Collaborative Electroacoustic Music Composition on the Blockchain
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Juan Carlos Vasquez
McIntire Department of Music, University of Virginia
In the last decade, blockchain has been established as
a transformative technology that is beginning to impact
the key sectors of ﬁnance, health, energy, administration,
and agriculture, among many others. In relation to arts,
much of the current research focuses on the problems of
the protection, dissemination, and monetization of art and
music, which is created by conventional means. In this pa-
per, we take a more experimental approach and propose
a blockchain system for collaborative electroacoustic mu-
sic composition that achieves consensus by measuring a
contribution value. The main advantage of such an ap-
proach is having secure documentation that promotes trust
and guarantees the integrity of the whole process while
supporting a collaborative ecosystem for the creation of
new music. We introduce a Proof of Creative Contribu-
tion (PoCC) consensus protocol, which measures a con-
tribution value and assigns the composer with the highest
value to record the composition data on the blockchain.
In addition, we document a simulated compositional pro-
cess that demonstrates the diversiﬁcation of the block cre-
ator whose contributions have been well received by the
network. The system supports a compositional process
that is based on modular units, enabling multiple electroa-
coustic music pieces to be composed simultaneously, asyn-
chronously, and non-linearly.
Collaborative composition of new music has been an en-
during, yet marginalized practice through the developmen-
tal course of Western music. A variety of works, includ-
ing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, and solo musical
works, have been composed by a group of composers, pre-
dominantly by following the scheme of an organizer/producer
who assigns different parts of the work to different com-
posers. One notable example is the Hexam´
eron (1839) for
solo piano, a set of six variations of a theme written by
different composers and coordinated by Franz Liszt. In
the chamber music repertoire, we ﬁnd the F.A.E. Sonata
(1853) collaboratively created by Schumann, Brahms, and
Dietrich; and theorized to be a response to Wagner’s ideas
regarding artistry and community . In recent times, that
paradigm has been radically transformed by the advent of
Copyright: ©2022 Kosmas Giannoutakis et al. This is an open-access
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are
electronic and digital technologies, systems that support
more advanced interactions between composers.
The emerging blockchain technology is one of those very
promising avenues for the exploration of collaborative art-
making . Blockchain is a technology that cryptograph-
ically records information in distributed databases through
peer-to-peer computer networks . A protocol deﬁnes a
set of rules that allow the majority of the nodes in the net-
work to achieve consensus and agree on the authenticity of
the recorded data. Decentralization is the typical goal in
all blockchain-based projects, and its important feature is
the lack of any central authority that regulates the activity
of the network.
In this paper, we propose a composition system for decen-
tralized collaborative music creation that responds directly
to current explorations of blockchain paradigms in art dis-
tribution, monetization, and creation. Blockchain technol-
ogy in combination with the arts has so far supported spe-
cialized applications in the ﬁelds of copyright protection
 and non-fungible tokens (NFT) . These applications
do not interfere directly with the creative process and of-
fer novel solutions to the problems of protecting, dissemi-
nating, and monetizing art that is created by conventional
2. RELATED WORKS
The creative affordances and array of possibilities of the
blockchain technology have seen the birth of a type of art
that (1) either reﬂects the nature of encrypted distributed
databases or (2) art that uses blockchain as a speciﬁc tool
for creative endeavors . The ﬁrst type can be seen in
a practice known as ’Cryptografﬁti’, or images stored as
digital detritus on the blockchain, similar to attached mes-
sages of apparently redundant data value . The sec-
ond type, also known as ’Crypto Art’ are pieces speciﬁ-
cally made for the blockchain medium, including adapt-
ing to limitations of storage and distribution practices .
