Electronic Audio And Visual Synthesis: Beyond Order and Chaos

Sam Davidson

Abstract/Artist's Statement

The Oxford English Dictionary defines chaos and order as “A state resembling that of primitive chaos; utter confusion and disorder”, and “the condition in which everything has its correct or appropriate place, and performs its proper functions; the force for harmony and regularity in the universe” respectively. The art of physics is the attempt of humanity to transform seeming chaos into conceivable order. I was inspired by such works as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy in how concepts are personified so as to make them easier to understand. The Gods of Order and Chaos are personified by their namesakes, while Blake Williams represents humanity itself as it struggles to reconcile these two opposing forces.

Since the film is meant to exploit the properties of physics within the realms of order and chaos, and not the literal interpretations of both, I decided to lean towards a figurative approach. I did not want to have randomized imaged or sounds represent chaos and predictable images and sounds represent order so I examined the concepts in acoustics and optics and divided the two fields into what I deemed as chaotic and what I deemed as ordered. Within acoustics the more complex sound waves, those with less regular overtones, would represent chaos. With white noise being the farthest extreme of chaos the simplest sound waves such as sin waves would represent order. Thus the aura of sound that the two gods carry with them differs mostly in their timbre. Though I could not help but represent these two ideas in a more rhythmic sense as this could only help to emphasize the point. Within optics the properties of diffusion and coherence were used to show chaos and order respectively. Diffusion being the dispersion of photons through a transparent medium such as a lens, and the coherence being the regularity of the light waves. The light emitted from a laser is very coherent while the light emitted from a standard light bulb is not. This was done through the use of lenses and a diffraction grating. In my film I not only manipulated sound and image using my knowledge of optics and acoustics but I also incorporated the ideas of both into the story itself. Thus making the film not only a superficial display of physical concepts but also their embodiment.

The film begins with a visual and audio representation of primordial chaos, or random noise. From this formless void, order develops as a regular beat accompanied by a simple sine wave played in repetitive monotone. Order appears out of this noise and uses his convex lens to focus Chaos into a single form that we can perceive. At this point the white noise is compressed by Order’s audio beat and becomes a regular oscillation of white noise. At this point and through the majority of the film the sounds of Chaos and Order are at odds in sonic combat, each fighting for their own aural supremacy.

In the cemetery scene, when Blake, Chaos, and Order are all together for the first time I placed a diffusion grating over the lens. This effect, which separates the light spectrum by causing interference when the light passes through the grating, represents Blake’s contemplation and confusion between order and chaos. Whenever Order and or Chaos are physically or emotionally present with Blake so too is the diffusion grating. The ghostly scattered rainbows of the objects in frame is evident of the ultimate truth, to be discovered at the end of the film but is currently unapparent due to meaningless squabbling of Order and Chaos. The segmented reality of the diffraction grating is the segmented reality that Blake must face as he reconciles order and chaos.

My choice of lenses was driven by the inherent properties of specific types of lenses. Order’s lens is convex, meaning that it can concentrate light to a single point. Chaos’ lens is concave, meaning that it can disperse light. When Blake looks at his room through Chaos’ lens it becomes cluttered with Phyla’s belongings due to the lens ability to take what was order and disperse it. The same effect is seen on the moon at the end of the film. Though we do not see the room through Order’s lens, due to Blake’s hesitation, we do see an ordered moon through the lens. Ultimately neither lens gives a true vision of either order or chaos due to the fact that most lenses are manufactured as sections of spheres rather than parabolas. This is because any transparent medium such as glass bends light differently for different wavelengths of colors. A parabolic lens mitigates this effect. A spherical lens disperses the color spectrum in a similar fashion to the diffraction grating. This dispersion is correctible by placing a convex and a concave lens together. The spectral dispersion of the first lens will be corrected by the other. Thus Blake is unable to get a clear view of either concept until he consolidates the two ideas when he looks at the moon with both lenses creating ordered chaos. Through the two lenses he sees vicious conflict between the two forces. At this point Blake realizes that the conflict between Order and Chaos is meaningless and that they must learn to coexist in order to create peace.

Works Cited

order, n.
Third edition, September 2004; online version March 2011. ; accessed 28 March 2011. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1903.

chaos, n.
Second edition, 1989; online version March 2011. ; accessed 28 March 2011. Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1889.