Playing the Lottery

Playing the lottery in plano by Australian composer Warren Burt is a composition which takes results from the New South Wales lottery.⁠1 Each winning number consists of six digits. A modulo division is performed on these numbers to fall within a specified range.⁠2

The sequential reading and modulo division of the numbers results then in a sequence that can be used to control a sound parameter.  Taking inspiration from chaos theorists,⁠3 Burt read through the array in a sequential canonical way:

several data streams read out simultaneously, and each data stream is the same data, but each one is delayed. Within the limits of text format typing, I’ll try to give an example:

Voice 1: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Voice 2: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Voice 3: 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41

Each of the lists of numbers is the index of the array that is read. All 3 lines happen simultaneously. So at the first moment, voice 1 gives you element 00 of the array, but voice 2 gives you element 10, and voice 3 gives you element 20.

As such, three sequences are generated and can be used to control different sound parameters. Burt used Artwonk, an application for algorithmic composition to render the sound. There are two versions of the composition. The first one uses a Phrygian mode in equal tempered tuning. Burt used “the original data for pitch, 10 steps later for duration, 20 steps later for velocity, 30 steps later for note duration, for the first voice (piano). The second voice (solo oboe) also has a slow sine wave Func Gen to make variations in CC1 (Mod Wheel) for more expressivity with the Garritan Personal Orchestra instrument.”

In the second version, Burt added a third instrument (trumpet), playing together with the second instrument with adjusted parameters specifically for the trumpet. This second version used a microtonal 12-note scale.


1 More specifically the New South Wales Lucky Lottery ($2 version) – draw number 9354, drawn on Sept 24, 2009. The Lucky Lottery is comparable to Portugal’s Lotaría Clássica.

2 For example,with 654332 as a number and a 3 octave range (37 pitches) the 654332 would then be divided modulo 37, resulting in 24.

3 Delay differential equations are used in various science sectors to create a kind of 2D or 3D reading of the data to make the observed phenomenon clearer to investigate.

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