|A relentless explorer, composer, performer and theorist, David Dunn (born 1953) uses electro-acoustic resources, voice, non-human living systems, as well as traditional instruments. A creator of text-sound compositions, environmental installations, works for radio and video, he has also written and published extensively. Underlying all his work is a common regard for music as a communicative source with a living world. Growing up in San Diego in the sixties and seventies, he encountered people like Harry Partch and Kenneth Gaburo. He worked with Partch for about five years, and continued to be in his ensemble for a decade after his death. His association with Gaburo was even longer, and lasted until Gaburo’s death in the early 1990s.
This CD features four new compositions, all for electronic sound makers of one sort or another, and all four reveal his innate musicality. These are works that live between the arts and the sciences, coming from his lifelong involvement with interdisciplinary ideas.
Lorenz (2005) is a collaboration between Dunn and chaos scientist James Crutchfield. In this piece, Crutchfield’s program for exploring chaos equations, MODE (Multiple Ordinary Differential Equations), is linked through an interface program called OSC into a sound synthesis program. The sound synthesis program feeds information back through OSC into MODE, so the whole thing is not only a use of chaos to control sound—it’s a feedback loop itself, embodying the principles of chaos not only in its mathematics, but also in its very structure.
Another aspect of Dunn’s work has been setting up interactive systems within nature, whereby humans, machines, and the environment interact with each other. In the mid-1980s, as the technology became smaller, and cheaper, he began a series of works where he tried to set up interactive systems in which the environment could interact with itself. Autonomous Systems: Red Rocks (2003) is the latest in this series of works, and possibly the most elegant realization of the idea yet.
In Nine Strange Attractors (2006), Dunn guides us through a whole zoo of chaotic attractions. Each one has different behavior, and each produces a different sound world. This is a work that is not simply about playing with new mathematical toys—it’s a work that exemplifies the structure of those toys, placing human, computer, and sound-making machine into a feedback loop that embodies the essential characteristics of that new science (chaos), and then lets us live within it for an extended period of time.
Gradients (1999) is a work Dunn made with a freeware graphics-to-sound conversion program. In this program, graphic lines become sounding sines, each single pixel-wide line being realized as one sounding pure electronic sine wave. If the sound world of Red Rocks represents nature at her messiest, and the attractor pieces show the slightly less messy world of mathematical abstractions of natural processes, in this piece we have the clean lines and simple shapes of man-made geometry. It is best heard at high volume, where the dynamism of the sound is revealed—gloriously.