Mozart's Musikalisches Würfelspiel

A Musical Dice Game for Composing a Minuet


In 1787, Mozart wrote the measures and instructions for a musical composition dice game. The idea is to cut and paste pre-written measures of music together to create a Minuet.

This site is an implementation of such a game. The music and table of rules for this game appear to have been published anonymously in 1787, and interestingly, the table of rules for this Minuet is identical to Mozart's. However, it is not clear who the composer of these measures is.

There are 176 possible Minuet measures and 96 possible Trio measures to choose from. The result of a dice roll is looked up in a table of rules to determine which measure to play.

Two six-sided dice are used to determine each of the 16 Minuet measures (i.e. 11 possibilities for each of 16 measures). One six-sided die is used to determine each of the 16 Trio measures (i.e. 6 possibilities for each of 16 measures). So in theory, there are (11^16) * (6^16) = (1.3 * (10^29)) possible compositions. Of course, many of them will be closely related. Nevertheless, there are still many interesting possibilities.

Compose a Minuet

You can "compose" a Minuet in one of three ways:

  1. The computer generates all the random numbers and gives you the resulting piece (hit the "Make Music!" button below):
    NEW: You can now select the instrument for the left and right hand, assuming that your MIDI player actually contains the sounds for these instruments (it may not!).

    The patch numbers for the instruments can be found here.

    You might want to experiment with instruments. Keep in mind that the sound quality is determined the quality of the instrument sounds on your computer / MIDI instrument.

    The default (i.e. if left blank) is Acoustic Grand (1). The valid range is 1 to 128 (not 0 to 127... I correct for it within the program).

    Right hand instrument (patch number): (1 to 128)
    Left hand instrument (patch number): (1 to 128)

  2. You pick the "random" numbers to feed to the computer, which gives back the resulting piece.

  3. The Mandelbrot Collaboration: You make a fractal with Chris Seidel's Fractal Generator. His program then feeds numbers (derived from your fractal) into this program, and the computer returns the resulting piece.

Listening to MIDI files

The output files are MIDI files. To listen to your pieces, you will need a MIDI player (or a real MIDI setup, if you're lucky enough to have one).

More information on getting a MIDI player.

Other Information

The Minuet is in D Major and the Trio is G major. The Trio follows immediately after the Minuet in the MIDI files, and I've ignored the repeat symbols that occur in a Minuet.

This site was announced / created on 1st Nov 1995

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Copyright © 1995 John Chuang

John Chuang
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last modified: 12 Feb MET