MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Keeping Time

If only György Ligeti were still around to see this. Robert Gonzalez reports on an amazing experiment in induced metronome synchrony:

If you place 32 metronomes on a static object and set them rocking out of phase with one another, they will remain that way indefinitely. Place them on a moveable surface, however, and something very interesting (and very mesmerizing) happens.

The metronomes in this video fall into the latter camp. Energy from the motion of one ticking metronome can affect the motion of every metronome around it, while the motion of every other metronome affects the motion of our original metronome right back. All this inter-metranome “communication” is facilitated by the board, which serves as an energetic intermediary between all the metronomes that rest upon its surface. The metronomes in this video (which are really just pendulums, or, if you want to get really technical, oscillators) are said to be “coupled.”

(Hat tip: Steve Silberman)

Ligeti’s famous “anti-ideological” Poème symphonique for 100 metronomes from 1962 works in the opposite direction. The metronomes are wound up to start more or less simultaneously, and the work then takes shape as a sublimely absurd/absurdly sublime music of entropy: individual “voices”/rhythmic patterns emerge from the cloud of sound until…silence overtakes the last one:

Filed under: modernist composers, science,

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