Junto Project 0352: Layering Permutations [repost]

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Next time you misplace your keys, try thinking like an ant.

Ants solve problems collectively by secreting messages to other ants. When an ant finds a source of food, it walks back to the colony leaving pheromone markers. As other ants discover that the pheromone trail leads to food, they populate the path with their own markers. The more ants who travel the path, the more pheromones are dropped. Once the food source is depleted, the ants cease populating the trail and any remaining pheromones slowly decay.

Scientists who study this behavior refer to something called the Ant Colony Optimization (ACO) metaheuristic. That’s a fancy way of saying that ants tend to prefer shorter trails with stronger pheromones, not unlike how computer algorithms disambiguate search terms. When someone types the word “cars” into Google, for example, it’s important to differentiate the intended task of buying an automobile from watching a movie or listening to a 1980’s new wave band.

For this piece, Suss Müsik treated a single piano melody as an “algorithm” by layering each permutation. As the base path is developed, other instruments randomly travel outside the melody, perhaps resembling how ants continue scouting for additional food sources. The sequence ultimately “optimizes” with all musical pheromones aligning toward a single discovery.

The piece is titled Pheromones and composed for piano, violin, woodwinds, cello and brass.

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