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Almost every time I start to do anything creative I look around to see if a decent generator is available to help me out. I don’t know why, but this is how I wound up writing and running a comic strip generator, which turned out to be about a kabillion times more work than just coping with putting clipart together in Photoshop.

Lyrics are one area where I’m constantly looking into generators and tools and toys for some automated inspiration and am almost always disappointed. The Google searches have been the same for years, and even before that, the same group of DOS programs were kicking around the public domain BBS scene.

The best one I’ve ever used is Babble by Korenthal Associates in 1991. It’s really almost perfect as far as I’m concerned. It allows you to load text files in and then mix them on the fly as you would audio on a mixing board, controlling the levels of the text files in the generated output and at the same time its overall coherence. It has logging, display speed control, even a whole bunch of goofy fun text effects if you want to make your generated text sound like Elmer Fudd dialogue.

The only problems are the limitations. You can only load four text files in at a time and they can’t be very large. I’m not sure what the actual memory limit is, but one 100k file analyzed at high resolution won’t even fit in memory. Twelve years ago that was an understandable limit, but I have a massive amount of memory on this machine and I’d like to use it to generate crazy nonsense, please.

But yet since 1991 nothing else interesting seems to have come along (on the PC at least). William S. Burroughs and David Bowie have both brought cut-up technique to reasonably mainstream attention and it seems like language nerds should have been all over this by now. I can’t be the only person interested in this.

Posted on - July 8, 2003 [at] 8:58 am by Brad
Tagged in -

17 Comments on this post

Raccoon on Lyric generators
April 13, 2004 at 2:05 pm

I’m trying to overcome this memory limit myself. I have totally forgotten all of the old DOS config.sys tricks of old, so I’m dusting off my floppies and will let you know if I figure it out.

Likewize, let me know if you’ve had any luck with it. Thanks.

Anonymous on Lyric generators
August 24, 2005 at 8:27 pm

Yeah Grover!

dave on Lyric generators
August 30, 2005 at 1:48 pm

Nope, you’re not the only person interested in this, I am too. Thanks for hosting the file!

Also you might be interested in the Dave McKean / Neil Gaiman Graphic Novel “Signal to Noise”, which uses the Babble engine for some of its more noise led double page spreads.

Neek on Lyric generators
October 7, 2005 at 3:05 pm

I’ve been looking for something good in this vein for ages!! It’s got to the point that I’ve been considering building something like a cross between a web spider and a summarizer to get that special randomness – tough project though

Neek on Lyric generators
October 7, 2005 at 3:05 pm

I’ve been looking for something in this vein for ages!

Fred_Vee on Lyric generators
October 11, 2005 at 5:34 pm

I actually used this for a while, when my Win 3.1 computer was new. I had a great time with my wordy friends – we generated some text files of our own to mix in and just about died laughing.

I recall getting e-mail from a super-computer-geek friend about this recently. I will have to see if he’s found something. This is a guy who surfs Icelandic TV archive web sites, etc. so maybe he’ll find something good.

Rocky Moceri on Lyric generators
January 22, 2006 at 10:30 pm

Yeah! Try to mix ancient history with RUN-DMC

()____)________))) BENSON-IZE YOUR LIFE!

Randy Gillespie on Lyric generators
July 31, 2006 at 11:10 pm

Yippee, Babble!

Parallel developments in fractals and AI are pending synthesis in an as-yet unavailable word toy/tool … tic toc … fun, wot?

babolo on Lyric generators
November 18, 2006 at 5:46 am

I’ve been looking for something good in this vein for ages!! It’s got to the point that I’ve been considering building something like a cross between a web spider and a summarizer to get that special randomness – tough project though

bengalight on Lyric generators
November 24, 2006 at 1:29 pm

actually, there are plenty of language geeks (poets) working with aleatoric text generating techniques including cut-up but also procedural “writing through” of already existing texts. see the work of jackson maclow and john cage for examples from the fifties and sixties on. babble’s fun, and so is running text multiple times through altavista’s babelfish. see camille pb for some interesting aleatoric, text-generated work, especially her piece from paris hilton’s legal testimony in a court case:
she also has many links to other text generators on the net.

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