Archives for the Month of October, 2005


Having a weblog for the last year has meant quite few things to me. It’s a repository to store my thoughts and record the shapes of my digital derives. It allows me to document mostly specialized content for the attraction of like-minds – after all, who else in Lewisham, Sarf-East London is into this stuff?

Like an autocatalytic data crystal this blog has self-generated connections with nodes of like sentiments (see X.dataspace and evolving hub of links). It has also brought me into physical contact with some of those behind the blogs allowing me to transcend blog territory.

Analogue Digital Design has a post on Blogs as a Research Tool and I agree with its arguments.

Thanks for reading! And keeping interest in Dataisnature!

The Endless Forest

The Endless Forest – Tale of Tales

Be enchanted by the lush ambience of The Endless Forest, a new release from the Tale of Tales game development studio with a difference. Instead of offering the usual fight n shoot terrain, Tales of Tales deliver a poetic muti-user experience where shards of sunlight illuminating mossy undergrowth!

‘You are a stag, a male deer. So are the other players. You meet each other in an endless forest on the Internet. The setting is idyllic, the atmosphere peaceful. You communicate with one another through sounds and body language.’

Downloadable as a screensaver or standalone.

Seeing sound waves

Cymatics – Hans Jenny

above images: ‘Cymatics – The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations’

Some years a back I remember being drawn to fine circular geometric patterns being formed in a glass of water on a table in a room resonating to the bassline of a Roland TB-303 Synth.

The intrinsic geometric forms found in nature, the microscopic and macroscopic also are also being perpetrated through invisible forces such as sound waves. Hans Jenny pioneered the study of wave phenomena, and named the art/science Cymatics – derived from the Greek Kyma or kymatika meaning matters pertaining to waves. Over a period of years he animated dust particles, liquids and Iron fillings using sine-wave vibrations within the audible range. All too familiar patterns begin to be formed in these substances as a result of the sound shaping form. In 1967 Jenny published the book ‘Cymatics – The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations’. Moving on from the use of sound generators Jenny eventually invented his own machine for producing very precisely controlled oscillations. The Tonoscope could allow very exact and reproducible experiments to be carried out – at its core were a set of crystal oscillators.

Hans Jenny noted to similarity between his sonic patterns and the patterns found all around us and concluded that biological evolution was a result of vibrations – if not connected to it.

The science of visualising sound waves has a history and goes back further then Jenny beginning with Ernst Chladni. Chladni found a way to visualise sound waves by drawing a violin bow across the edge of flat plates covered with sand, the patterns he produced go by the name of Chladni figures.

’Symmetry and harmonics’ by Joost Rekveld (click on ‘texts’) explores many of these ideas and is a great preliminary reader on the history of visualising sound. He importantly draws connections between the early experimenters and later work by filmmakers such as Mary Ellen Bute and Norman McLaren who used oscilloscopes to generate moving images. It’s also interesting to note certain similarities to the geometries of some recent symmetrical generative art.

More info:
Applet demonstrating Chladni figures

Infinte soundwaves – Eliane Radique

Eliane Radigue

Perhaps the recent interest in stretched out drone works is a response to attention span challenged culture we live in. Musical drones accentuate aspects of the mystical and metaphysical by virtue of presenting a notion of the now-forever-infinite contained in sound. Historically cultures have made use of drones to put the ‘passenger’ into a trance state to produce a beyond-normal consciousness awareness. The sound object represented as timeless or frozen allows us to experience disembodiment.

The WIRE magazine, without doubt the best music magazine in the solar system, has consistently championed trance-drone works from the likes of La Monte Young, Tony Conrad and Phill Niblock, all of who produced many of their major works in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Issue 260 of WIRE directs our attention to Eliane Radigue who’s minimal electronic drone works such as Adnos I, II & II slowly evolve in time delicately intermeshing sound waves to produce a medative space – later works explore aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. Mathematics has also provided Eliane with inspiration for her compositions – One work of particular interest is ‘Asymptote Versatile’ and of it Eliane says:

‘I calculated logarithmic curves derived from the Fibonacci series and drew them on transparent paper. If you lay them on top of traditional manuscript paper they can be performed as sustained notes by traditional instruments.

