Notions of Nature

This text by Asbjørn Blokkum Flø was written during the work with Analogikk in 2014.

Human life is increasingly taking place on the virtual level and social life is being transferred to global information networks. We weave our lives ever closer together with these structures and the physical is replaced by virtual models. But new tendencies in both art and music shows an interest in working outside of this. The tactile and the tangible have something that cannot be easily recreated in the digital.

In recent years, a large resurgence of analogue electronic musical instruments has emerged. Gradually, it has been discovered that there are ways to produce electronic music that cannot be done with computer screens and programming languages. These old methods are often both more inspiring and better sounding than similar methods in the digital domain. This should come as no surprise, because musical instruments do not follow any kind of natural evolution towards something better.

Acoustic particles
During his work in the electronic music studio in the late 1950s, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) discovered that if the playback speed of analogue pulses was high enough, the signal changed from being perceived as pulses to being perceived as a pitch. This led him to develop a theory in which the different constituents of music only represented different areas of one and the same continuum. Elements such as form, phrasing, rhythm and pitch were thus expressions of the same phenomenon, only with different frequencies.

This unified musical theory, in which all musical elements can be seen as different variants of the same impulses, or particles if you will, can be seen as symptomatic of musical modernism’s vain desire to formalize all aspects of music. But it can also be seen as a groundbreaking new way of thinking about music.

Around the same time, the composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) introduced a related theory of the use of probability distributions in musical composition and sound synthesis, so-called stochastic functions. In his stochastic synthesis methods, he uses probability distributions to manipulate individual values ​​as if they were indivisible, acoustic particles.

Notions of nature
At the joint European particle physics laboratory at CERN in Geneva, an attempt has been made for several years to prove the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson, also known as the “god particle”. In July 2012, CERN announced that the Higgs boson was detected by the ATLAS and CMS experiments using the Large Hadron Collider machine. This was the last piece of the puzzle that came into place to document the standard theory of particle physics. Together with Einstein’s theory of relativity, these two theories form the pillars on which all physics and science rest.

It may not be possible to really understand what has happened in physics in the last hundred years for those who do not work within the field of physics. Nevertheless, these ideas have propagated into popular culture, art and music, and as we have seen central figures in musical modernism such as Stockhausen and Xenakis were influenced by such ideas.

In Analogikk, I want to combine two areas of musical composition, analogue sound production and the smallest acoustic particles. The desire to break out of the virtualized everyday life but at the same time explore the smallest constituents of acoustic particles may seem contradictory. But the analogue electronic sound circuits are highly sensitive instruments and able to explore musical possibilities of a different type than the digital ones.

The word “physics” is derived from the Greek “physikos” which means “natural”. Physics is simply the science of nature, and an art with particles is in many ways not much different from the romantic landscape paintings of the 19th century. Both work with nature as material. It is at this crossroads between analogue sensibility, physics, and notions of nature that the work with Analogikk takes place.