Koan (program)

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Koan is a generative music engine that was created by SSEYO, a company founded by Pete Cole and Tim Cole. It was founded specifically to create and market Koan. The technology is now owned by Intermorphic Limited, which was co-founded by the Cole brothers in 2007.

Architecture and Engine[edit]

Koan was actually an architecture named the SSEYO Koan Interactive Audio Platform (SKIAP). This consisted of the core Koan generative music engine (the SSEYO Koan Generative Music Engine (SKME), a set of authoring tools (SSEYO Koan Pro and SSEYO Koan X), a set of stand-alone Koan Music players (SSEYO Koan Plus, SSEYO Koan File Player and SSEYO Koan Album Player), and a plug-in for internet browsers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape.

The Koan generative music engine was very deep; this is partially because of the long history of the product. Development of the Koan engine started in 1990, when SSEYO was founded. By 1992, the first version went into beta testing. The first Koan software was publicly released in 1994 and distributed by Koch Media. The first Koan Pro authoring tool was released in 1995. The same year, SSEYO managed to bring Koan to the attention of Brian Eno, and it turned out that he was interested in using Koan. He started creating pieces with Koan Pro that, in April 1996, lead to the publication of his seminal title Generative Music 1 with SSEYO Koan software. This was a boxed product containing a floppy disk, on which was the SSEYO Koan Plus player and a set of 12 Koan generative-music pieces that he authored. Eno's early relationship with Koan was captured in his 1996 diary A Year with Swollen Appendices.

Brian Eno, 1996:

Using the pseudonym CSJ Bofop, 1996:


The Koan Pro software was available for Windows (16- and 32-bit) and Macintosh 8/9, but never integrated well with digital audio workstations (DAWs/sequencers) because there was never an audio plug-in version of the software.

Although SKIAP was developed until 2001, the last extension of the SKME itself was in 1998, as SSEYO concentrated on developing technology around the music engine, including real-time music synthesis and a highly programmable internet browser plug-in wrapper.

Browser Plugins[edit]

The SSEYO Koan Plugin for web browsers was programmable in real-time through JavaScript, and was used to create several interesting interactive applications for web browsers. By 2001, Koan included a modular synthesizer; its engine also by then featured a file format referred to by SSEYO as Vector Audio, which allowed very complicated generative pieces, complete with full synthesizer sound descriptions, to be delivered in only a few thousand bytes of plain text within a Web page. This development led to SSEYO being awarded the 2001 BAFTA Interactive Award for Technical Innovation.

Unavailability and Newer Versions[edit]

SSEYO was acquired by Tao Group Limited, which was sold in 2007. As a result, Koan and the Koan Pro authoring tool are no longer available. Koan continued to be popular with artists and was featured at the Ars Electronica event in 2003, in a 96-hour event playing live Koan music from various artists over a 160,000-watt PA in Linz's Klangpark on the banks of the Danube. This was known as the Dark Symphony project. In 2007, the original creators of Koan (Pete Cole and Tim Cole) founded a company called Intermorphic to create a new generative system called Noatikl. Noatikl can import data from the old Koan system; and offers a variety of audio plug-in implementations for easy integration with desktop audio tool chains in a very modern context. In 2008, Intermorphic acquired the Koan technology, and started to describe Noatikl as "the evolution of Koan.”

Noatikl 2[edit]

In 2012, Intermorphic released Noatikl 2. This was the first major update to Noatikl since 2007, and featured the Partikl software synthesizer that is shared with the Mixtikl mixer product.

Noatikl 3[edit]

In 2015, Intermorphic released Noatikl 3. This was the first major update to Noatikl since 2012, and added a native iOS app implementation together with extensive improvements to the Partikl software synthesizer.