When you look at where we have originated, as a species, humans have evolved (or have been created - if you prefer that wording) to function within the natural environment. Therefore, it seems only natural to assume that we perform better when we have a natural environment around us, and that we will feel most relaxed in certain types of natural environment. As the world becomes more industrialized, and more and more people live within a human-made environment isolated from nature, questions about the qualities or properties of natural phenomena that has this beneficial effect on us become more relevant and important. What is it that makes nature relaxing, refreshing, and otherwise beneficial to our well-being?
Rhythmic randomness. Rhythmic randomness postulates that all natural phenomena exhibits an inherent variability and repetitiveness within its structure. The variability aspect suggests that there is a uniqueness to each and every instant, event, and entity. The repetitive characteristic suggests that all natural phenomena have cyclical aspects to their form, structure or reoccurrence.
For example, in the image of a forest the vertical lines of the tree trunks form a visual rhythm. However, there is a natural randomness in tree placement, that is, the trees are not equal distance apart. So the visual effect is of a natural rhythm but with an element of variability within that rhythm. This is what I call rhythmic randomness. Also there is a variance in tree thickness and straightness, creating more randomness in the visual rhythm.
Another example is the latest recording from Nature Sounds.ca. Creek Relaxation features the rapid flow of water over a creek bed, which creates a sound of random
splashes. The random tones and pitches of the splashes are caused by the creek bed
which is composed of randomly sized rocks. The constant volume of water combines with the unchanging rock positions to create the rhythmic aspect of the sound. The sound has a high degree of totally random aspects to it, yet has enough repetition in it so that it sounds exactly the same from beginning to end. Creek Relaxation page.
Our senses are optimized to deal with these types of complex stimuli. The repetitive nature of the sound is reassuring and relaxing, while the randomness creates the interest and holds the attention.
Karl Hamilton BFA