There are already efforts documenting a wide range of ap-
proaches that artists are taking to use and/or re-purpose the
blockchain in their creative work 
Regarding the direct application of Blockchain in mu-
sical creation (collaborative or not), the number of stud-
ies and projects is, however, remarkably small. Some re-
cent examples include the Decentralized Autonomous Or-
ganization (DAO) Holly+ by American composer Holly
Herndon , ’Rhythm Dungeon’, a decentralized gami-
ﬁed experience that uses the blockchain to provide asyn-
chronous multiuser interactions , and the Kepler Con-
cordia, a NIME project initially structured to facilitate a
musical ”community that functions as a creative economy
and a collaborative ecosystem” using a blockchain-based
Outside academia, the company ’Musical Blockchain’ claims
to have developed ”the world’s ﬁrst creative approach to
blockchain as a solution for melodic sequence composi-
tion” in a self-published, non-peer-reviewed whitepaper .
Although the methods described to achieve such results are
obscure, they seem to rely on a combination of AI-powered
improvisation and machine learning applied to data ex-
tracted through music information retrieval.
In this study, we also built upon the conclusions of col-
laborative projects that utilize a client-server architecture.
In terms of adopting a multiphase creative approach, we
drew inspiration from the model proposed by Biasutti and
Concina  in their pilot study that involved a composi-
tion framework with both synchronous and asynchronous
components. Similarly, we noted web-based work in the
ﬁeld involving a ’reactive’ approach to collaborative com-
position, which gives freedom to composers to intervene in
existing contributions by other users or simply start their
own pieces inside the same framework . Finally, we
acknowledge recent efforts toward the implementation of
collaborative creative systems on the blockchain .
3. ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC COMPOSITION
ON THE BLOCKCHAIN: PROJECT
A blockchain-based system for composition involves a se-
ries of challenges. First, elaborating on a preplanned form
is not possible. Nonlinearity is also a factor to consider:
the composition can expand in multiple ways, and there
is little chance of anticipating the result. The end result
might resemble a ’Moment Form’: ”self-contained (quasi-
)independent section, set off from other sections by discon-
tinuities” . In this section, we summarize the formal
decisions taken to guarantee a degree of aesthetic cohe-
siveness while adhering to our distributed approach to the
creation of new music on the blockchain.
3.1 Collaboration model
The basic principle in our approach is the discretization
of the collaborative composition process with well-deﬁned
units-modules which are referred to as contributions. Com-
posers can make two types of contributions, (1) segment
and (2) revision.
We deﬁne a segment as any kind of tentative musical idea
that is composed with a DAW program and has a duration
between 1 and 60 seconds. Three types of segments are
possible: Opening Segment (OS), Intermediary Segment
(IS), and Closing Segment (CS). An Opening Segment can
be linked by subsequent segments only from the right, or
in other words, it may be used only at the beginning of a
composition. An Intermediary Segment can be linked from
both left and right, meaning that it can arbitrarily continue
any other segment anteriorly or posteriorly. A Closing Seg-
ment can serve only as the coda of the composition, being
able to be linked only from the left. We also deﬁne a Root
Segment (RS), a segment that can be OS, IS, or CS, that
has been submitted without any links to other segments.
An RS serves as an initial segment from which a new com-
position nexus can eventually be developed. In terms of
the meta-structure, a composition nexus is the way we call
the emergent arborescent structure that contains all the in-
terlinked segments. The composers have the ﬂexibility to
compose any type of segments and attach them to already
formed composition nexuses or begin a new one with an
Figure 1. A fully developed composition nexus. The green boxes rep-
resent the opening segment contributions, cyan the intermediate segment
contributions, and red the closing segment contributions. The yellow con-
tour highlights one of the four preliminary compositions that have been
formed in this nexus.
A preliminary composition is a path from an OS to a CS
within a composition nexus. Preliminary compositions can
be isolated from the nexuses and can be revised numerous
times by multiple composers. A revision contribution is a
modiﬁcation of the compositional parameters of a tentative
composition and can include editing of the audio clips, in-
sertion of sound effects, adjustment of gains, and overall
mixing. All alterations have to be commented on inside
the DAW ﬁle. A revision contribution can be submitted
as open (further revisions can be attempted by other com-
posers) or ﬁnal (no further revisions are allowed). A revi-
sion contribution that is ﬁnal is endorsed as a ﬁnal compo-
sition and is available for public listening.
