◊ Rick Bidlack ◊
Automaton [ah-TOM-uh-ton] plural automata [-tuh].
Clang is an ongoing investigation into musical robotics—the autonomous generation of musical structures, textures, harmonies, and rhythms. Clang is actually a collection of eight automata, all running within the same computer. Although they were designed primarily to produce music, these automata have also been tasked with the simultaneous generation of an animated "score" or abstract graphical visualization of the sound, which is projected onto a double layer of scrim. The tight, one-to-one correspondence between the sonic events and the graphical imagery creates a strongly synesthetic effect. A touch-screen interface allows viewers to exert a degree of control over the performance; however, the automata are perfectly capable of running on their own, without external input.
The engine which drives Clang is a mathematical non-linear dynamical system (a chaotic system) called the Standard Map, which is used by physicists to model certain aspects of the dynamics of particle colliders (instability in storage rings, to be precise). Like all non-linear dynamical systems, the Standard Map is capable of a broad spectrum of behavior, ranging from completely periodic (predictable) to a state virtually indistinguishable from total randomness (unpredictable). In between these extremes lies a rich area that is very much like the weather: never repeating itself from one day to the next, but filling each day nonetheless with familiar and recognizable "patterns"—hot, cold, sunny, rainy, cloudy, windy, overcast, clear, etc.