Thresholds and Fragile States
For a long time now I've been fascinated by electronic feedback circuitry and generative musical systems. This project is an attempt to better understand these systems by using digital modeling, circuit analysis, and dynamical systems theory. I hope to develop a general methodology and set of software tools for analyzing this kind of electronic music. My goal is to quantify and qualify their emergent nature in order to speak more precisely about artists' intutions and kinds of the compositional decisions invovled in their design. This project is a case study analysis and digital reconstruction of David Dunn's Thresholds and Fragile States. Check out github for all the gory details:
For more than half a century musicians have embraced electronic circuitry and feedback systems as an alternate compositional paradigm, attracted to their potential for complex, unpredictable behavior. The features, however, that elicit interest in such systems also make the pieces difficult to analyze—compositional decisions are embedded within layers of circuit design and musical features are explained at the level of individual electrical components. Artists’ intuitions about the nature of these systems, their emergent character, and their design remain to be explicated in formal detail.
My work argues the use of circuit analysis and digital modeling for understanding such works of electronic art. I present an analysis and digital reconstruction of composer/sound-artist David Dunn’s piece Thresholds and Fragile States, an analog circuitry system of eight non-linear oscillators capable of generating an endless variety of musical behaviors. Designed to embody principles of self-organization from second-order cybernetics, the behavior of the circuitry is emergent from the coupling of chaotic attractors in a high dimensional phase space. This talk documents the design of a software model of Dunn’s circuitry and argues an analysis of how the piece functions, the scope of its behavior, and the artistic decisions involved in its construction. This work is part of an emerging musicological practice that uses an interdisciplinary palette of analysis tools in response to the growing practice of interdisciplinary arts.