THE SLEEPWALKERS

"The history of cosmic theories can be called, without exaggeration, a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias, and the manner in which some discoveries have been made resemble the conduct of a sleepwalker, rather than the performance of an electronic brain."
Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers

Inspiration

The Sleepwalkers is a multi-faceted musical project based on two main sources. The first being a book entitled "The Sleepwalkers - History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe" by Arthur Koestler. 
The book challenges the habitual idea of a progressive science working towards a definite goal. The suggestion of the title is that the scientific discoveries and the geniuses that come to them are like a game of sleepwalking. Not that they come by pure chance, but that often the genius doesn't really know that he has discovered, as it is evident for instance in the three Laws of Kepler.
 

The second source, having more relevance to the technical side of the project, is looking for emergent properties in music. 'Emergence' is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. The research, conducted beyond the limits of the present project, is aimed at finding self-organizing patterns emerging from the interaction of different kinds of music material. The application of Emergence in a musical domain, sheds new light on old time issues, as well as serving as building blocks for new musical creation. Typical issues that rise in many different forms are organic development and gravity.  For instance: What is gravity in music? – and what causes certain musical matter to attract or get attracted? In which domain can emerging properties be found - traditional harmony? harmonic spectra? How do different musical styles relate to these questions? which keys does an atonal piece of music, (or an Indian chant), use for creating a musical flow of events with high and low pressure areas, arranged so that one moment is inevitably drawn to the next?

Realization

In order to simulate an environment that allows organic musical interaction, aided by mathematician Dr. Haggai KatrieI, I used Max/MSP to create interconnected oscillators (two at first). Each of the oscillators is capable of producing a single numeric value, thus, being a very simple unit indeed. When an initial value is sent to another oscillator and returned with the addition of any random value, a mutual chain of unpredictable numbers appears. The oscillators keep feeding themselves and an infinite list of numbers is created. While the list is chopped using a modulo and visualized graphically, interesting patterns emerge. The dynamic patterns can show a tendency to sync in some way, phase lock or drift away in chaotic constructions.

Here is a snapshot of 4 interconnected oscillators. Each of the resulting output is shown below in four squares  

Application in Music

The bridge between the emerging patterns shown here and the actual music making is an infinite playground where interpretation and attitude, taste and technical considerations, are key players. First, short samples were played in varying speeds. Later on, the construction became a network, where the emerging patterns were used in many different ways for shaping timbre, time parameters, amplitude envelopes, of a single sample or a couple of them. After having some of this 'living material' recorded, listening to it I was looking for prominent organic tendencies, studying the in order to reproduce and get some control over them. Then, arranged in time, those living organs were allowed to interact with each other, resulting in a musical journey within a fresh musical universe.

 

This was the base for the creation of "The Sleepwalkers" - a collection of  musical electronic pieces, and further developed to create "Afor" "Rosh" and "In the Smallest Castle" in which more formal musical issues were addressed.

The resulting patters were connected to sound in different ways. But even before that, we were quite amazed by the results. The patterns were breathing, so to speak. The emerging patterns shown here, seemed not only to express different stages of accordance, but they were dynamically changing in time, moving between chaotic, semi-chaotic or very ordered stages, with no interference. click the video clip to see the system at work - emergence in action