2018 Best in Time-Based Art – Jerry Arlen Jones


Last year I was honored to win best time-based category in the Science as Art competition. In approaching this year’s composition, I knew I must challenge myself to produce something truly different from my previous work. My score last year mixed traditional orchestra with digital instruments to simulate the big bang; I aimed to make opposite choices.

I choose the theme of biology this year and arranged my instruments around the fluid release of chemicals in the body, namely serotonin. I wanted to give the audience the impression of a complex, biological organism in front of them as well as simultaneously produce the same effects in the listeners brain. To contrast to my previous instrumentation and fit my new theme I choose to use guitars, varied synthesizers, pianos, a drum kit and heavy audio manipulation to create an interesting sound. It bridges older psychedelic rock with newer midi sound effects and hopefully presents something futuristic in its use of floating melody. Overall, there is an inconsistent, chemical texture to all of these instruments and the steady beat of a heart pumping these sounds through the body.

If listened to attentively, the flow should guide you through a range of emotions and stimulate responses in the brain of the listener. All music does this on some level, but my effects are chosen to heighten this sensation. The dark minor beginning has a liquid like texture that prepares the listener for an unusual audio experience, still the melodies remain accessible and fairly reminiscent of 60’s pop. The guitar that joins bubbles up with the piece, establishing that initial chemical like sensation that begins our journey. After a buildup, these give way to a heavily synthesized part that is meant to mimic the full rush of serotonin in the brain.

After this, the instruments reorient themselves with the purpose of sustaining that initial rush. The guitar comes in here with its rather catchy lead hooks that are expressive and calming, yet still feel as if they are part of another world. I took inspiration from 70’s psychedelic rock in crafting these, mixing them with my own penchant for soul music to create a partially soothing, part disconcerting vibe. These carry the listener out of the song, with a brief dip in levels to help even out the experience.

I believe the end result has a certain tranquility contained within an overall madness, not unlike the human experience of these biological processes. It feels like a unique audio experience. The instrumentation is different enough to leave a lasting impression and the hooks catchy enough to retrigger the sensation hours later. In many ways, this is an audio experiment mixed heavily with my own artistry and understanding of the body’s response to music. I tried to design something that moved, calmed and revisited me. It is my hope that the piece inspires some response within you.