Phenomena of Growth

Originally presented by Music of Reality, now an ongoing Multiverse project

Phenomena of Growth is an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Irmgard Bischofberger of the MIT Fluids Lab to explore and to celebrate the beauty of pattern formation in the inorganic world through music and visual art.

The spontaneous emergence of patterns happens throughout nature, and leads to the emergence of extraordinary beauty. Patterns can form whenever there is instability in a system - solid or liquid - but understanding the process remains very challenging, and progress relies strongly on innovative experiments. 
Viscous Fingering Instability

Irmgard and her group explore the underlying mechanisms governing pattern formation.

They investigate soft matter systems (liquids, foams, gels, granular materials, liquid crystals, or other biological materials) - exploring the relationship between a material's structure and its mechanical properties.

This ultimately leads to the creation of new materials that can be 'tuned' - altering their properties as we need them to for a host of applications.


Phenomena of Growth (2017) – David Ibbett

Growth happens all around us, and yet for the most part, is imperceptible – invisible to the naked eye. Growth can be shown to follow natural laws, and yet a single disturbance – a particle of dust or fluctuation of the air – can have profound and unpredictable consequences.

This last point has been on my mind this past year, with the birth of my son Lawrence in August. He was born one month early, and we had a host of scares throughout the pregnancy. All turned out to be benign, but at each step along the way, my wife and I wondered if this would be the disturbance that led us down a dark path - an evolving mixture of joy and fears.

Growth happens all around us, and yet, it takes a special approach to reveal its secrets to the naked eye. This is the gift of Dr. Bischofberger’s research, and has inspired me to compose ‘The Phenomena of Growth’, for piano and electronics – a piece that contemplates both the physical processes of growth, and the joy, fear, stress and excitement that growth contributes to our own lives.

The electronic sounds are made from sampled pianos, the Massive subtractive synthesizer, a drum loop in 6/8 time, and recordings of fetal heart beats taken over the past year.

- David Ibbett

Ondes Croisées (1975) – Bernard Parmegiani

Acousmatic music is a unique art form: music composed specifically to be listened to on loudspeakers in a specially designed environment, often in surround sound. Free from the limitations of the human body, these pieces are able to explore the textures of the most subtle sounds with a startling range of emotions – from playful to stark, comical to dramatic – immersing the listener in strange new invisible worlds of sound.

Composed in 1975, De Natura Sonorum is a collection of acousmatic pieces inspired by physical phenomena - from geology, to elasticity, wave, and field dynamics. Ondes Croisées, ‘Crossed Waves’, presents two streams of droplet-like sounds bouncing playfully in dialogue, while a river of particles grows steadily in the background. We chose this piece as an introduction to Irmgard’s work on splashing in liquids and the surrounding airflow. Though each sound droplet itself is an unpredictable event – on the large scale, the piece’s expansion does follow a steady, logical pattern – waiting to be unraveled by the dedicated observer.

All videos courtesy of Music of Reality