Thoughts about Enigma
Enigma is based on icons from the age of mechanical computing; Babbage’s difference engine of the mid 19th century and Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman’s Bombe machine, developed to crack the German enigma code.
I have been interested lately in historic automatic instruments and their link to early computing. This link may be best understood through the concept of punched cards, originally used in an automated loom (see Joseph Marie Jacquard or Basile Bouchon), in the form of a punched scroll for the pianola, and of course for computing. In all cases, these machines decode cryptic codes, in the form of holes in paper, and interpret them as something with far more depth or beauty than the data storage medium would suggest.
While driving, there is a strange delight in noticing small things synching to the music you’re hearing; the strides of people outside, turn signals, or the beat of windscreen wipers matching the rhythm. We are programmed through evolution to be pattern seekers. Finding a pattern in a seemingly chaotic system brings thrilling feelings of comprehension, whether justified or not.
Enigma is a continuation of my exploration of antiquated automatic instruments and their archaic systems of data storage. Using the continually changing relationships of chains of gears to produce music on a synthesiser, patterns emerge and dissolve as the relationships between gear positions change. Left to play at a constant rate of one driving rotation every 3 seconds, it produces a composition lasting about 37 hours. With parameters changing through mechanical and electronic means, new patterns of sound will emerge and dissolve, but it is unlikely to ever repeat itself.
Estimated date of completion Winter 2018.
Prototype produced at the Convergence residency at the Banff Centre.