Sardines (2012) is an electronic composition programmed through ChucK.* The inspiration came from the schools of sardines I saw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The synchronized and rapid propagating movement displayed by these common yet mysterious creatures left me standing in front of the beautiful blue tank, mesmerized, for a good half-hour. In a musical representation of this behavior, each pitch represents "a fish" in the midst of a whole group of fish, which turns, spins, and transmits these changes in pitch and harmony, one fish at a time.

As the current model** stands, each fish in a school seems to respond only to its nearest neighbors' movement, keeping a certain distance between itself and the others. This creates a beautiful propagating pattern whenever certain members of the group decide to change the direction of their swimming. The following project is an initial experiment attempting to simulate this behavior musically.
The main features are as follows:
1) There are six different "fish," each playing certain designated notes.
2) The first fish responds to the changes in pitch, interval, or volume made by the sixth fish, the second fish responds to the first, the third fish responds to the second, and so forth.
3) Random "events" trigger these changes. It is also random which fish gets selected as the trigger, thus setting off the propagation (though the current version of the piece has been partly "composed" so the events that take place are not always random).

Because some parts of the composition is left to random chance, Sardines is different every time it is played. Below is just one of the many possible renditions of the piece. Listen (if you'd like!) for the changes in pitch and harmony, as well as how they are triggered suddenly or propagated gradually, and how these changes contribute to the movement, order, and chaos of the aggregate as a whole.

Below are the original ChucK file, as well as the PDF version of the same code for easier viewing:

*For more information on ChucK, please visit:
**To view Steven Strogatz's TED talk introducing this theory, please visit: