This event featured Irmgard Bischofberger of the MIT Fluids Lab, Pianist Sophia Vastek, Electronic Artist David Ibbett, Saxophonist & Live Visuals Artist Sam Torres

The spontaneous emergence of patterns happens throughout nature, and leads to the emergence of extraordinary beauty. Patterns can form whenever there is instability in a system - solid or liquid - but understanding the process remains very challenging, and progress relies strongly on innovative experiments.  Irmgard and her group explore the underlying mechanisms governing pattern formation --

They study the growth formation of patterns in fluid systems - where small disturbances can lead to the formation of large-scale structures of astounding beauty.

And they investigate soft matter systems (liquidsfoamsgelsgranular materialsliquid crystals, or other biological materials) - exploring the relationship between a material's structure and its mechanical properties.


This ultimately leads to the creation of new materials that can be 'tuned' - altering their properties as we need them to for a host of applications.

Phenomena of Growth (2017) – David Ibbett

Growth happens all around us, and yet for the most part, is imperceptible – invisible to the naked eye. Growth can be shown to follow natural laws, and yet a single disturbance – a particle of dust or fluctuation of the air – can have profound and unpredictable consequences.

This last point has been on my mind this past year, with the birth of my son Lawrence in August. He was born one month early, and we had a host of scares throughout the pregnancy. All turned out to be benign, but at each step along the way, my wife and I wondered if this would be the disturbance that led us down a dark path - an evolving mixture of joy and fears.

Growth happens all around us, and yet, it takes a special approach to reveal its secrets to the naked eye. This is the gift of Dr. Bischofberger’s research, and has inspired me to compose ‘The Phenomena of Growth’, for piano and electronics – a piece that contemplates both the physical processes of growth, and the joy, fear, stress and excitement that growth contributes to our own lives.

The electronic sounds are made from sampled pianos, the Massive subtractive synthesizer, a drum loop in 6/8 time, and recordings of fetal heart beats taken over the past year.

- David Ibbett

Stainless Staining (2007) - Donnacha Dennehy

In this work for piano and backing tape, a massive harmonic spectrum of 100 overtones based on a low G# emerges from the carefully constructed sound world.  I like to think of the overtone series as an extension of music in a different direction – rippling upwards in a way that is sometimes perceived and sometimes not – the unwritten sound that gives music its “color”.

Stainless Staining was written specifically to explore this “color” of the fundamental G#.  It’s this starting point, a single note, which gives the piece its momentum, branching outwards in every direction.  The piece starts with that pitch and ends with it.  For me, this work exists on two different planes – the notes that you see on the page, and all of the notes that exist beyond the page, reaching upwards in a dazzling array of overtones.  

- Sophia Vastek

Ondes Croisées (1975) – Bernard Parmegiani

Acousmatic music is a unique art form: music composed specifically to be listened to on loudspeakers in a specially designed environment, often in surround sound. Free from the limitations of the human body, these pieces are able to explore the textures of the most subtle sounds with a startling range of emotions – from playful to stark, comical to dramatic – immersing the listener in strange new invisible worlds of sound.

Composed in 1975, De Natura Sonorum is a collection of acousmatic pieces inspired by physical phenomena - from geology, to elasticity, wave, and field dynamics. Ondes Croisées, ‘Crossed Waves’, presents two streams of droplet-like sounds bouncing playfully in dialogue, while a river of particles grows steadily in the background. We chose this piece as an introduction to Irmgard’s work on splashing in liquids and the surrounding airflow. Though each sound droplet itself is an unpredictable event – on the large scale, the piece’s expansion does follow a steady, logical pattern – waiting to be unraveled by the dedicated observer.

- David Ibbett

Canticle – Sam Torres

Canticle is a meditation.  Each performance is improvised, but I always start with this central question: “what sonic world can I create for this specific moment and place in which I can meditate, and hopefully find some peace?”  Much like the “currents” that shape pattern formations, this work grows in ways that still have the capacity to surprise me.

- Sam Torres