Listening to emptiness : contemplating patterns of sound and silence
My research and creative works interact with each other through a practice of contemplation which involves among many activities; the observation, study and practice of different listening modes. These varieties of listening are characterized by the suspension of judgement and the shedding of preconceived ideas. They attune the mind and the senses to a more engaged and clear connection with the experience of sound, silence and their patterns.
This experimental and exploratory practice tends to revolve, broadly speaking and not exclusively, around the following core questions:
What kinds of aesthetics can be created?
What modelling, systems and algorithms can be applied?
What mind mechanisms are involved?
i. Creative work
All my creative work is data driven. These data can be found, extracted and created from a variety of sources but mainly they fall into a few types. A work might stem from one type or from combinations of them. Also each type depending in the specific source and creative procedure, has many subtypes from which more creative work can be generated. Sources are continuously being added and explored. Here is a partial list of them:
Numerical and mathematical – algorithms, combinatorics, tables and charts, series, sequences, lists, equations, information design, data art
Textual and notational – poetry and other written forms and languages, any notational tradition or method including existing scores, sketches, annotations, scribbles
Aural and visual – Sonic and physical gestures and properties, paintings, drawings, symbols, graphics, designs, images
Short and long term projects for sound exploration emerge from these classifications and usually follow or move fluidly around three stages.
Sound-data : Collection of materials and data, preliminary observations, analyses and trials of existing and found patterns. Simple procedures and graphs to begin creative process.
Sound-forms : Open process of modelling and structuring, playing with patterns and procedures, looking for possible sound structures and gestures. Further explorations of patterns through computer use and application of rules, simple algorithms, visual patterning and mapping schemes. Composition of simple and short pieces in traditional or non-traditional musical notation. Feedback gained through focused listening in order to aurally test the behaviour of patterns.
Sound-works – Final scoring of a piece in traditional and open notation or a combination. Strong reliance on sound possibilities, listening and performance gestures as a structuring element. However the final notation chosen must convey the transparent projection of the patterns into sound.
ii. Contemplative practice
A cultivation of careful attention and awareness of daily and creative life through activities that foster this contemplative state of mind:
Listening and meditation (emptying the mind) and mindfulness (clarity of perception, experience and present moment). Though these three activities form the core of this practice, there are many other ones which relate to or derive from these two main ones.
Seeing, observing silence and breathing, slowing down, simplicity, de-growing and minimalism, empathy and compassion, playfulness, non judgement, openness and acceptance, observing nature and time , stillness and repetition, playing and improvisation, drawing, writing and reading
iii. Independent studies
Evolving slowly but organically in time and opening up space for creative work and contemplative practice, my research can broadly be divided into three streams of study which roughly and fluidly cover concepts and ideas of pattern, sound and silence, and listening and contemplation.
A partial list of current sources and authors follow:
Stephen Wolfram – A New Kind Of Science
Douglas Hofstadter – Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought
James Austin – Zen and the Brain
J-F. Augoyard & H. Torgue – Sonic Experience
Salomé Voegelin – Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art
Dave Benson – Music: A Mathematical Offering
Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching
Thich Nhat Hanh – Being Peace and The Miracle of Mindfulness
D. Suzuki – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Bernie Krause – The Great Animal Orchestra
Jane Hirshfield – Nine Gates
Gay Watson – A Philosophy of Emptiness
Ellen Langer – Mindfulness
Stephen Siegal – The Mindful Brain
Arthur Benade – Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics
William Sethares – Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale
Trevor Wishart – On Sonic Art