In mathematics, an attractor is a set of numerical values towards which a system tends to evolve, and is applicable for a wide variety of starting conditions. For example, if you place a ball on various points on the same hill, you will get predictable results of the ball rolling down the hill in very similar manners. A strange attractor has a fractal, or recursive, structure, and often describes chaotic systems, where starting points that are very close to each other may yield extremely different results as the system unfolds. A double pendulum is an example of this case, where one can attempt to set it up in the same starting position many times with vastly different results once set in motion.
This work is structured in the manner of a double pendulum. Each movement starts exactly the same way, with a declamatory unison statement of a broken augmented triad. Within a few moments, each iteration progresses in a different manner, sometimes heating up, other times cooling down. To add to the unpredictability of the performance, the movements will be played in a random order each time. The movements' titles describe the direction of the music. The Ascending and Descending movements are contoured to follow that general trajectory. The Diverging movement works gradually from the unison at the opening to both parts behaving more independently. The Calming movement does just that, and the Grooving movement settles into a somewhat jazzy groove about halfway through. The Emulsifying movement uses trills and tremolos to blend together musical ideas into a soup of warm sound.
Strange Attractors was commissioned by Meredith Moore and Simón Gomez Gallego and was completed on July 11, 2017.
Performance note: Because the movements are played in a random order, the only information the audience has about what they are hearing is the list of six movement descriptions. As each movement begins, the listener is challenged to identify which process the music is following.
Strange Attractors is currently published by Roger Zare Music. Please contact me for more information.
Duration: ca. 8'