Another piece, Σ=a=b=a+b was released in 1970 as double 7inch with the instruction ‘to be played at any speed and in any combination’

The use of maths, such as Fibonacci sequence, and the ability to create permutational music through format capabilities is common these days, Radigue, however, has been experimenting with both for over 4 decades!


Random Seed – Boredom Research

Boredomresearch have made available an online version of their randomSeed piece where ‘machine heads’, obeying Cellular Automata rule-sets, leave a trace of their wanderings. ‘Machine heads’ acting as autonomous creatures change their movement as they react with each other’s paths resulting in seemingly ‘intelligent’ behaviour. After a while the surface of their world becomes a dense irregular-regular patchwork of paths – an artefact of emergent behaviour. The documentation on this page is excellent, explaining the concept and technicalities behind the work, as well as elucidating on the general subjects of Cellular Automata, Random seeds and Turing Machines.

If you are in London there are three more days to see the gallery exhibit – it closes on Sunday 23rd October.

The Institute for Figuring

Institute For Figuring

The topology of The Institute for Figuring is definitely worth close eye exploration. Spanning a range of topics dealing with the ‘figure’ in culture, the sentient geomantra or ongoing cultural matho-mytho reflexion utilizing pattern. It’s hard to find articles at this location not worth a read.

‘The Institute’s interests are twofold: the manifestation of figures in the world around us and the figurative technologies that humans have developed through the ages. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding, the tiling patterns of Islamic mosaics and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring.’

A lot computational art, generative and otherwise, its seems is just another form or manifestation of folk art – the transcendence of concept through craftsmanship. So it’s poetic anarchy to find a kinship between crafts such as knitting and textiles and some of this techy pattern orientated computational art. Marius has already mentioned the obvious similarity between knitting patterns and computational rule-sets such as L-systems. The Institute contains references to the knitting of the hyperbolic plane. Such adventures should be fully congratulated to my mind.

The online exhibition of hyperbolic geometry begins with questioning the validity of Euclidean space in architecture, as it should, then vacates for a flight through a brand new pair of hyperbolic trousers!

I was intrigue by ‘Crystal Clear: An interview with Shea Zellweger’ by Christine Wertheim a little while back at the online version of Cabinet Magazine – an entrée in to logic crystallography. The IFF was involved in an exhibition of Philosophical toys presenting Shea Zellweger’s logic toys as well as Fröebel’s original learning toys.

From the site:

‘In 1953, while working a hotel switchboard, a college graduate named Shea Zellweger began a journey of wonder and obsession that would eventually lead to the invention of a radically new notation for logic. From a basement in Ohio, guided literally by his dreams and his innate love of pattern, Zellweger developed a visual system – called the “Logic Alphabet” – in which a group of specially designed letter-shapes can be manipulated like puzzles to reveal the geometrical patterns underpinning logic. During the 1970’s Zellweger built a series of physical models of his alphabet that recall the educational “gifts” of Friedrich Fröebel. Just as Fröebel was influenced by the study of crystal structures, which he believed could serve as the foundation for an entire educational framework, so Zellweger’s Logic Alphabet is based on a crystal-like arrangement of its elements. Where the traditional approach to logic is purely abstract, Zellweger’s is geometric, making it amenable to visual play.’

Extra curricular!

Freddie Robins: How to make a piece of work when you’re too tired to make decisions.
crocheting the hyperbolic plane
Stitched DOS commands and the Lorenz Manifold via infosthetics

The Grand Unification Theory

Emblem Jason Salavon

Jason Salavon uses his own bespoke software to transmute large quantities of commercial and to us mostly insignificant data into visualizations that uncover unexpected patterns. His output ranges from photographic prints that are the result of a normalization process of many images; through to works that only exist in a real-time software context. Personal favorites include the ultra-vivid psychedelic explosions of Shoes, Domestic Production, 1960-1998 and the shroud-like Figure 1. (Every Playboy Centerfold, 1988-1997).

