ï~~CROSS-POLLINATION: TOWARDS AN AESTHETICS OF THE REAL Tom Davis Sonic Arts Research Centre Queen's University Belfast BT7 1NN tdavis01 @qub.ac.uk ABSTRACT This paper explores notions of complexity and ecology through a shared environment of interaction through a presentation of the sound installation Cross-Pollination. It discusses music based on algorithmic processes and the growing trend of an ecological thinking in composition. It draws similarities between this and a conception of aesthetics based on a negotiation of meaning between a viewer and the object of art, drawing attention to the aesthetics of the real and its relationship to complexity. 1. INTRODUCTION There is an established history of the employment of algorithms for the generation of art and music. Examples specifically from the genre of music being found as far back as the alleged dice pieces of Mozart through to Schoenberg's twelve tone system, and Xenakis' employment of stochastic process. [15] More recently there has been a growing number of people employing methods, algorithms and process from models of complex self-organising systems and utilising them for the creation of music. [1] [3] Hand in hand with this there has been a growing frustration in some fields of research with what could be termed closed systems, blind to their context, shut off from reality. [7] My personal field of creative practice could be described as sound installation, in that my intention is to create sonic environments for the exploration of users. I attempt to reconnect algorithms to embodied perceivers situated in space and place, borrowing a phrase from Douglas Irving Repetto, I attempt to create 'real-world manifestations of computer based simulations.' [14] 2. ECOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK Working in the realm of installation is for me akin to creating in the complexity of the real. Installation artists by the very nature of their work are working in the full complexity of reality and thus have to consider not only the direct experience of sound but also its relation to space and its personal relationship to the individual; architectural and cultural. There is obviously an overlap here with the concerns of composers, be it an exploration of acoustic phenomena found in Alvin Lucier's work or in Agostino Di Scipio's compositional environments. Bodies, space and place are important for the creation of music. Waters [16] recalls that he was taught as a child to think of his flute as starting in his diaphragm and extending into the room. Music is also inherently a social beast, based around interactions not only of sounds in their environments but between people creating sounds, people listening to sounds within their own cultural social context. Waters also reminds us that there has been 'a long history of site-specificity in music's conception and development, notably in Giovanni Gabrieli's Sonata pian' e fort and the entire Venetian polychoral tradition. Indeed in pre 19C music some degree of site-specificity may be said to be the rule rather than the exception' [16]. With a corresponding growth in what could be termed ecological composition [11] or performance ecosystems [16] from composers and theorists such as John Bowers, Phil Archer, Luke Windsor, and Bill Fontana, we can identify a growing number of practitioners creating sonic environments within an ecological framework. I have argued in previous papers [5] [6] that in applications of music creation that utilise models based on abstract algorithms there is a need for a tighter linking of the algorithms with environmental and cultural context. Not only to make these algorithms more open ended in nature, not closed off from the complexity of reality, but to make them more accessible to the perception of participants in the work in such a way that there can be a co-evolution of interaction and understanding. 2.1. Situational aesthetics Working in the field of installation also highlights a level of personal engagement with the work. In the paradigm of ecological composition we can turn to Gibson's notion of affordances [9] [10] to better understand how sound might inform and relate to us information about our environmental context. Within this context sounds become increasingly subjective, in that they are individually specific, taking on meaning relative to a person's specific relation to an environment, their social or cultural context. Meaning in this conception seems no longer to rest in the object of art itself but in its relationship between it, the viewer and its environmental context. The aesthetics of the
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