Automatous Monk was a composer and pianist. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1912 and died in 1964 in Minneapolis. He made his living as a jazz pianist in bars and clubs mostly in the Twin Cities area. Legend has it that he met the mathematician Alan Turing while visiting a niece in Princeton, New Jersey. (Turing was studying at Princeton University at the time.)
Monk and Turing met by chance in a coffee shop in Princeton. Turing explained to Monk the concept of Turing machines, which are basically the equivalent of computer programs. Monk, who had a mathematical bent, despite a lack of much formal training, picked up on Turing's ideas quickly and wondered whether they could be applied to music composition.
Working in a spare bedroom in his house in Duluth, Monk painstakingly wrote simple Turing machine and cellular automata programs that generate musical melodies even though he had no computer to run these programs. These programs (written in Big Chief tablets) were later found in his attic by his great-nephew, Paul Reiners, a programmer, and translated into Java.
Automatous Monk is an open source project, protected under the GNU Public License and written in Java. Those interested in the source code should check out the Automatous Monk SourceForge.net project site. Automatous Monk was written with the assistance of the jMusic framework. All audio files on this website are protected under the the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.