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Section II – The Chance Element


If you are completely candid with yourself,

you will soon discover how much your discoveries hinge on contingencies.

Every now and then, when you happen to combine both boldness and skill,

you may be able to exploit a few of the lucky situations that arise.

But skill alone will not be enough, for much of the novelty in creativity is decided

only when you are bold enough to thrust at chance (Austin, p 64).


George Brecht notes the influence of chance and the unconscious in all aspects of creativity (Brecht 1966, p. 5). Being ‘conscious’ of the ‘unconscious’ allows the artist to choose exactly what degree chance happenings will influence their work. Ella Lyman Cabot explains that the beginnings of creativity often stem from chaos rather than the absolute (Cabot, cited in Kaag p. 402). My starting points have on the most part been chance driven and are related closely to Cabots idea of chaos. Starting a piece from chaos can initially be terrifying. James H. Austin comments: “To be fully creative, you must respond positively to the risk and the challenge of exploring new frontiers” (Austin 1978, p. 63). Exploring the chance element has been an integral part of my process and has broadened the possibilities within my compositions.


Cage incorporated multiple chance-related systems to make compositional decisions (Pritchett 1993, pp. 1-2). Though the concepts behind Cage’s compositions are intriguing and unique, his outcomes purely derived from chance procedures leave me unsatisfied. My work is about finding a balance: the balance of chance, intention and playing with the remnants in-between. Chance first acts as a system to create sounds and song elements. These elements are then allowed the freedom to fall as they will.

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