Existential Friday Newsletter

v65: Generative Art Series 8 of 13 . . . (Dis)Order from Chaos

FFT Sound Wave Visualization Pen Plot p5.js

There’s a strong relationship between how we act, think, and perceive the world. The past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the difference between practitioners and theorists.

Note:  The idea of practitioners and theorists isn’t some proven thing. This is just Dan making up theories that seem reasonable enough.

The definition of a practitioner is someone who shows up and does the work. Every. Single. Day. I think of practitioners as people who are more concerned with how to do things. It seems like practitioners would stick to a more clearly defined career path, but that might not always hold true.

Theorists are a little different. I think of teachers and people who look for the underlying meaning or philosophy in what they’re doing. Theorists are more concerned with Why than How. I self identify as a theorist that’s been indoctrinated with practitioner tendencies.  Where do you fit?

Habit is a practitioner tendency and I’m very good at habits.  At the same time, I spend a phenomenal amount of time asking “Why” about most things. Why and How both explain the world.  Why just tends to seem more interesting.  Sometimes Why and How lead to answers. Sometimes they lead to more questions and, of course, theories.

Theories are just a way of creating order. They’re an attempt to simplify chaos.  The pictures this week are about simplifying chaos and simultaneously about creating a little of our own . . .

Numbers in Nature

Do you remember the color sort images from a few weeks ago? Those images take something seemingly chaotic  (a nature picture) and organize it. Surprisingly, when you sort the colors in a nature image, many of the resulting images look similar. In other words, the building blocks are similar and the uniqueness comes from how the colors are arranged.  Here’s a color sorted nature picture as a reminder.

Kona Big Island Hawaii Beach Generative Abstract Art

As I got further down the road of sorting colors in nature pictures, I started to think about sound. Sound is something that can be visualized.  Most of us have seen some type of sound visualization and the first part of visualizing sound is converting it to a bunch of numbers.

Sound visualizations generally display either Amplitude or Fast Fourier Transform (FFT).  From a practical standpoint, you get one number at a moment in time with Amplitude.  You get a list of numbers for a moment in time with FFT.

Rather than use music, I decided to record and visualize the sound of waves on a beach.  This is what the sound of waves on a beach looks like in numbers (FFT).

visualizing the sound of waves honeymoon island

This is what the sound of waves looks like in a simple pen plot.  In this image we’re just mapping values to the height of the lines.

FFT Sound Wave Visualization Pen Plot p5.js

It gets really interesting when you start using the sound numbers in place of (or with) randomness. The sound numbers can be mapped to a scale that informs shading, size, or anything really.  For example, the sound value informs the alpha value in the image below.  The location is driven by the sound value with some added randomness.

FFT Sound Wave Visualization p5.js honeymoon island


Murica needs to catch up on this one. The truck art in India is way cooler than the truck art in the US. Check this out.

This video on motivation is really interesting. It’s not just about the money.

I recommend checking out the movie Wonder Boys. If you don’t have time for that (or you won’t), you might still enjoy this Bob Dylan song from the soundtrack.

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