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Towards a Fractal Music

Ideas around fractal geometry and recursiveness applied to composition.

Fundamental ideas surrounding fractals in relation to music and prominent composers/theorists in the field are explored. A creative synthesis of fractals and music composition is presented by me in the form of a strategy towards composing with fractal geometry.

It can be argued that fractal approaches to music composition have failed when one listens to the often disappointingly sounding musical outcomes that are either unimaginative or seemingly random, baring little resemblance of the equivalent visualised fractal image. Similarly data sonification is becoming more prominent in various disciplines, yet often the sound results are lacking and often do not represent the same richness of complexity that a parallel visual representation does. The problems are manifold, immense amounts ­­­of numbers are usually mapped to too simplistic parameters (for example pitch and time). These parameters are limited in their perceptible ranges and thus in a one-to-one mapping, not able to express the magnitude of fractal complexity. Or in deterministic music, parameters are manipulated in ways that splits the musical image into so many parts that it feels random. At the same time, analysis of some of the greatest music created clearly show fractal properties. By redefining how music is structurally organised, aesthetically important contributions can be made.

In an attempt to avoid the creation of an idealised form (that is isolated, cut-off) but rather nourish an understanding of the creation of a system as a whole: structures (that are able to morph or sustain growth), a non-linear and multi-dimensional compositional approach is considered. This implies the necessity of a deeper understanding of the inner workings and relationships that exist between musical elements across time-scales. The biggest question is that of defining what the musical dimensions of a work are. There are multitudes of parameters that vary from composition to composition. Musical parameters need to be grouped together in ways that make perceptual sense. When analysing these relationships, one typically searches for similarities and differences. The fact that fractals are by definition self-similar (exact or statistically) across scales, make them potentially useful functions to consider for the above-mentioned compositional approach.

Essay here.


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