SSSS: Simple Symphony for Seven Sines


7 sound reproduction units with basic tone and volume controls. Some examples include guitar amps, PA speakers, laptops, etc. Individual tones should not be too drastically different - 6 guitar amps with 1 laptop would be a bad choice. Effects can be used to shape the tones as long as the effected tone is remains similar to the rest of the ensemble. No delay, reverb, modulation, etc is to be allowed, but light distortion and equalizers may be used.

7 devices capable of producing constant sine waves. Possible options: sine wave generator, CD player playing a sine wave track, portable audio player playing a sine wave file (lossless format preferred, though not required), or laptop running sine wave generation software. Devices must be capable of playing possible maximum length of piece.

7 performers capable of operating the above equipment. Performers must be able to count to 40.

1 random number generator which can be constrained to only produce numbers in a specific range.

1 conductor.


Time keeping device. Options: metronome at 60 or 120bpm either heard live or through headphones, drummer hitting single drum on a quarter note pace at 60 or 120 bpm, conductor playing drums, etc. A live drummer could add a bit of interest due to the inherent inaccuracies of human timing.

Mixing/PA equipment capable of panning sounds and sending master mix to external effects.


Before the performance, all sound reproduction devices will be arranged in a manner conducive to the performance space and audience arrangement. In a small space (ex. house, club), it may be interesting for the performers to encircle the audience, while in a large venue (ex. theatre, auditorium), it may be more feasible to have the performers in an arc on a stage facing the crowd.

After placement, all devices will be balanced in volume and tone using a identical test tone. After sound levels have been balanced, all performers will mute their sound reproduction device and start their individual sine wave in whatever manner necessary for their respective device. The conductor will direct each performer turn up their sound reproduction device to it's maximum volume in order to verify the levels are still relatively equal. Slight variations in volume/tone are encouraged at this point.

Frequencies for Sines:
128 Hz
144 Hz
162 Hz
182.25 Hz
192 Hz
216 Hz
243 Hz

Note: if frequencies assigned produce unsatisfactory sound in any sound reproduction equipment, frequencies can be adjusted up or down as long as ratios between frequencies are maintained. (Ratios will be added later when I remember what they are.)


At the start of the performance, the conductor will use the random number generator to produce seven numbers from a range of numbers s/he has decided upon. The range 10 to 20 should work well. If the conductor has a certain number combination that s/he would like to use, this is allowed. The conductor assigns each number to a performer and decides the order in which performers will be cued. If the conductor wants to remove himself from this decision, the random number generator can decide the order.

The conductor will cue the first performer to begin manipulating their volume so that they increase from zero to maximum volume in the number of seconds determined by the random number generator. The performer will then decrease the volume from maximum to zero in the same number of seconds. Example: if the random number generator produced 17, the performer would increase the volume from zero to maximum in 17 seconds, then decrease from max to zero in 17 seconds for a total cycle length of 34 seconds.

Each additional performer will begin X number of seconds after the previous performer begins his or her cycle where X is their assigned random number. Example: Performer #1 is assigned 12, Performer #2 is assigned 17, and Performer #3 is assigned 15. Performer #1 is queued to begin by the conductor. Performer #2 to begins 17 seconds later. Performer #3 begins 15 seconds later, 32 seconds after Performer #1 began. After all 7 performers have begun their cycles, the conductor will step away from the performance and join the audience.

Each performer should pay attention to the sounds coming from the other performers. If one performer notices another performer approaching maximum volume at approximately the same time as himself, an extra second of maximum volume can be maintained in order to explore the combination of the two tones. This is not a requirement.

After an appropriate time, probably in the range of 25-40 minutes, the conductor will step in to cue each performer to stop his or her cycle. If possible, the performer will power down his or her sound reproduction device. After all performers have stopped and powered down their devices (and the metronome/drummer is stopped), the piece is complete.

If the conductor or performers find this piece too boring to play, you can include the following performance options:

Performance Option #1:

The conductor can continue random number generation throughout the entirety of the piece. The conductor will create new numbers at his or her choice and assign them to the performer s/he wishes. After the performer is assigned a new number, s/he completes the current cycle and then begins the next one.

Performance Option #2:

If the performance space requires it, due to size or arrangement, you can mix together all the individual sine tones into a stereo mixer/PA unit. Each sine would have its own channel. Every tone other than the lowest is panned across the left-right spectrum to varying degrees. Three will be panned right and three will be panned left. The choice of which direction and how much each channel will be panned is left up to the conductor. Individual faders will be left at equal volume as long as front-of-house volumes are relatively equal. Faders will not be touched during performance.

Performance Option #3:

In addition to mixing the tones together, the conductor can choose to send all channels through additional effects. S/he can vary the overall level of effects, but not the individual effect level of each sine wave. Some possible interesting effects could be light but warm distortion, ring modulator or graphic eq. No delay, heavy reverb, modulation or harmonizer effects allowed. A light reverb can enhance the sound in a small room.

Performance Option #4:

If possible, a mixer/PA system with 4 or more output channels in a "surround sound" configuration can be used to place the various tones around the audience. Care should be taken to position the 7 channels equidistant around the 360 degrees of listening space.

Optional Ending:

When the conductor decides it's time to end the piece, he can cue each performer to increase their sound device to its maximum level. This sound mass can be held for 10-20 seconds. The conductor will then cue each device to mute individually or as an ensemble.


All performance options can be combined on one performance, but the various options should not become the focus of the performance. Some of most interesting bits lie in the interactions between the pure sine waves.

Effects applied to the ensemble should not be applied during the first half of the performance.

It should be encouraged that the conductor, performers and audience move around occasionally to get a different mix of tones.

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