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[October, 2011: Rhythmicon pages archived, no longer updated or maintained.]

The Rhythmicon The Rhythmicon: Compositional Methods & and Further Observations

I used two approaches in the 24 Rhythmiconic Sections: "traditional", or "formalist" composition in which I determined the elements based on creative intent, and algorithmic composition, in which elements were determined by processes based on rules. Both made use of the cascades and clusters as described above under Structual Analysis. I mixed these approaches and freely altered the outcome of algorithmic processes to accomplish the aim of a given piece. In the "traditional" mode, I sometimes introduced non-rhythmicon sounds. The extremes on this continuum are "Rhythmiconic Section 4: Malfunction 54", which was composed with no algorithmic processes and lots of extra sounds, and the two "Wave Motion Machine" sections, which were composed algorithymically without altering the outcome of the algorithmic process.

Rhythmiconic Section 4) Malfunction 54 0:56   Listen LISTEN

Rhythmiconic Section 3) Wave Motion Machine 0:42   Listen LISTEN

For the algorithmic compositional approach I used several data sets, principally the set of 24 numbers dipped into with dice, slips of numbered paper and various homegrown random number programs to choose subsets of harmonics or beats, to determine the rate the volumes of different harmonics would fade over time and the like.

A larger data set was derived from the cascades. The cascades extend over different numbers of measures, and each has a unique spread of the harmonics over time. If each cascade is broken down to subsets consisting of events that occur along its curve in single measures, keeping in mind my shortening of the curves by bringing H1 in closer, there are 360 unique measures. "Unique" relative to a given cascade's curve; an empty measure in which no event occurs is counted as unique to that curve though there are many empty measures in the whole set of 360. Algorithmic processes determined which of the 360 measures occured next. The full data set might be grouped into subsets. For example, a subset consisting of all measures in which H6, H7 and H8 occur. Occurrences of measures might overlap to varying degrees. One is fading out as another starts; several are at different points of fading out when a new measure starts, etc.

Panning, timbre changes, and the relative level of sustained tones were also determined algorithmically in some sections. In addition Kyma provides the capability of building randomness into the structure of a sound, which was used on occasion as well.

Since all harmonics of the virtual rhythmicon are always "on", the degree to which any one is heard or not is a matter of relative volume levels. When using multiple layers of algorithmically determined events, this approach is not unlike dipping my hand into a stream of sound and moving my fingers to create a constantly changing pattern of ripples on the surface ("Wave Motion Machine", above).


Tempo: When rhythm becomes tone

The importance of tempo was mention in the section on Harmonic Analysis. When composing Rhythmiconic Sections, the boundary between rhythm and tone -- when the frequency of the beats was fast enough to generate audible tones -- sometimes became blurred. This is evident Sample 6, above and even more so in Rhthmiconic Section 18: Head Roll Compensation. As Curtis Roads puts it in his book Microsounds, "Between the sensation of continuous tone and the sensation of metered rhythm stands a zone of ambiguity, an infrasonic frequency domain that is too slow to form a continuous tone and too fast for rhythmic definition." The rhythmic structure of the rhythmicon lends itself to the exploration of this phenomenon.

Speeding through the " Zone of Ambiguity" 0:30   Listen LISTEN


Life after Rhythmiconic Sections

Since completing Rhythmiconic Sections my use of the rhythmicon has assumed a more ancilliary role in relation to other sounds. This has taken the form of working with measures of greater length in which the beats assume a melodic quality rather than the emphasis on beats found in Rhythmiconic Sections. In other cases I've used the timing of the beats alone discarding the harmonic aspects of the rhythmicon. Many other possibilities deserve further exploration. For example, an inharmonic rhythmicon in which the "harmonics" are not whole number multiples of the fundamental but bear some other relationship. This concept has been realized in "Positions of Effective Proximity".

Positions of Effective Proximity 6:00   Listen LISTEN

Subsequently I further abstracted the structual elements of the rhythmicon as The Ancient Chinese Enclosing Game Compositional Matrix. The matrix is a much looser use of the rhythmicon that allows me to focus more on content and intent than on the mechanics of composition.

<Multiple Rhythmicons----------Ancient Chinese Enclosing Game>

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