GENESIS : musical creation and virtual instrument maker workshop

GENESIS is a modular software environment for musical creation that targets both sound synthesis and musical composition by means of physical modeling and simulation.

Built over three decades of cutting-edge research at ACROE and ICA, a pioneering group in physically-based simulation for artistic creation, GENESIS enables everyone to benefit from the possibilities of physical modeling by creating his/her own models of sounding objects.

Thanks to its physical core principles, GENESIS naturally produces lively sounds, i.e. sounds that are rich, organic, and highly dynamic. Sounds produced by virtual objects have an expressive attack, and naturally evolve in intensity and timbre. Moreover, each sound produced by an object subtly differs from the others.

Beyond its expressivity, GENESIS also offers a new creative process. Users can design an infinite diversity of virtual instruments and sounds. They can also build virtual physical objects that interact with instruments in order to play them and control their behaviour. It is thus possible to generate sound events and musical phrases – possibly up to the whole structure of musical pieces. GENESIS is the first environement making possible to compose music entirely with physical modeling, opening a whole new world of musical ideas.

A guided tour

GENESIS offers a user-friendly interactive building of the virtual object. All models are built from a carefully chosen set of 10 elementary physical module types: material elements and physical interactions, such as masses, fixed points, elasticity, viscosity, collision and other non-linear interactions.

All the models are built by assembling these simple and easy to comprehend modules into a physical network, consisting of different types of components: sounding objets, resonators, gesture models, event generators, etc. There is no upper limit to the complexity of the models that can be built. The basic and evolved features of the software have been designed so as to help the user practice this highly modular approach to modeling, which can involve up to thousands of physical modules for a single object.






GENESIS' workbench enables building with the computer mouse models taken from a range of elements.





Once a model is built, the user chooses the values of the modules' physical parameters so as to define the behavior of the model. Several tools help the user to that aim, e.g. to target the properties of various matter (wood, metal, …), to tune frequencies and decay times or to work on vibrating modes.




GENESIS' simulation window shows an animated screenshot as well as the sound result.






Finally, after choosing the initial conditions of the model, it is now ready for simulation. GENESIS' simulator computes step by step the movements of each material element. Movements can be visualized - possibly at a slowed down rate, which offers a striking view on the objects' deformations – and music is ready to be listened to.

GENESIS enables the user to practice physical modeling in a compregensive manner. While most physically-based environments only offer the possibility to use pre-built elements (such as strings, membranes, etc.), GENESIS proposes a more modular approach enabling users to build their own models and then to produce their own sounds. 

The elementary modeling functions, such as the one making possible to change in one step the parameters of a structure made of thousands of modules, always let each basic module accessible to the user, if needed. Advanced functions, such as the Sequencer, the Modal analysis tool or the model scripting language, empower the user with higher level modeling features without distracting them from the modeling activity itself.

Tens of Thousands Models

The 15 years user experience with GENESIS now led to tens of thousands models, built in particular within the network of users: musicians, composers, music and acoustics students and teachers, and researchers.

Strings, plates, membranes, tubes,… Harmonic, non-harmonic and noisy sound structures,… Percussion, plucking, bowing, taping, pushing, breaking, modifying,… Playing by physical modeling around sound properties such as spectrum, timbre, attack, harmonicity, resonance,… Modeling physically an acoustic effect, such as room effect or filtering... Building structures inspired from real instruments, or sound structures that are unrealistic but still produce convincing sounds… Thanks to modularity, there is not limit to users’ creativity.

The fundamental principles of GENESIS not only enable designing virtual instruments that generate sound, but more generally enable modeling any moving and interacting “thing”. For example, using the same simple modules and with the same sort of physical thought, the user can build a model that, instead of oscillating as a sound object, generates lower frequency movements that resemble musicians’ gesture. When such a higher-level model interacts with a sound model, sound and musical events are generated.

By extending this idea, i.e. by designing sound virtual objects coupled with gestural models and even higher-level models, the user can elevate his/her approach and deal with sound organization, musical phrases – up to musical composition. Hence, more than targeting only sound synthesis, GENESIS enables covering the whole musical production chain, with deeply innovative creative processes based on physical models and physical modeling.


The first musical creation using GENESIS : Lizard point by Ludger Brummer - ICMC 1997