1.1 Introduction

Image 1Since their first appearance fractals have nurtured a great many fields of knowledge. Their applications have only increased with the passing of time. As this vast field grew fostered by the increasing computational power of computers, it fed itself of the finds that swelled the list of monsters.

From their first manifestations, art tried to transfer materials and ideas eventually elaborating an ‘art of fractals’ given the great beauty contained in many of these images.

Centring the issue on the musical field and on our own pursuit of coherent models of composition, we should imagine that a fractal image is the representation of an iterative equation which contains in itself a certain kind of proportion or order, which makes us think that it is harmonious (‘that contains proportionality’). We may like it or not, but it is the seed which pre-determines a structure with obvious internal relations. A system of proportions in which each line is in its place, each point occupies its proper space. Depending on certain circumstantial parameters such as those related to colour it can take one shape or another, but its architecture remains.

Chart 1

Once the ‘harmony’ of the image has been accepted and taking for granted its immense potential, we must think how we can catch something from it and take it with us to our musical score and operate with it as if it were a musical theme, a type of material, a musical architecture or whatever we choose to call it depending on our purposes. It is not easy at all, as we will later explain. Generally a good quality image of a fractal contains millions of colours. If we choose one only colour in whichever structure of that image which we want to capture, it slips through our fingers as grains of sand.

Image 2One only colour in good quality images of quality, frequently, returns only points scattered in space (image 2). If we want to grasp a complete structure, we need to use thousands of colours, but, then we have another kind of problem: we have too many elements to start with, too much complexity, thousands of significant tones…very soon the thresholds of perception are saturated, and it is almost impossible to work with.

Image 3As a practical solution the number of colours is compressed (but at a price). The thousands or millions of colours of the initial image are reduced to a resolution of 250 or even fewer shades of colour. This does allow us to extract objects from the image rather easily and transfer them to our musical plane. It looks simple; however, the first surprise comes when we have a look at the compressed image (image 3). All that magic the original image had awoken in us, now disappears, and in its place we are left with a caricature which immediately fails to interest us. And then, we find ourselves in the slippery game that fractals project: Something apparently so simple at the beginning capable, nevertheless, of generating the most complex forms and there we are right in the middle of that impressive spectacle incapable of transferring even a fraction. If we want everything, we fade away within the millions points of colour, and, if we simplify, what is left does not interest us. We have no alternative but to look for intermediate solutions, or else images in the game of simplification which may still contain something which attracts us and from which we can extract interesting and significant parts. With great patience we manage in the end to achieve our goal (see chart 2).

Chart 2

We have developed a special software to translate processed structures from a fractal image to the musical plane, always using simple solutions to capture that which the image both shows and hides from us, at the same time. The tools are based upon very simple principles. Depending on the different kinds of readings made, we will seize from the image one object or another, which, in turn, will cause a variety of situations in the future. In any case the amount of material provided by the image is still overwhelming, and it will be our own experience and self-control which will regulate the flux (everything seems to be beautiful and interesting but in the end we’ll have thousands of curves and points which we will be incapable of manipulating ...).

Chart 3Before transferring structures from the image it is important to make a previous study of the image itself. To do that we have at our disposal a number of tools which allow us to separate the image into each of its colours (remember that we have mentioned above that it is impossible to work with millions of colours) In partial visualizations like these we focus on the colours which project attractive shapes. Another kind of visualization is that of the outlines projected by those images which, occasionally, turn out to be of a greater interest (see chart 3).