Skip to Main Content

David Dunn (January 27, 1988)02:04:12

Neil Denari introduces experimental composer, writer, and interdisciplinary theorist David Dunn to discuss his work and present his ideas as they relate to multiple disciplines. He has been the director of the electronic music studio at San Diego State University and has taught at numerous other universities. He is currently he is Vice President of the International Synergy Institute of Los Angeles and editor of Is Journal. For about fifteen years his work has focused on the interrelationships between a variety of geophysical phenomena, environmental sound, and music. His connecting of this work to a number of non-musical disciplines such as experimental linguistics, cognitive ethology, cybernetics, and systems philosophy has expanded his creative activities to include philosophical writings within a broad domain.

David Dunn discusses his work and presents his ideas as they relate to multiple disciplines. He focuses on his work from the last fifteen years which looks at modeling environmental interaction involving the traditions, structures, and psychological effects of music. Trained as a composer, he has worked with a number of other experimental composers including Pauline Oliveros, Kenneth Gaburo, and his principle teacher Harry Partch. He has spent the last fifteen years asking questions about the nature of music as a phenomena and studying how music connects to other disciplines. He is particularly interested in finding ways that art and science can begin to talk to each other again.

Following his description of a piece using three trumpets playing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Dunn plays a short excerpt where crows can be heard interacting and responding to the horns. This piece was important to him not just because of the sonic aspects, but also because it asks what the linkage is between music and whatever it was that made the crows as animals respond in the way they did. This experience led him to begin to explore the link between music and the phenomena of animal communication in general. It suggests that music may be a pre-verbal form of communication that shares much with the communicative behaviors of other animals.

Dunn describes his experience in Australia recording the calls of lyre birds that have the ability to mimic a wide range of sounds. Much of his work concerns the study of how animals think, called cognitive ethology and looks at new ways of defining the relationship between human beings and animals. In this way his work challenges the long held belief that humans are at the pinnacle of an evolutionary hierarchy.

Dunn describes the development of a piece that uses only the human voice and electronics, and explains the meaning of its title. He uses the word entrainment refers to the physical process of tuning a reciprocal adjustment based on resonance such as in tuning a piano. Another aspect of the piece is that it assumes that the environment has memory through an emergent process of mindedness. He refers to the work of a British botanist who suggested the idea of morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields which are shape-form fields which are not local and reside throughout the universe.