3.2 Technical features
Our proposed system is structured in three layers. The ﬁrst
layer is a rigid blockchain structure that chronologically
tracks all contributions by composers and serves as the
archive of the collaboration process. In the second layer,
nexuses of interconnected musical ideas are created in a
dynamic, non-linear, asynchronous, and open-ended fash-
ion, leading to the formation of preliminary compositions.
In the third layer, preliminary compositions are repeatedly
revised by multiple composers to become ﬁnalized compo-
The ﬁrst layer consists of the blockchain structure in com-
bination with a P2P database that contains the Audio Work-
station (DAW) and audio ﬁles. Each block contains an in-
dex, a timestamp, the hash of the previous block, a hash of
the composition data, and a hash of all the data structures
within the block (Figure 2).
In the second layer, which is called the composition ﬁeld,
the main collaborative activity occurs. An interactive graph-
ical interface allows the composers to view, listen to, and
download the data package of the validated segments. All
evolved nexuses are distinct and clearly visible to facilitate
the process of ﬁnding the appropriate spot for composers
to invest their creativity.
Figure 2. Scheme of the blockchain data structure.
The third layer functions in a similar fashion as the sec-
ond layer. Designated as the revision ﬁeld, the composers
are able to see, listen to, and download the data package
of the validated revisions. Any preliminary compositions
that are formed in the previous layer, will be automatically
shown in that layer in order to initiate its revision phase.
3.3 Consensus protocol
Various Proof of X(Proof of something) consensus pro-
tocols have been proposed and elaborated in recent years
with the goal of ﬁnding solutions and optimizing several
parameters regarding the general problem of distributed
trust . In our case, several of those proposed param-
eters are not important for the successful conduct of the
project. For example, almost all of the recently developed
protocols aim at fast block validation rates in order to cover
the demand of high transaction volumes. The practice of
electroacoustic music composition typically takes place on
long-time scales, so there is no requirement for a rapid
block validation process.
The primary goal of our proposed Proof of Creative Con-
tribution (PoCC) protocol is the creation of a diversiﬁed
and fair validation process based on the compositional ef-
fort that the composers put into the system. We established
a set of explicit rules that composers have to follow in this
protocol: (1) a submitted contribution is linked to only
one other contribution, (2) only contributions that are Root
Segments do not provide a link, and (3) two contributions
by the same composer cannot be linked.
All newly submitted contributions are collected in a pool,
waiting to be validated. When an exact amount (e.g. 10)
of contributions are accumulated into the pool, one of the
composers will be proclaimed as the block creator accord-
ing to the consensus protocol. The block creator-leader is
responsible for recording all the segments from the pool to
the blockchain, and broadcasting the updated composition
ﬁeld to the network. This cycle, which is referred to as
epoch, is going to be repeated indeﬁnitely, allowing multi-
ple compositions to be evolved simultaneously.
We introduce a pointing system that measures the contri-
bution value for each composer and assigns the composer
with the highest value to record the composition data on the
blockchain. In every epoch, the composer with the high-
est contribution value becomes the validator-leader. The
mechanism which is described below favors the composers
who have put compositional effort into their contributions
and the community has appreciated this effort by continu-
ing their segments. Those composers who are selected as
block validators will have the motivation to keep the pro-
cess fair and transparent since their artistic work is at stake.
The contribution values for all the composers are calcu-
lated with the following mechanism: A new contribution
(any type of segment or revision) will give 1 point to its
composer. A segment that is continued and linked on any
nexus will give 2 points to its composer. All segments
which can be linked in any possible way, within the nexus,
to the submitted segment will generate some value accord-
ing to a negative exponent formula. We prefer the formula
2/3n−1over 1/2n−1, where nis the link depth because
it is more likely to create sums that are not equal so that
ties are not going to occur frequently. A revision contri-
bution will generate value to all the composers whose seg-
ments constitute the preliminary composition that is being
3.4 Challenges of the protocol
The proposed consensus protocol is vulnerable to a num-
ber of security ﬂaws, such as Sybil attacks , Denial
of Service (DDoS)  and hard forking . A public-
permissioned (publicly read, privately written) version of
the blockchain would potentially deal with those issues
but we aim for a permissionless blockchain that will be
able to sustain the experimental practice of electroacoustic
music. Therefore, we suggest a hybrid version of the pre-
sented consensus protocol that could incorporate Proof of
Work or other forms of consensus. For example, in order
to prevent submissions from fake addresses, the nodes will
have to invest some computational resources by generating
a nonce and submitting it within their contributions so that
the overall hash has a certain amount of leading zeros. In
the case of scaling up the project, such a development will
potentially introduce problems that are well known in the
blockchain research community such as 51 percent attacks
 and computational overhead . These considera-
tions will be the focus of our future research.
