In truth, exploring a space this vast would take hours, even moving incredibly quickly, so I composed the work from the perspective of a static drone, observing the passage of this behemoth. The piece moves throughout the ship, bringing forth several novel acoustic spaces.
(Both quotations are from Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata.)

The Capstone Series

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the process of wrapping up a four-year pair of degrees: a BS in computer science, for which I built and released an iOS Application, and a BA in music with a focus on composition. My capstone project for the latter was to put together a concert of pieces that I’d composed; rather than do that alone, I joined forces with one of my fellow composition students, Sophia Reinhardt.
Between the two of us, we managed to do it, creating enough music for an entire concert. I’m still a little amazed, to be honest; putting together a concert is a lot of work!
It’s done, now, and after taking a bit of time to catch my breath, I’m following it up by creating a digital version that I can share with the folks who couldn’t make it in person.1
Since the majority of the pieces were done as digital audio, this actually isn’t all too hard to do, just a matter of putting together information about them and getting the files compressed into MP3 format and whatnot. For the pieces that were performed live, we were able to get video and audio recordings, and I’ve done my best to put them together in a nice way.2
This post will serve as the index; I’ll be releasing the rest one a day for the next ten days. Each post will include some information about the piece, including which of the two of us composed it, who performed the live pieces, and what the program notes for it were.
Without further ado:
1. GSV Empiricist
2. bioluminescence
3. Project Happy Days
4. A Prairie
5. One Giant Leap
6. flight,
7. somnus
8. Halcyon
9. Five After Six
10. Variations on the Theme of Life

  1. Friends and family that live in other states, for example; turns out plane tickets are still expensive, and science still hasn’t figured out how to build teleporters. Somebody should get on that. 
  2. For reference, I’m writing this post before I’ve actually done that bit of video editing, so hopefully Future Grey will have done a good job.