Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zen Venn Garden

Venn diagrams are graphic representations of all logical relationships of a finite group of sets. What we see most often are two set combinations that show two sources, such as people interested in plants and people interested in venn diagrams. Where they overlap you have people who are interested in plants & venn diagrams.

This idea of overlap got me thinking about hybridization of plants that has been practiced by farmers and nurserymen since the dawn of agriculture to produce more desireable varieties for human consumption, whether edible or visual (see Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire). Why not celebrate this hybridization with a garden that starts with a finite set of plants each with a featured trait (ie. variegated, dwarf, purple-leaf, etc.) and then add additional plants where these traits overlap. So you end up with your very own Venn garden. In my Venn garden experiment I decided to take the planting bed layout very literally, because I think that Venn diagrams themselves have interesting shapes. Here are some diagram examples for different types of sets:

3 set

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venn_diagram

4 set

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venn_diagram

6 set

source: http://warpinghistory.blogspot.com/2010/04/finding-antipodes-mathematical.html

7 set

As you can see, they can become quite complex, and I decided to start off with examples of three and four sets. Some CAD drafting and Sketch-Up importing left me with these two raised planter diagrams:

Thinking about how one would view the garden, I decided that I it might be better to incrementally sink the overlapping beds so you could get an overview of all the plants when standing at the top. I also had to choose some plants to fill those beds with. When I really started thinking about the overlapping plant traits, it was harder to think in terms of larger plant sets than I thought it would be, so I decided just to detail out a 3-set Venn garden. Agaves came to mind because I'm fond of their sculptural qualities, and they're the types of plants obsessive collectors really get into producing or discovering unique versions of plants with unusual traits. Here is the final, annotated rendering:

The overall effect of gazing down at a grouping of plants and focusing on their qualities, I think has a very Zen Garden quality of meditation, hence the moniker Zen Venn Garden. I guess the next step is the Euler Garden.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

time-lapse audio

Last fall the office space I was working in had a metal roof and above that the canopy of a very large oak tree full of acorns. The plink and plunk of dropping acorns on the metal during that autumnal season became an ambient soundtrack to our day. I started to wonder, though, was there a percussive pattern to the dropping of the acorns that we were not aware of because it happened so slowly? And if so, how could you capture a time lapse version of that sound?

R. Luke DuBois' developed the phrase "Time Lapse Phonography" to describe his systematized compression of previously created musical pieces into time-lapse tone pieces. His version of Handel's Messiah was his first well known piece that he created using this technique.

But my sound question involves not a previous piece of music, but the daily sound we hear. The internet delivered a couple of examples of such aural compressions. The first of these is 24 hours of normal living compressed to 1 minute.

The second is a more selective splicing of vocal excerpts from the first 13 years of a girl's life compressed into two minutes.

My time frame is somewhere in the middle, but I'm not certain that a microphone would be the best tool to record this oak acorn drop pattern. Instead, I began to think of the nets placed to catch the natural drop of olives in some groves.

What if such a net was placed under the oak tree and acted as a sort of midi capture device. The pressure of the acorn hitting the net would trigger an input to be recorded, almost like a seismometer reads slight ground motion. Maybe a seismometer would even be the best tool for this process. Anyhow, after after maybe a week of recording you'd have your source material that would then need processing. Other "noise" would need to be filtered out from the data, such as movement from wind on the net, the pressure from a squirrel running on it. At the end of it you could play back the sound as a drum or maybe sample the sound of an acorn dropping on a metal roof and use that as the playback "voice" for the percussive piece. Then we have a partial soundtrack to this time-lapse video of an oak tree changing over a year.