Software wants to loop forever

Software wants to loop forever

‘Software is engaged in the survival of the loopest. Each version of a script when first executed can turn out to be a Wild Type’

‘The WHILE loop is notorious for breaking scripts because, unlike the FOR loop, is does not need to contain a point of termination in its declaration. What Jack kerouac said of the moon, the programmer can say of bottomless recursion: it’s the sad face of infinity and every computer when programmed wrong can tumble into its abyss.’

Socialfiction poeticizes the computer loop in all its metaphysiqu̩s Рyet another excellent communiqu̩ from the seed of Crystalpunk.

Of course Nature’s Akashic super computer does recursion too but breaks out of the loop before crashing out via impossible sub-molecular insplittability. Or does it?

What do you mean? is responded with “What do you mean what do I mean?” which is then further responded back with “What do you mean ‘What do you mean what do I mean?’?” – this can clearly go on forever, although it is unclear how many iterations can be meaningful…

A little while-loop back I wrote an introduction to recursive botany. It’s a primer on how to make nature with data using recursive loops in Flash (although the principles are common to all programming dialects).

‘Recursive functions come on a bit anarchy if we remove the condition for prohibiting self reflection or allow the recursion to go on for too long thereby bullying Flash into surrendering with a Script Timeout error. We can actually change the ‘scriptLimit’ and maximum recursion depth, but do it your own peril (or pleasure).’

Sound Fragments

score For Fontana Mix – John Cage

A collection of sound bytes & findings taken from recent IP travels – Part 1: Data

Way back in January I uploaded a post on visualized music – sound pictograms. I was interested to discover that Anthony Manning, whose music I’ve been absorbed in recently, utilized idiosyncratic visual notation for his compositions.

‘The samples are taken from a collection of scrolls produced in the few months prior to purchasing the Roland R8 drum machine which accelerated the ideas process and inspired experiments that may not otherwise have come about so swiftly. Each scroll measures between ten and twenty feet in length – they were drawn onto graph paper, and are the finished results of ideas that filled a series of small sketchbooks.’

Unfortunately these pictures are too small for decent scrutiny but, never the less, are intriguing documents to the thought process that brought into existence works such as Chromium Nebulae and Islets in Pink Polypropylene. Both recordings are available for FREE from Irdial – be sure to check out Irdial’s Free Music Philosophy on why it all makes sense to work this way.

John Cage was one of the first composers to make use of a personal graphic language to notate his compositions. The Score to Fontana Mix consists of 10 sheets of paper and 12 transparencies. The sheets of paper have drawings of 6 differentiated curved lines. 10 of the transparencies have randomly distributed points. Another transparency has a grid, and the last one contains a straight line. By superimposition the performer creates a structure from which a performance score can be made. Different constellations of line, grid, point and curve create a time-bracket and a kind of indeterminate generative music can be read from it.

FontanaMixer is a software based version of Cage’s earlier work realized by Karlheinz Essl using the MAX/MSP environment. Karlheinz says,

‘In the program, I strictly adhered to Cage’s given instructions: the chance-based choice of 6 parameter values (ranging from 1 to 20) for each sound event, including the duration and ‘time bracket’ (position in time). The continually changing parameter values influence the character of each sound generator. Based on granular synthesis and chance procedures, sound material is split into the small particles and then re-formed into new and unforeseen sound objects. ‘

The software is available for download.

For more ruminations on generative granular synthesis you might want to check out a good article with the Autechre duo at Soundonsound. In it they outline a history of their working processes paying particular attention to tools and software utilized – they also tackle the old favorite: Generative is NOT necessarily random!

Recently it seems they also have been using MAX/MSP – the MAX/MSP screenshot at the site is a work of art itself, a different, but no less interesting, sound pictogram to be compared with those utilized by John Cage.

If you’ve ever had to deal with Cellular Automata before you’ll be aware of the Wolfram Science book and site. Now you can have an auditory encounter with our favorite life form algorithms with Wolfram Tones. Different CA rule sets are transformed into tones and rhythms resulting in a noodley-machine-bossanova played with basic FM synthesis.