timbretan at Peabody Conservatory (photo: Wasin Prasertlap)
timbretan at Peabody Conservatory (photo: Wasin Prasertlap)

An algorithmic music that is energetic and exciting? Enter Timothy Tan (timbretan), the chaos sound artist from Singapore.


Back in 2016, timbretan chanced upon how sensitive chaotic maps can be. While playing with them for his visuals, timbretan saw the potential of applying them over to music, through spatialisation with live audio particles. He spent the next two years researching this topic at the Institute of Sonology in the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague (NL). This was where Cells #1 and #2, and his first ever sound installation, The Double Double Pendula (The DDP), were born.

timbretan believes in sonifying the obscure. The obscure deserves more awareness: Is there something unusual about them? When timbretan first encountered Gumowski-Mira maps (GM maps) in 2016, he was intrigued. The shapes are beautiful, but despite past efforts, their low popularity remains baffling. timbretan wondered how to best articulate these maps, so he spatialised their points as audio particles, like how visual artists would play with particle systems. This culminated in Cells #1 and #2, and even an ICMC 2017 paper presented in Shanghai (CN).

Early study of Gumowski-Mira maps, for Cells #1

timbretan uses audio particle systems, an exciting recent development. Audio particles create complex choreographies when they articulate the points of the chaotic maps. As the chaotic maps change shapes dramatically, the audio particles leap to their new positions like dancers across space. Such movements can create fractional textural commotion. timbretan also employs and self-develops his chaotic synths. These synths are sensitive to initial conditions. Within them, noises and tones outshine each other, creating intricate rhythms and organic or robotic sounds.

timbretan had featured his work for New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF) in 2017, and also for WFS Festival 2017 by The Game of Life foundation in The Hague (NL), with its 192-speaker wavefield synthesis (WFS) system. He performed for Klingt Gut! 2018 in Hamburg (DE), and also collaborated with Stan Bentvelsen (Nikhef) by performing for his lecture on gravitational waves in Delft (NL) on Oct 2017.

timbretan was also a composer, with his most notable works Hypertuba magna for mid-sized ensemble and fixed electronics, and Psaltria ignominiosa (The Disgraceful Harpist) for a story-telling harpist. He still often grapples with themes of complex puzzles and megalomania, and is no stranger to dark, aggressive and ironic stories. timbretan has moved back to Singapore, and is now finding new opportunities to showcase his works.

timbretan is an algorithmic sound artist who believes in sonifying the obscure. Ever since his first encounter with Gumowski-Mira maps in 2016, he has been playing with chaotic maps as algorithmic controls for spatialisation and timbres. timbretan uses audio particle systems to make the listening space as lively as visuals, and even self-develops his chaotic synths.

Also a composer, timbretan often grapples with themes of complex puzzles and megalomania, and is no stranger to dark, aggressive and ironic stories. After finishing his Masters in Sonology in The Hague (NL), timbretan has returned to Singapore and now experiments with new technologies.