Ricardo Thomasi and Silvio Ferraz

[R.T.] CNPQ / University of São Paulo, Brazil; [S.F.] University of São Paulo, Brazil; ricardothomasi@usp.br; silvioferraz@usp.br


According to Ingold, a world that is occupied but not inhabited, that is filled with existing things rather than woven from the strands of their coming into-being, is a world of space. Against the notion of preexistent things occupying spaces, Ingold underlines a world of becoming. In his view, the common sense of relational spaces and networks implies a separation between the nodes and the connections, assuming preexistent nodes that are closed in on themselves before their integration into the network. Instead, inhabitants, then, know as they go, as they journey through the world along paths of travel. This ecological view is coherent with our investigation of an emergence-based structural thinking for music. We developed a spatially-extended model based on acoustic and optical feedback loops, called Artificial Ecosystems. The initial model was inspired by Di Scipio’s AESI project, but following different methodological and theoretical paths. The possibility of coupling audible and visible ecosystems has corroborated our theoretical framework based on a) metastable condition, b) feedback topology and c) membrane-like behavior, resulting in a spatially sensitive system emerging from acoustic and optical dynamics.The model of artificial ecosystems offers a fruitful territory for artistic research, as it brings concepts of complexity and emergence to a concrete plane, where they can be studied and observed in practice – and not just in a poetic and/or theoretical scope. It is supported by Simondon’s Allagmatic theory, where the notion of implicit forms brings to the foreground the spatial organization of the components and an energy flow schematic that emerges and is modulated by the components’ operative relationship. So, spectral configurations, fluctuations and distortions, among other dynamics can be heard and seen as traces of components inhabiting. Contrasting with traditional approaches, it challenges musical formalization in three dimensions, at least. First, for those that consider sound as a pre-existing entity, mainly influenced by sound recording technologies. Second, sound source as a stable or deterministic entity, mainly in the traditional notion of instruments. Third, pre-established sound profile expectations, influenced by sound synthesis tools and the existence of ADSR envelope models, and the spectromorphological thinking as well. Thus, closer to an acoustic ecology, we find in the soundscape’s heritage not a space for observing and modeling nature subverting the acoustic medium into sound objects, therefore returning to the previous issues. Instead, we find an experience of performance in and through the field; which is driven by listening and in which listening is tied to its own movement. The embodied condition of artificial ecosystems opens new ways to think of digital technologies and their impact in musical performance, since the information flow becomes more important than the information itself – in the symbolic fashion. First, because digital media is not more a container of data, but a place whereby information takes shape. Second, because signal conversion becomes a process of loss of information that shapes signal flow through energy dissipation, therefore becoming an order factor.

Keywords: Acoustic Ecology; Artificial Ecosystems; Emergence Theory.


Ricardo Thomasi is Brazilian, post-doctoral researcher in music and technology in National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq-Brazil) and University of São Paulo (USP-Brazil) under the supervision of Professor Dr. Silvio Ferraz. He is a sound artist fascinated by acoustic resonances and digital filters. His artistic works involve acousmatic music and electroacoustic improvisation, collaborative multimedia performances, video art and interactive art. He is manager of the experimental music label Arte Estranha and teaches workshops on music and creativity to a diverse audience.

Silvio Ferraz is Professor at the Music Department of the University of São Paulo. Between 2002 and 2013 he served as Associate Professor of the music department of the Institute of Arts at UNICAMP, in the biennium 2009-2010 was Pedagogical Director of the School of Music of the State of São Paulo and Director of the Campos do Jordão International Winter Festival. Voluntary professor of the graduate program in Music at ECA-USP (2009-2010). Coordinated the Center for Musical Language (PUCSP), the virtual Institute MusArtS (musica articulata sciencia), Núcleo de Integração e Difusão Cultural (NIDIC-UNICAMP) and the Graduate Program in Music at Unicamp (2013). He currently coordinates the ECA-USP/Univerisité Paris 8 Agreement and has participated annually in international congresses as a Lecturer.