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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fractal Music - Leaving the Comfort Zone

There is a deep linkage between mathematics, which is essentially the science of numbers, and music, which is an artform using fixed frequencies as its basic clay. The tonal system that is the basis of all western music from the middle ages to the mid-twentieth century is essentially Pythagorean, that is, all about the ratios of different pitches, and in general, the simpler the ratio, the greater the sense of harmony, or consonance. These ratios are mathematical.

Tones were used for constructing instruments, and for tuning them. The music itself was based on the human voice - singing, natural language patterns, male and female contrasts. There is art driving the science underneath.

Modern music runs into problems when we have the scientist driving the vehicle of sound. Both Scriabin and Webern had their "mystical numbers", certain beloved chords that had a special numerical significance for them, but what did it sound like to you and me? The personal is not the universal.

Which brings me to fractal music, made possible by computer crunching and the midi interface. Based on sequences and rotations of sound patterns, heavily self-referencing, these are musical experiments. Some attempts try to mimic existing genres, others are just wild. Try listening to some of the sound examples on this page here.