Ecological constraint as formal model

The composer, the studio, the sound, and the sources are the environmental components in these pieces. I propose that Gibson’s notions about the systems being tuned to each other apply here and the composer responds to these structures in a direct manner. It is not necessary to impose a priori abstract forms onto the work. Relatively consistent constraints are already present in the filter processes, computer interface analogies, sliders and sound sources. Structure, particularly musical structure, is ‘picked up’ by the composer and shaped with other perceived structures.

The compositional environment

I use ecological psychology’s model of “resonating sub-systems” in composition, as a special case of the organism-environment system in which, by awareness of the system’s dynamics, and the system’s parts, the system can be manipulated, not just reacting within it, but also by using the conceptual model of the system as a tool. The composer, the studio, and the research plan together are conceived of as nested feedback loops in which each part informs and is informed by the activity in the others. These interconnected feedback loops comprise the system in which all these compositions were realised. This model, borrowed from psychology, biology, and system dynamics is applied here to composition. These compositions explore ways to guide (and be guided by) the outcome of ‘emergent’ percepts. These could all be realized as fully auditory, but will always be affected at some level, overtly or covertly, by non-auditory information, such as semantic, spectromorphological, visual or kinaesthetic qualities. The sound sources and sound samples will encourage reciprocal plasticity between the sounds and the concepts they might inspire or illuminate. Sounds that are musically useful can be created from combinations and permutations of each work’s samples or chosen from stochastic processes or even from accidents. Often extant sounds are ‘discovered’ to fit the changing context of the developing work. The work’s larger form is developed within the context of the existing sounds and, since the sounds that will be used are often yet to be known, the structures of the piece cannot be pre-defined.  Transactionalism, as developed by Lehrman, is a branch of developmental biology that describes the development of the organism as an interaction of its environment and its genetic blueprint.

Compositional Explorations of Plastic Sound 

These works depend upon emergent qualities and dynamics and a continuous re-evaluation of the extant material to accommodate any new interesting content or context that the system (composition in progress) might illuminate. Therefore intent is continuously dependent upon the results of the ongoing analyses of the material, both sonic and conceptual. Compositional constraints are considered to be the materials in the compositional environment and the structure of the environment itself. What differentiates the context and content will vary, dependent upon the scale observed and point-of-view whether semantic, morphological or even kinaesthetic, and each piece’s materials are intended to affect that point of view.

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