Composing with Chaos: Applications of a New Science for Music


Session Title:

  • Composition (The Next Generation)

Presentation Title:

  • Composing with Chaos: Applications of a New Science for Music



  • Abstract

    In this paper I will give an overview of the new Chaos Science, and show were it may be of some application to composers, with examples chosen from my own work. Basic new concepts such as ‘fractal’, ‘fractional dimension’ and ‘strange attractor’ are explained; mathematical monsters such as the Cantor Dust, Koch Snowflake, the Julia and Mandelbrot Sets are graphically reproduced. Examples of Chaotic dynamics are given: Lorenz’s model of fluid behavior, Verhulst’s model of population growth, and Hénon’s analysis of the multiple celestial body problem. Several new compositional techniques based on chaos worked out by the author are presented: computer algorithms, analogue electronic music generation, projection of graphic design into melodic curve, and formal considerations (such as metric structure and instrumentation).

    Examples are chosen from the following works. Harpsi-Kord for harpsichordist and tape applies the iterative principle to sampling techniques. A series of studies for a computer-guided pianola were made in 1988 using a feedback algorithm. In 1989 I wrote The Five Seasons for 6  percussionists and tape, which integrates fractal structures and techniques derived from chaos dynamics. Brain-Wave sets up a self-regulating improvisatory situation fora group of record players. Mod iFications for marimba & tape was composed using a principle I call statistical feedback in which groups of musical elements are subject to chaotic serialization. Finally, Hyperion’s Tumble for tape (in ISEA94 Concert program) was composed by using chaotic algorithms and computer-based synthesis.