The Sleepwalkers


The Sleepwalkers is a multi-faceted musical project based on two main sources. The first being a book entitled "The Sleepwalkers - History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe" by Arthur Koestler.
Here is a quote from the wikipedia entry about the book:

"The book challenges the habitual idea of a progressive science working towards a definite goal. The suggestion of the title is that the scientific discoveries and the geniuses that come to them are like a game of sleepwalking. Not that they come by pure chance, but that often the genius doesn't really know that he has discovered, as it is evident for instance in the three Laws of Kepler."

" The history of cosmic theories can be called, without exaggeration, a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias, and the manner in which some discoveries have been made resemble the conduct of a sleepwalker, rather than the performance of an electronic brain. "

Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers

The second source, having more relevance to the technical side of the project, is looking for emergent properties in music. 'Emergence' is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. The research, conducted beyond the limits of the present project, is aimed at finding self-organizing patterns emerging from the interaction of different kinds of music material. The application of Emergence in a musical domain, sheds new light on old time issues, as well as serving as building blocks for new musical creation. Typical issues that rise in many different forms are organic development and gravity.  For instance: What is gravity in music? – and what causes certain musical matter to attract or get attracted? In which domain can emerging properties be found - traditional harmony? harmonic spectra? How do different musical styles relate to these questions? which keys does an atonal piece of music, (or an Indian chant), use for creating a musical flow of events with high and low pressure areas, arranged so that one moment is inevitably drawn to the next?


In order to simulate an environment that allows organic musical interaction, aided by mathematician Dr. Haggai KatrieI, I used Max/MSP to create interconnected oscillators (two at first). Each of the oscillators is capable of producing a single numeric value, thus, being a very simple unit indeed. When an initial value (initiated by the Big Bang) is sent to one of the oscillators a mutual chain of unpredictable numbers appears. Each oscillator is limited by a modulo, which allows us to see how the resulting values drift closer or farther from each other, approaching or getting away from being in sync or phase locked. The values are sent to a graph so that the emerging patterns are visible as well as audible. click for examples of the graph images - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Even before applying the results to sound, we were quite amazed by the results. The patterns were breathing, so to speak.  The emerging patterns, graphically shown here, seemed not only to express different stages of accordance, but they were dynamically changing in time, moving between chaotic, semi-chaotic or very ordered stages, with no interference. click here for a video clip to see the system at work - Emergence in action

Application in Music

The bridge between the emerging patterns shown here and the actual music making is an infinite playground where forms are being interpreted according to personal attitudes, tastes and technical considerations among other things. First, I used the resulting patterns to improvise and play short samples in varying speeds. Later on, the patch became a network, where the emerging patterns were used in many different ways for shaping timbre, various time parameters, dynamically changing amplitude envelopes, both of a single sample and a couple of them, in a phase locking manner. After having some of this 'living material' recorded, I listened to it, looking for prominent organic tendencies trying to reproduce them again with the intention of enhancing and controlling them. Then they were arranged in time, allowing those living organs to interact in the creation of the musical itinerary.

This technique was used first in "The Sleepwalkers" - a collection of 14 musical electronic pieces, and further developed to create "freeDDialogue", were more formal musical issues were addressed.

Still Images of The Sleepwalkers Emerging Patterns

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

a short clip showing 4 oscilators interacting

Emergence in action

The Sleepwalkers' music samples:

It is recommended to be provided with good listening conditions and use a decent audio system (one that is capable of nicely transmitting low frequencies) or headphones.

click  any of the play icons

1 African Orbit

2 Half Dimension

3 Mosquitango

4 Dancing Aphelion

5 Grillos y Perros

6 Sphere Harmony

7 Mercury's Chant

8 Tychonian Party

9 No veo mi tonta

10 Red Shifting

11 Sunspots

12 Zap

13 Day Light

14 Afor




External sounds served by The Freesound project

Credits: digifishmusic; batchku; tombola; Jovica; greyseraphim; plagasul; pushtobreak

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