Composing Music With Ants

Pavement Ants

Pavement Ants

Artist and musician, Ben Patterson was a classically trained bass player born in 1936. As an African American, no US symphony orchestra of the day would hire him.  He played music in Canada and with the integrated US Army’s symphony and searched for better opportunities.

Patterson moved to Europe and found a niche in the to avant garde Fluxus community exploring new ways of composing music. In the 1960s, he created a composition called “Ants”.  He released ants onto a sheet of paper, photographed their positions and used those positions to create a music score. The result was a new type of music, but not particularly musical or aesthetically pleasing and was set aside. Patterson observed, ” “Only much later did I realize that what I had discovered was a method and of course a method is not music.”

Later, Patterson returned to “Ants” and revised the score for presentation. The piece has been performed including a cut on the 2015 album “Fluxus Piano” by Steffan Schleiermacher. Patterson put his artistic career on hold and turned to library science to pay the bills. After he retired he returned to art and musical composition but never again used ants to create his compositions.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Art, by jjneal, Insect Inspired. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Composing Music With Ants

  1. Pingback: Composing Music With Ants – Entomo Planet

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