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Aleatoricism and the Anthropocene: Narrowing the divide between humanity and nature through chance-based art research

Tynan, Darren (2020) Aleatoricism and the Anthropocene: Narrowing the divide between humanity and nature through chance-based art research. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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An important aspect of art is that it functions as a dialogical platform for the cultivation of ecological thought. In this thesis, I explore ways in which discourses on the Anthropocene can emerge through art that involves chance-based collaborations between humans and plants. As a case study, I examine selected works from American avant-garde composer John Cage, who used chance operations to construct musical compositions. Through his use of non-traditional plant-based instruments and the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text, Cage turned his attention to the inseparability of humanity and nature. I explore parallels between Cage’s approach and bio-sonification, a process of turning the biological rhythms of living entities into sound, which I use as a generative device to create aleatoric virtual piano compositions from plants’ electrical signals. Chance-based mechanisms in art production and approaches to environmental philosophy form the theoretical foundation for the arguments presented. This practice-based work explores the multitextured ecologies that human and non-human lifeforms are enmeshed within. It suggests that by challenging anthropocentric assumptions, ecologically engaged sound composition has the potential to generate discourses on the Anthropocene. Art about the Anthropocene can liberate us from a dichotomy of nature and culture, which facilitates the desecration of the natural world through unsustainable environmental practices that threaten the viability of life on Earth.

bio-sonification, MIDI, indeterminism, chance-based art, ecological thought, practice-based, aleatoric music, generative art, John Cage, Anthropocene

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Creative Media, Arts and Design
Supervisor(s): Stotzer, Talhy and Trees, Kathryn
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