4. SIMULATION STUDY
We conducted a simulation study with 2 human composers
over the course of 4 months in order to assess the creative
potential of the collaborative model, as well as to test the
properties of the consensus protocol.
The initial phase of this process, was the creation of 10
pseudonyms inspired by 5 male and 5 female historically
prominent ﬁgures (byron, shelley, goguen, basho, voltaire,
hypatia, lovelace, hopper, boulanger, derbyshire). Both of
the composers involved had to assume one of these identi-
ties before submitting a new segment. The ’multiple per-
sonalities’ could be associated with a trend not uncom-
mon in electronic music artists that often create and release
works with multiple aliases, usually done to experiment
with different styles without repercussion in their main ca-
reers. Similarly, it could be seen as an autoethnographic
experiment of sorts: branching blockchain segments with
different aliases and aesthetic attributes related to their per-
In terms of sound production, the process simulation re-
quired the compositional constraint of avoiding using ex-
ternal plugins and commercial effects. Rather than an im-
pediment, we considered that obtaining variety with a lim-
Figure 3. Progression of the composition ﬁeld in our simulated process. Four prospering and three underdeveloped nexuses have been formed in the 8th
epoch, each through a different evolutionary path. Some nexuses contain multiple tentative compositions.
ited set of tools could potentially push creativity forward,
and help with cohesiveness. These constraints were based
on the assumption of a technical formalization that would
facilitate the recording of the compositional data on the
blockchain. In the current version of the project, we in-
tended to record only the hash of the compositional data
on the blockchain, thus there are not any limitations on the
software that is being used, open-source or proprietary.
Another aspect that could potentially help with obtain-
ing a cohesive result was the use of a common database
of sounds, which is also a compositional parameter that
has a signiﬁcant impact on the aesthetic language of the
composed music. We utilized the database of the CECIA
project, a previous collaborative project with a pool of 25
recordings created by the composers Panayiotis Kokoras,
Mariam Gviniashvili, Juan Carlos Vasquez, Martyna Kosecka
and Erik Nystr¨
om . Given our past involvement in
the CECIA project, we decided for practical reasons to
re-utilize the database in a Blockchain context to further
exploit its creative potential. Using and re-using databases
has precedents in the EA music ﬁeld, such as Henri Pousseur’s
’Scambi’  and John Cage’s ’Williams Mix’ , a prac-
tice that stems from the musical form experiments with
’The Open Work’ .
With this model, we achieved 8 epochs (Figure 3) and
composed 71 segments with an average duration of 10.3
seconds. Four prospering and three underdeveloped nexuses
were formed, including 20 preliminary compositions in to-
tal. The average duration of those preliminary composi-
tions was 46.3 seconds. We notice that this model affords
short compositions but with the passing of many more epochs,
longer pieces may eventually be brought about. Addition-
ally, we did not employ any revisions, which had the ef-
fect of many of those preliminary compositions sounding
somewhat fractured, with most transitions from segment to
segment being sonically perceivable.
In each epoch, there was a single pseudo-composer who
received the highest contribution value and was selected
as the leader who records the data on the blockchain. As
seen in Figure 4, a fair distribution of the highest con-
tribution value among the pseudo-composers is observed,
a result that supports the diversiﬁcation property of our
PoCC protocol. During the process of composition, we did
not track the contribution values of the pseudo-composer
and assigned the pseudonyms according to the aesthetic
Conducting this simulation study provided valuable in-
sights towards a potential large-scale methodology, in which
a feedback cycle between the design of the collaborative
model, technical implementation, and compositional prac-
tice, leads the evolution of the project to a mature state.
