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Scientific Symposium Argument.

"Music is the perfect example of an unstable system. Even the most minor of Bach's works call upon rules and surprises. This is comparable to far from equilibrium systems. You can follow a succession of points, of bifurcations. Between the points of bifurcation, we can call upon a deterministic description (these are "Bach's Rules"). At the point of the bifurcation, we can find a probability description. The appearance of something new belongs to the very idea of creativity. This idea, I believe, can be applied to the sciences just as it can be applied to the arts and literature." Ilya Prigogine, interviews with Andrew Gerzso, Résonances n° 9, October 1995.

When we try to trace the markers of complexity in musical creation - breaks in symmetry, emergence and systems on the "edge of chaos" - there are so many different possibilities that the question quickly becomes confused. Several authors have distinguished the structural or intrinsic complexity of a work of art - as it could be "objectively" measured through its written or recorded traces - and the perceptive complexity, a spontaneous, and ephemeral one that would require the listener be questioned through methods used in experimental psychology. Beyond the fact that such objective measures are extremely problematic, the major problem may lie in the fact that we do not know which parts of the phenomenon to observe. Should we look for the structural complexity in the score? This is only one place to look because production schemas, systems of thought, formalisms and algorithms, structures of material all disappear in a somewhat irreversible manner in the linearity of graphemes. However, they are occasionally accessible in the sources that are studied in genetic research; in addition, the use of the computer for composition increasingly imparts these sources to the ductility of digital means. Is perceptive complexity a side effect, foreign to the work? This would be to underestimate the artists who claim the responsibility for the possibility of emerging musical objects that exist only at the moment in time when they are accepted by our cognitive systems while remaining irreducible to their components. An example of this could be complex timbres that come from the fusion of simpler timbres. This is, after all, the very definition of orchestration. We could certainly object that the organizational schemas that are not literally encoded in the score simply do not exist in the work. However, these schemas could provide the bridge between writing and perception in that they give at least an indication of the project - for example a temporal strategy, that is to say a strategy that consists of manipulating the listener in his temporal relationship with the work - that participates in the composition in its broadest definition, a systematic definition that covers the span from conception of the work to the listeners' ears.

Are these questions pertinent beyond the realm of music? Can we question the conditions surrounding the conception, the writing, the realization, the reception through the lens of complexity in cinema, literature, painting, or architecture? Is there a perceptive complexity at work in architectural wanderings; is there an emergence of new objects or new irreducible behaviors in their basic components in the algorithms of digital arts or in film editing? Is the complexity of a literary system likely to contribute to the emergence of instabilities and auto-organization in the diegetic space that the reader invents as time goes by?

Scientific models seem to teach us that the systems that capture our attention are "on the edge of chaos". In effect, it is at the borderline between order and chaos that systems evolve toward higher levels of organization as there is a large enough number of attractors to incite a front of innovation while avoiding - for the observer - a cognitive exhaustion inherent to complete order or to disorder, and therefore favoring the possibilities of progressive appropriation that then diminish the intensity of the surprise. If we admit that these properties are sought out by artists, even at a purely intuitive level, we can ask ourselves if there is a bond that brings together the temporal strategies of the composer, the film director, the digital artist - strategies that orient the viewer's subjective time - and the strategies related to the structural complexity of a work or art. We could say, to paraphrase Nelson Goodman, that a work of art functions like a sample-metaphor of a dynamic system far from equilibrium (and from boring...) whose limit cycles the viewer progressively discovers, as he discovers the history and the future of the system.

In this encounter between artists and scientists, the relationship with time goes beyond conventional operating strategies. For Prigogine, the bifurcations crystallize the story of the system. At the heart of all forms and processes in material and living systems, points of bifurcation make up a chronology of their former interactions with the environment. For the artist this also raises the question of choice and delegation of choice in the hostory of the creative process.

To orient this broad network of questions that could be raised among participants from the sciences or the arts during these days, we have chosen to organize the encounters in three categories:

  • Conceptions is designed around the systematic thinking of creation, generation, of structural complexity, of intentionality, and of (auto)-poetic systems
  • Languages will be dedicated to the notions of writing, mathematics, formal languages, logic, computer science, and algorithmic complexity
  • Time, Space, and Perception will address physical and perceptive complexity, models for memory, anticipation, and surprise, narration, history, performance, large-scale networks and societies.

Within each of these general categories the important concepts found in the science of complexity, in particular auto-organization, autonomy, and emergence in systems far from equilibrium, as well as the major paradigms-domains (physics, biology, computer technology, etc.) will be clarified for the general public and tested through a comparison with artistic practices, and tested as tools for analysis as well as creation.