Exploring nonlinear time within interactive and adaptive electronic music composition

Matt’s practice as research PhD employs game development software to compose interactive and adaptive electronic music compositions. The outcome is a portfolio of music presented as a mobile and desktop music apps where users can actively engage with and affect the music output.

The following applications were developed for this PhD:
  1. The Machines
  2. Quantum Window
  3. Sheets of Sound
  4. Gravitational Pull
  5. Underground

The interactivity and adaptability provide a basis to study nonlinearity in music. “Linearity and nonlinearity are the two fundamental means by which music structures time and by which time structures music” (Kramer, 1988: 20). The following aspects of nonlinearity in music have been studied: moment form, modules, gestural, and vertical time.

  • Moment form is a compositional style built on a“sequence of short, self-contained sections ("Moments"), which do not depend on a previous or a following Moment” (Chang, n.d).
  • Modules are described as “passages that derive from the iterationand reiteration of a pattern or set of patterns” (Paynter 2015: 50).
  • Gestural time “depends partially on temporal logic that is nonlinear and subjective” (Kramer, 1988: 11).
  • Vertical time is “static, sonically orconceptually, and thus depends wholly on the listener to create its hierarchies and contrasts” (Arauco,1990: 155).

Nonlinearity itself can be thought of as events determined by general principles, as opposed to being directly affected by previous events (Kramer, 1988) and is a wider subject than that of nonlinear time in music. 

There is crossover between interactive game audio and nonlinear time, primarily through the requirement for interactive audio to adapt to circumstance within gameplay resulting in a nonlinear approach to composition. Game development software has built-in functionality to design interactive and adaptive audio making it an important exploratory device within this project. Unreal Engine was used in the app creation. The software functioned as a research tool offering insights into nonlinear time from both composers and listeners perspectives.


DAVAMOT Audiovisual Symposium Notes
A peer reviewed extended abstract was published for the Audiovisual Symposium Notes 22, November 25, 2022, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden.

Matt Deegan 2023