Frequently Asked Questions about the Elementary Edition

Thanks for coming to the FAQ. If your question isn't listed here, or if you have a comment, complaint, or suggestion please write to the coolcat @ polygonjazz.com.

Be sure to see the Expanded Jazz Help page. It's where we put all our good info. You can also refer to some abbreviated Help within PolygonJazz itself.

Now for the FAQ

Q1: Have you thought of adding different sounds and musical instruments?

A: Of course! And MIDI support, perhaps AudioBus, and so on, in due time. BTW, you can use AirPlay on the iPad to play Jazz via Apple TV or any AirPlay-capable system.

Q2: Why doesn't Polygon Jazz support feature X??

A: We want people to enjoy Jazz just the way it is before piling feature X on it. Jazz'll get better over time, especially if lots of people start playing with it.

The Elementary Edition is in the App Store... Stay tuned for the Intermediate Edition in 2015, with an album to save songs, for example. If people appreciate it, there may be a Professional Edition some day. We have lots of jazzy ideas.

Currently working on the Album feature! March 2015. — JM

Q3: Why can't I change the shape of the polygons?

A: Fair question, but then what? :^) More features would be needed to support that seriously, like the ability to save that polygon if it turned out to be cool, and so on. How much difference do you suppose there would be among (say) convex quadrilaterals? Irregular concave polygons with many sides could be very interesting, or maybe not. But they sure would be fun to play with. This concept needs development and lab testing. We may add this in due time (with an Album feature), so let's chill with the regular cats (polygons). See the next question.

Q4: Is it possible to calibrate any music with your system? Like a famous Beethoven for instance?

This is a good question.

PolygonJazz just interprets regular polygons, i.e. polygons with equal length sides. You can change the angle of the flow, the starting location, and the tempo — the polygon does the rest, very deterministically.

Other ways of asking your question might be: What would an irregular shaped concave/convex polygon sound like? Can we construct a many-sided polygon that when played, sounds a familiar tune? Probably. The ball would go dancing down hallways into various rooms perhaps, bounce around in that room to generate a phrase, and so on. You would have to assign notes to the walls, etc. A computer program might be able to construct such a polygonal shape given the notes to play. HOWEVER, since most music consists of more than a series of quarter notes, the duration of notes would also have to be incorporated into the model.

In a future version of PolygonJazz (or a derivative of it) you'll be able to set up and play a combo of polygons — a duo, trio, quartet, quintet, or sextet. Several polygons going at the same time could make a round. Bach (not Beethoven?) would like that!

But the question, What shape is that song? will elude us for a while.

Q5: I have the app and I noticed that it isn't quite the same as the one in the YouTube demo. What's that switch in the lower right corner for??

A: Good catch! We made the video using a lab version of Jazz which has an option to display a chart of the notes being played, shown here in all yellow:

The switch you see in the video turns the chart on/off. The switch was off to save bandwidth in the video. Other UI elements were moved around a bit as well. The chart will be included in a future release.

Q6: The ball seems to move at different speeds. What's with that?

A: Readers - stop and think about this before reading our answer...

The notes are evenly spaced in time. The ball goes as fast as needed to get from one side to the next in one beat. This retards the motion sometimes, while other times the ball appears to have been kicked by a pinball bumper. Fun to watch at slower tempos.

A side note on this — we tested having the ball travel at a uniform speed to see how irregular the beats would be. In some patterns, the ball mostly bounces across the polygon's center area and so the beats are approximately equal. In other cases, we get an awkward, jerky beat which doesn't seem like music — it's more like random noise. We'll test this more extensively to make sure we aren't missing something, but at this time it didn't merit a switchable option in the Elementary Edition.

Q7: I move the ball around to different locations, and the sequence of notes doesn't seem to change. Why not?

A: Isn't that amazing? The angle affects the sequence more than the starting position of the ball. To understand this better, take a look at the FAQ and Help pages for PolygonFlux, and perhaps you will want to experiment with the Flux app — it's designed to explore the geometry of polygon billiards.

Q8: This really is pretty amazing... can you tell me more?

We'll try, as time goes by. We need a Vocabulary for the various sound patterns. And we even have a YouTube video (on our home page) of various patterns for folks without iPads. We'll add stuff on the website as soon as possible. If you are really into this, we'd love to hear directly from you!

You can do research on your own by following the activities, links, and references on the PolygonFlux for the Math-Minded web page. Jazz is for fun, Flux helps you explore the realm of Polygon Billiards, a very active area of geometric research.

Q9: Where did you get this idea?

A: It's a logical extension of PolygonFlux, which has its origin in work started in 1976. See the History of PolygonFlux ... Jazz follows directly from combining polygon billiards with music: What if the point made a musical note happen each time it was deflected, as if the polygon was some kind of instrument? — What sound sequences would result?? Anything that might resemble music?

Q10: The video was boring. Isn't it all just repetition?


LONG A: The current video may give the impression that the program is simplistic. I really wanted to have some longer, slower, complex songs, but I know how easily people get bored these days.

I chose patterns that were all orbits (regular repeating loops) because I wanted viewers like you to get a sense of the rhythm Jazz can produce, but I knew that was at the risk of appearing simple and repetitive. FYI, All the Waiting polygons had settings in them from previous play. For the movie, I just went from one polygon button to the next, and literally recorded the video in one take without any editing. The video is nothing more than that. We need some additional short Jazz Variety videos.

The ball does bounce around repeatedly, but a simple system can produce rich results. A polygon is only a few lines, and there is only one ball in motion, but the synergistic effect among all the angles involved is not easily explained.

Each polygon has a number (infinite actually) of characteristic orbits due to pure geometry. In between those stable orbits are transitions that have amazing structure and non-repeating variety. Can you predict what will happen in a given polygon? Could jazz-like vibrations be happening at the atomic level of matter? PolygonJazz is a toy, a particle collide-o-scope.

Billiards in its purest form is geometry ... a physics of angles and energy.
— Fats Brown, in 'A Game of Pool' on The Twilight Zone, 1961.

Q11: Do you have other ideas for cool apps?

A: Yes! This is our fifth App. We have several more in the pipeline that we hope you will enjoy. Be sure to check out our existing apps — PolygonFlux, PolygonTrix, Geom-e-Tree, and the free kids' version Geom-e-Twee. And of course, we are updating them all for iOS8 too.

As always, our mothership site features all our apps: TimeHavenMedia.com.

If you enjoy one app, you'll likely enjoy the others. Please tell your friends & colleagues about our apps on Facebook, Google Circles, or where ever you gather socially. We appreciate your support. Thanks!

Q12: Will there be an Android version of PolygonJazz™?

A: We will work on an Android version as soon as possible. We feel that we have the sole right to port PolygonJazz to Android.

Q13: Will there be a Windows version?

A: At this time, we have no plans to release PolygonJazz on any Windows device. LOL.

Q14: Where can I send a question or comment?

A: Please feel free to write to coolcat@polygonjazz.com.

Thanks for your interest! We'll improve the FAQ as more people play jazz, and as we improve PolygonJazz itself, and get rid of the snarkiness.

March 25, 2015