​Musical 2048 Is A Marvelous Idea

You may think that if you've played one version of 2048, you've played them all. But have you played a musical version that teaches harmony? I didn't think so!

2048, the hugely popular open-source game inspired by a clone of Threes, lends itself to creative re-interpretation. But of all the myriad versions strewn about the internet, 2048 Circle of Fifths by musician Caleb Hugo might be the cleverist riff I've seen.

The game, which you can play in your browser here, is designed around the concept of the circle of fifths. If you ever learned a musical instrument, your teacher probably carried on about it. (Or, if you learned jazz, it was the circle of fourths, which is the same circle in reverse.) Basically, there are 12 notes in western harmony, and we arrange them in a certain order, which acts as a sort of harmonic compass. The circle is arranged by fifths, so each note is one fifth above the note before it.

(I could probably carry on about the circle of fifths for like another three paragraphs but I'll spare you, though I will offer that the way I always told my students to memorize the circle of fourths was by saying BEADG, then C F, then BEADG again but all flat. The G always made it kinda complicated, since "beadg" is not a word.)

2048 Circle of Fifths works similarly to 2048, only it combines like notes and transforms them into the next fifth around the circle. Each time that happens, the new note sounds. That means that the game is constantly playing interesting intervals and chords, and the better you do, the more notes you get to hear. It'll usually sound good, since fifths are a pretty unchallenging and nice-sounding interval. (As our video editor Chris Person pointed out, "It sounds like Joe Hisaishi.")

While it isn't that hard to get around the circle once, the key is to get around the circle as many times as you can. In a cool blog post about the game's development, Hugo says that the game's programmer has made it five times around the circle in one go.

The developers are doing a small Kickstarter to make a version for iPhone, and awesomely enough, it sounds like there's also a circle of fourths version. That interval may be a bit less open and immediately pretty than fifths, but I bet some of those intervals would sound pret-ty cool.

Via Scott Jon Siegel