“Aliquid Ex Nihilo”
Most scientists today believe in reductionism, a principle that says all phenomena in nature can ultimately be reduced to just two physical theories: general relativity and the standard model.
Another way of saying this, perhaps more interestingly, is that all phenomena we see in the macro world around us are derived from uncountable (but finite) numbers of fundamental interactions that together add up to results of amazing complexity and intricacy — results that seem impossible given how elementary are the fundamental interactions.
Scientists call this sort of thing “emergent phenomena”, the situation when an entity has properties its component parts do not have on their own. Everything we see around us, including life and consciousness, happens as a side effect from vast numbers of fundamental interactions, all taking place simultaneously and purely by accident. I’m no deist, but this state of affairs feels to me uncomfortably like magic. My thoughts as I write these words are just physical accidents derived from all the known physics churning inside me? Untenable. There has to be more to the story than that.
For this reason, emergence in nature has always fascinated me. I’ve long felt there is something profound lurking in emergence that our science and philosopy today do not yet understand. Why does the random statistical behavior of a sea of particles add up to life and sentience, and not just some bland featureless noise? And where did music come from in all this miraculous emergence?
This is precisely what I am studying in the method for this album. What happens when I stochastically combine musical phrases and ideas that are themselves self-generated? Will emergence occur? Or will I end up with bland featureless noise?
The rules for the method are simple: 1). constrain myself to (virtual) analog modular synthesis; 2). construct generative musical phrases in isolation of each other that share only a few basic properties; 3) combine these phrases stochastically; and finally 4). orchestrate the results so there is a human element involved and the results feel intentional. The hope is that with this method I can construct music that is only partially of my own creation, that somehow enlists the help of emergence, so that nature itself is also helping to construct the music.
That’s the idea, anyway.
Did I succeed in causing emergence to spontaneously occur? Well, I don’t know about all that, but I can say that I enjoyed the method and will certainly continue to explore the world of generative music. I find the results worthwhile, and so I thought I should share the music with you, the listener, so you can form your own opinions about whether nature intervened to create listenable music.
So I am happy to unveil my latest release, called “Aliquid Ex Nihilo”, which is Latin for “something out of nothing”. Did I create something or did I create nothing? You be the judge. I’m just here having fun and loving the process.