Brief

The idea for this project was conceived when I was shown a working model of Benoît Mandelbrot’s ‘Lévy flight’ for the first time. Whilst watching the random walker move using ‘Cauchy flight’ (where the distribution of step sizes is a Cauchy distribution which is a probability distribution that has a probability density function) I immediately thought it would be perfect for utilising in generative audio-visual sketch, as not only would the behaviour of the flight (a higher probability of small steps intermittently interrupted by a less frequent big steps) transpose wonderfully to rhythm and/or pitch in music, but the name of the algorithm is perfect too, affording a charming reference.

Nikolai Rinksy-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the bumblebee’ (an orchestral interlude from his opera ‘The Tale of Tsar Saltan’ composed in 1899-1900) is a well known, frequently referenced, and parodied piece of music. The original piece accompanies a scene in which the Tsar’s son is transformed into a bumblebee so he can fly away, and is compositionally characterised by frantic semiquavers that are played nearly entirely uninterrupted. After watching the Lévy flight there were already two parallels between the original interlude and the algorithm: the frequent short step sizes, and the representation of the flight of a bumblebee; Korsakov’s being metaphorical whilst the Lévy flight being a literal model of how (possibly) bumblebee fly in search of food.

I also decided early on in the project that I would represent the piece visually in real-time both as an animated score akin to the to the traditional western music score, and in the form of a two dimensional Lévy flight.

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