Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, But Not a Thousand Notes

Back when I was a doctoral candidate (I lost that particular election campaign (Actually, I withdrew due to the skeletons in my closet) ;^D), I was into fractal geometry. The first time I saw a Mandelbrot Set Image, I exclaimed, "That's a fugue!" I was exactly and precisely correct in that exuberant assertion.

The concept of fractal geometry is that small units that are identical can conjoin to create a larger image made up of those fractions when they are in geometrically precise angular and scalar relationships with each other: The whole will always reflect the properties of it's constituent component. The resulting images are more compelling as abstractly true representations of beauty outside of anything musical (Or living) that I've ever encountered.

When you reduce everything down to the irreducible essence, nature is inherantly fractal in it's realization: From crystaline formations of minerals, to the fractal variations on the DNA sequence that we call life in all of it's resplendent diversity: It's all fractal. Even the organizational scheme of the universe, with it's billions of galaxies organizing gazillions of stars and lesser stellar bodies, is fractally generated by gravitational and nuclear forces.

The concept of fugue began with the rondellus - or round - which was a simple canon like Frere Jacques. This primordially originated with the natural phenomenon of echo: Reflected sound. Since a fugue is inherantly generated by it's subject, it is inherantly fractal in nature. The more you can relate every note to the subject, the closer to natural perfection you will come.

I did some Google Image Searches tonight, and found some nice fractal images for you to ponder: These represent the ideal of beauty that I ultimately wish to represent in my music.

Back in those years when I was in the doctoral program at UNT, I wrote some BASIC programs that generated fractal fugue subjects. I came up with nothing but rubbish at first, but once I got my initial parameters sorted, I ended up with some compelling, if slightly strange, subjects. One of those lead to a massive four voice fugue for Synclavier, which caused a bit of a sensation. Especially with the head of the CEMI department, who loved it. After Schillinger, that project taught me more about fugue subject composition than anything else.

What I strive for is the most pure, simple, and unadorned representation of the fractal principle in music. There is no more direct path to that than through fugue writing. The only thing in the universe more beautiful than a perfect fugue - to me - is a beautiful redhead (sigh).

But then, there are my motorcycles!


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