timbretan’s first ever sound installation

The Double Double Pendula
(The DDP)


The double pendulum is perhaps the most accessible chaotic system for many. One simply attaches an extra arm to the end of a simple pendulum, and the trajectories become chaotic. But what if we could not just watch, but also listen to its trajectories?

Unlike other works, this work uses hardware to realise spatialisation with chaotic maps. A speaker and a sound generator are attached to the end of each outer arm. The speaker can now swing along with the chaotic trajectories of this installation, instead of being rooted to the floor and walls. These speakers now embody the role of articulating chaos not just with their sounds, but also with their chaotic motions.

The pendula have two play-modes: the double double pendula mode (DDP mode) and Rott pendulum mode (RP mode). One can switch modes by simply (un)locking one of the pivots at a right angle.

No actuators or motors are used, so that one can get to feel the chaos (sensitivity to initial conditions) from the pendula. For example, can one still make the same trajectories by applying similarly large initial swings?

Designed and programmed by Timothy Tan (timbretan)
Built by Frans Asselman and Joep de Jong
Premiere at Royal Conservatoire, The Hague (NL), Jun 2018, with Ivana Kovač and timbretan as performers
Video by Lex van den Broek and Siamak Anvari
Special thanks to Raviv Ganchrow, Peter Pabon, Lex van den Broek, Robert Pravda, Tom van Hooff, Erik Brinkhorst, Institute of Sonology and Royal Conservatoire, The Hague

Orating the Words of Chaos

Scriptures of Chaos #1


In this mythological work, audio particles and loudspeakers are imbued with an important mission: to spread the Words of chaos through the aural space, in the form of spatial shapes and trajectories. Audio particle systems will articulate the Words of spatial shapes, while solo audio particles will articulate the Words of spatial trajectories. Loudspeakers no longer just speak the numbers called amplitudes, but the shapes of chaotic maps through this emergent property called spatialisation.

It is not numbers, but geometry, which typifies chaos and thus her Words. Chaos shall not be doomed to numerical oblivion, even if Lyapunov exponents and fractal dimensions could justify (or discredit) her existence. Besides, geometry ought to be restored in music already overrun by numbers, and this is even truer for chaotic maps, which portray themselves more effectively through their graphical forms than their numerical forms. Therefore, we shall now catch chaos in chaotic maps not as a numerical Word, but as a geometrical Word.

All these Words, the messages of chaos, are golden utterances that cannot be missed. They contain complex choreographies and secrets waiting to be unlocked. Any followers of chaos need to parse and record them faithfully, even under sheer perceptual difficulties, just like a disciple decoding a difficult but important text. In addition, no visuals shall help the followers, since the visuals have been trapped.

When chaotic maps fascinate

Cells #1 and #2


Despite carrying great potential for musical expressivity, spatialising with chaotic maps remains under-explored. Gumowski-Mira maps (GM maps), a group of chaotic systems from particle physics, look like flowers, cells and other weird live-forms. One may be curious about how their shapes will sound like across the acoustic space. In fact, GM maps were the first chaotic maps that I spatialised back in 2016 for Cells #1 (2016, rev. 2017). Cells #2 brings another direction from Cells #1: Cells #1 uses 3 GM maps, but Cells #2 uses 1 GM map three times, with one parameter having a tiny offset between any two of them.

This work culminates in a paper “Sonic Explorations of Gumowski-Mira Maps” for the International Computer Music Conference 2017 (ICMC 2017) at Shanghai (CN). It is co-written and presented by Timothy Tan (timbretan) and PerMagnus Lindborg.

Premiere at Royal Conservatoire, The Hague (NL), Jun 2018
Video by Lex van den Broek and Siamak Anvari

Performed by Yong Siew Toh Conservatory New Music Ensemble (today OpusNovus)
Conducted by Chan Tze Law
Recorded by Aaron Cheong, Daniel Wong and Zhou Xiaodong
12 Apr 2015, Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore
Mastered by Timothy Tan

When the orchestra gets split

Hypertuba magna


Against his colleagues’ criticisms that algorithmic music lacks expression, timbretan explores the expressive capabilities of an ensemble with algorithmic elements (composed in OpenMusic). Hypertuba magna extends his algorithmic endeavours and expands his ensemble writing, during his days as a composer. In fact, this is timbretan’s first work to include both acoustic instruments and electronics together (he usually does not mix them).

What makes up a superinstrument, a body way superior to any ordinary instrument? Is it one that elevates the definition of engagement with listeners? Is it one that is the jack of all trades, but master of none, even with an algorithmic mindset? Is it one that can create complicated puzzles for listeners, and should listeners still be able to solve them by identifying intricate patterns within? Thus the title Hypertuba magna, a term for an oversized, torturous trumpet which has evolved excessively vis-à-vis other instruments and has rendered them obsolete, with only electronic instruments (from Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL)) as its veritable counterpart. For that the orchestra gets split; half of them, having escaped from the technical clutches of the performers, have now transformed into pure electronics (VSL).

This superinstrument is imbued with the four elements of aggressiveness, arrogance, anguish and assiduousness, some of the most sought after traits to become successful, high-handed individuals. It soon develops a mercurial temperament. Could this superinstrument now embody someone’s misguided aspirations and warn them of their impending estrangement? Or is it a viable role model for the future timbretan and even others? But more importantly, can such an approach be justified? Listen to this superinstrument’s struggles to survive.

Challenging stereotypes

Psaltria ignominiosa
(The Disgraceful Harpist)


While most stories focus on characters and settings external to the storytelling venue, this harp work focuses directly on the harp and the harpist themselves as the story’s basis. In fact, the harpist is the storyteller here, who claims its superiority over its instrument by chiding her, while relating stories surrounding the instrument’s inferiority to its listeners. timbretan drew his inspiration from Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet play) in Indonesia, plus the storytelling intonation of the Dalang (a storyteller who does all of the puppetry and voices in Wayang Kulit).

Performed by Jasmine Hogan (Harp) and Timothy Tan (Voiceover) at Peabody Conservatory. This recording is taken during rehearsal. Note that this work is intended for a solo harpist, who plays the harp and voice at the same time.

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