Anticipating Aleatory Albums

Speculation and experiment rule this post. It’s not a finished piece.

Comments and feedback are solicited.

Oh the randomness of it all. Why me? Why you? Why this? Why that? By extension, what does it all mean? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Does random back up into chaos and thence into fractals? When, in the progression from order to disorder, does everything become random?

Random. One of our early experiences with random is the tossing of coins and the rolling of dice. Unless your dice are loaded or the coins “fixed”, the numbers yielded by each throw will be random. Solitaire games fascinate by their random outcomes, which yield such varying and unpredictable results that you get addicted, and have to play another and then another game, to see how they’ll come out.

There’s a word for this. Aleatory. It comes to us from a Latin word that means throwing of dice.

The word may be new to you, but the concept has affected you, one way or another, particularly if you’ve ever gambled. Gambling includes speculative investments, annuities, and insurance. The options and derivative financial contracts that have so damaged the world economy are aleatory contracts. Simply put, they’re gambles. The bankers have quit managing money and have turned our world money system into a giant Las Vegas or Monaco.

Inside this can are the cubic hearts of the modern financial “services” industry.

You throw the coins or shuffle the yarrow stalks to arrive, aleatorially, at an I Ching hexagram. The randomly created hexagram yields advice. Advice that can stun you with its insight, by the way. The composer John Cage loved the I Ching, and used it to come up with at least one musical composition.

Cage created a sensation with his three movement piece, “Four Minutes and Thirty-three Seconds”. To mark the beginning of the piece, Cage closed the lid of his piano keyboard. To mark the end of the first movement and the beginning of the second, he opened and closed the lid again. And repeated the action for the transition from the second and third movements, and reopened the lid to mark the end of the piece. Had you actually listened during those four minutes and thirty three seconds, you would have heard the work. Had you been overcome with trying to figure out what the hell was going on, you’d have missed it completely. As you can imagine, the piece was received with about as much serenity and calm as the first performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rites of Spring”. Well maybe not quite, since that Stravinsky work degenerated to fist fights in the aisles during the performance, and later became an actual riot.

There are various artistic movements that are called aleatoricism. Aleatoricism incorporates the process of chance into the process of creation. Music, literature, computer art, and photography are areas where contemporary artists are working with random. “MAMA”, the Movement of Aleatoric Modern Artists, is one such group.

I’ve always been fascinated by random happenings. I got to wondering what an album of photos picked by random numbers might be like. I’ve asked “” for five random four-digit numbers between 0001 and 9999. The reason for four digit numbers is that my camera numbers images with that range. There are about forty thousand images in my files, so each randomly generated number should yield anywhere from two to a dozen images with the same number. Once I’ve pulled out the photos that match these random numbers, you’ll see a few posts entitled “Aleatory Album”. What will they be like?

2 responses to “Anticipating Aleatory Albums

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