What follows is an email message to MIMI and the Illuminati: Ralph Abraham & Peter Broadwell & Ami Radunskaya, "three mathematician-artists who collaborate in an erodynamic exhibition of sound and light, in which mathematical models and physical systems are explored, traveling from predictable trajectories through the edge of chaos and beyond." The message is included on this site because it deals with the subjects of visual music and performance multimedia.
Many thanks for a highly stimulating evening at the San Francisco Art Institute (4/22/97) with MIMI and the Illuminati´s performance and discussion of Music, Mathematics, and the Modeling of Miracles. I live for the sort of experience your group created that night. Such an experience provides me with a wealth of food for thought. I was so stimulated that night that I found it difficult to get to sleep even after working into the early hours of the following morning.
Since 1967 I´ve been involved in a similar sort of enterprise. In the realm of visual music I´ve been researching materials, creating multimedia performance modules, and field testing them in uncounted private sessions and in many hundreds of public presentations closely related to what you did at the San Francisco Art Institute. I hope you take what I have to say in the light of both my experience and my genuine expression of appreciation for your work in visual music.
Your presentation that night was more inclined to the classroom than the performance space. Classroom presentations and public art performance presentations are met with very different expectations on the part of the audience/spectators. In a nutshell, classroom presentations are normally geared to the intellect and public art performance presentations tend more toward the intuitive or spiritual. Of course, the best presentations in either area show a high level of intellectual and intuitive integration. Even with an artistically and intellectually rarefied group of audience/spectators, the key to communicating ideas in the field of science, technology, and the arts is to use language, expressions, and demonstration materials that address many levels of understanding simultaneously.
Low resolution art materials while suitable for intellectual modeling simply don´t carry the intuitive impact of higher resolution materials. The life information that we receive through our senses (more than five of course) is high resolution. The experience of a living event seems continuous to us. It seems to arrive in an unbroken flow. The illusion is that we exist in a sensory information ocean with interacting currents seemingly coming from everywhere, inside and outside of us, in a never ending progression. Any modeling resolution that is low enough to show discontinuities will not communicate essence to the lay person regardless of how motivated or intelligent they might be. Low resolution modeling stops at the head and remains purely intellectual; it never reaches the "heart and soul" so as to be understood intuitively. Low resolution modeling gives you "an idea of it" but it doesn´t give you "a feeling for it." Our deepest levels of understanding come from being literally moved by those interacting currents of information in ways that cause us to resonate with the dynamic forms of the structures generating the currents of information. We sympathize...we empathize...we care... we understand...we become one with them.
Based on my experience and research, Ralph's statement that "periodicity is death and chaos is life" does not ring true. What I have to say is based on what I´ve learned in three decades of research exploring music-generated light imagery. Learning what it takes to breathe life into dynamic light imagery is what drives my work in visual music.
Life needs both periodicity and chaos to exist. Periodicity creates the identifiable forms that extend through time. Of course, for the perception of every form there is a critical band in which the periodic structure can be subject to relatively small chaotic variations but still be perceived as a identifiable periodic structure. Without periodicity all that we are and all that we know would simply not exist; without periodicity there would be no recognizable pattern flowing through time, however measured, short or long. What we call life is an ephemeral force that serves as a multifunction communication link between periodicity and chaos; it is a force that focuses and organizes chaos into periodic structures, that attracts other structures with a similar and/or complementary periodicity, and that releases a structure's aperiodic energy to return to the field of chaos. Life is born of and is fed by the difference in potential, the tension between periodicity and chaos.
The music-driven laser animations that I use in my research and multimedia performances are perfect for demonstrating the connections among periodicity, chaos, and life; those materials need to seen and heard simultaneously. Sonic music is also a good example of those connections: without periodicity there would be no pitch definition, no melody, no high or low tones, no voices, no timbres, no tuning, no harmony. Of course it is true that the performer´s parsing or inflection of chaos is what gives music character and makes music sublime, but it´s crucial to remember that the play of chaos is based on a foundation of periodicity. What brings music to life is the spirit of the performers sculpting the near-fields of chaos to create periodic and ephemeral forms that have the power to move other life forms, most importantly human beings.
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