During the simulation, we realized that some composed
segments draw inspiration or/and used concrete material
from other segments although they were not directly con-
nected. In a future developmental cycle, we would like to
include further links that are conceptual in nature. This
feature is proposed to function in a similar fashion as the
way citations occur in scholarly works, in this case gener-
ating additional contribution value to the composers who
This project has a number of technical, political, and philo-
sophical ramiﬁcations which will be analyzed in future work.
We would like to discuss brieﬂy some of them here.
From a philosophical standpoint, this project criticizes
the individualist Kantian notion of artistic genius that drives
the creation of western art and music since the beginning
of modernity . Following the alternative views on au-
thorship posed by post-modern thinkers such as Barthes
 and Foucault , we envision kinds of music that
are made from transindividual perspectives . Although
we begin this project with an emphasis on electroacous-
tic music, we are interested in witnessing a ﬂourishing of
novel and established musical aesthetics that are afforded
by the model we are proposing.
This project also adheres to an open-source framework
in which the communities of electroacoustic and computer
music co-develop the collaboration model, the technical in-
frastructure, the artistic practice, and ﬁnally the dissemina-
tion of its artifacts. The models and technologies presented
in this paper are meant to be revised, altered, and further
developed while acting as a pivot for the investigation of
Figure 4. The accumulated contribution values in each epoch for all the pseudo-composers.
experimental blockchain applications for new music cre-
It is equally important to acknowledge that Blockchain
technology is ethically and politically prone to controversy
, and we feel the need to include a community-wide
discussion of its implications in our framework. While
most of the blockchain projects endorse a neo-libertarian
ideology , we think of the technology as a tool with
the potential of achieving pertinent governance of the com-
mons. In that regard, our project aims for some of the ide-
als heralded by the P2P foundation . Speciﬁcally, our
design is intended to be aligned with the principles of (1)
trust-scaling technologies for integration of human rela-
tionships, (2) replacement of competitive game incentives
for cooperative mechanics, and (3) diminishing extractive
activities in lieu of generative dynamics.
Furthermore, we have the utopian vision of creating a
communal economy by introducing at a later point a to-
ken or a mutual credit currency , that would correlate
with the measured contribution value. Such an ecosys-
tem would be democratic, diverse, inclusive, equitable, de-
centrally governed, and could ideally achieve a degree of
sovereignty, allowing new music to be created reﬂecting
the post-capitalist political economy of distributed ledgers
(aka. ’systems that operate in an environment with no cen-
tral authority’ ). For that end, we will consider alterna-
tive distributed ledger technologies such as holochain 
in our future research.
In a similar vein, we need to also address the important
issue of off-chain governance . While on-chain gover-
nance refers to the rules that are coded and enforced by the
blockchain, off-chain governance is the decision-making
process that determines the capabilities of the collabora-
tive model, rules of the protocol, and the implementation
of the technology. A body that will be able to address those
issues, and handle any emergencies and states of exception
while supporting the above-mentioned ideals, is also a key
component of this project. Given the international scope
of the ICMA, we believe that the International Computer
Music Conference is the best place to begin this endeavor.
In this paper, we introduced a protocol for the collaborative
creation of electroacoustic music on the blockchain, and
validated the methodology via a simulated compositional
process that provided valuable takeaways for the imple-
mentation of a future large-scale model. Given that both
the technical and conceptual ramiﬁcations of integrating
blockchain paradigms in EA music are signiﬁcant, we con-
sider the present study an initial attempt to reﬂect and pro-
vide insights into alternatives for composition that reﬂect
some of the contemporary concerns of present-day society.
As mentioned before, the involvement of the community in
this process is crucial, for which we extend our invitation
to everyone interested to contribute to the discussion.
This project was possible thanks to a HASS Graduate Pro-
duction grant by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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