Friday, August 21, 2009

Protons, chairs and art

Things have a tendency to be composed by other things. How things break down depends on which system you use to break it down. Music as I have previously written about can be broken down into music grammar, an example might look something like this.

Opera > Act > Instrument > Key > Bar > Note

I don’t really know anything about opera so don’t think this is correct in detail, however the point is that the full experience consist of a significant hierarchy of information regulated by some grammatical rules.

Another example of a thing which breaks down into some kind of grammar could be a chair.

Chair > Material > Structure > Molecules > Atoms

Again I don’t know anything real about physics but again the point is the same.

It appears as nothing is exempt from the property of existing within a greater whole. The chair might exist within a room, which exists within a house in a town and so forth. The value of the chair might be linked to the town in which it is and what the local trends and cultures happen to be around there. Also atoms break down into smaller particles and forces if you desire to extend the model even further.

Now I’ll try get to the point of this little post.

In the case of music you can individually analyze each level of the breakdown for value and defects. If there are too many notes in a bar of music the music is defect which will make the whole opera sound foul. If you don’t know that the cause for the foul sounding opera is the existence of too many notes in one bar for a particular instrument you might attempt to repair the problem by adjusting everything else to fit the broken piece.

Much of the game design theory which I find on the internet contains the concept of how to break down games into their hierarchies. I find many of them exciting, especially the skill atom concept by Daniel Cook at

However there is something which nags at me as feeling insufficient with all the models I have seen so far. I suspect the cause is that the breakdown into a “grammatical” type of structure is limited to present only a portion of the piece. In the world of music the missing pieces might be covered by two additional components.

1 – The instruments and their properties
2 – The musician

These two properties can be seen as extending the breakdown of music into even finer components which define the properties of a note.

.. > Key > Bar > Note > character > harmonics > dynamics > phase > modulation > etc

Or you can turn it around and describe the waveform which is the end product of the Opera as math... a suitable task for a clever programmer with a big computer perhaps.

It might seem unlikely but there are several pieces of music which has its user value linked to the interaction between phase and dynamics within a single note. Two types that come to mind are electronic music and classical soloists who both expend great energy at refining these subtle parts of the product.

Now It might be about time to make an attempt at breaking down games into their relevant areas or materials. That will be another post.