Leaf Loops
for Violin and Viola

The following recording of Leaf Loops was made by the wonderful Aperture Duo, consisting of Adrianne Pope and Linnea Powell (turn up your speakers—it starts quietly!)

The idea for Leaf Loops goes back to a couple of weeks I spent in Alaska in the summer of 2014 as part of the “Composing in the Wilderness” program conceived of and run by Stephen Lias. It was an inspiring experience; in fact, Counterflow and Foothills also came out of that trip.

During the trip, I found myself particularly fascinated by the contours of natural objects; they tend to be richly imperfect, and yet not randomly so. As someone who often composes in collaboration with a computer, I naturally imagined that the tracing of such objects might yield some interesting results when used as a parameter for generative music. When I got back home, I took some leaf contours and coded up the following:

Here, the blue dot quickly and repeatedly traces the outside of the leaf, while the red dot slowly traces the winding path of a leaf miner. The music is generated by looking at the length of the line between them and how it changes over time. Naturally, since the blue dot loops, so does the music, but it also gradually changes, as the red dot crawls along.

Taking the musical patterns that the computer spat out, and subjecting them to the whims of my musical intuition, I gradually ended up with Leaf Loops. It was an interesting process, since the looping nature of the material bent the piece towards minimalism, but I am not by nature a minimalist composer. This is one of the things I love about incorporating algorithmic processes into the act of composition; they tend to stretch you towards musical worlds you would never otherwise enter.

Thank Yous and Dedications

Leaf Loops is dedicated to my muse (my wife Emily), who had a valuable suggestion about the ending, and to my mews (Lexi 🐱), who taught me that a “minimal” lifestyle has much to recommend it. Thanks also to Brandon Rolle, and to Joel Feigin, who had invaluable advice that improved this piece immensely.