Aleatory means "pertaining to luck", and derives from the Latin word "alea", the rolling of dice. Aleatoric, indeterminate, or chance art is that which exploits the principle of randomness.


An example of aleatory writing is the automatic writing of the French Surrealists involving dreams, et cetera. The French literary group Oulipo for example saw no merit in aleatory work and its members altogether eliminated chance and randomness from their writing, substituting potentiality as in Raymond Queneau's "Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes (Hundred Thousand Billion Poems)".Fact|date=August 2008clarifyme|date=August 2008

Luke Rhinehart's novel "The Dice Man" tells the story of a psychiatrist named Luke Rhinehart who, feeling bored and unfulfilled in life, starts making decisions about what to do based on a roll of a die.Fact|date=August 2008

Charles Hartman discusses several methods of automatic generation of poetry in his book "The Virtual Muse".Citation
last = Hartman
first = Charles
title = The Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry
place= Hanover, NH
publisher = Wesleyan University Press
year = 1996
isbn = 0819522392
(see especially pp. 54–64.)]


Pierre Boulez applied the term aleatoric music to his own pieces to distinguish them from the indeterminate music of John Cage, though both are often described as aleatory. While Boulez purposefully composed his pieces to allow the performer certain liberties with regard to the sequencing and repetition of parts, Cage often composed through the application of chance operations without allowing the performer liberties. Another prolific aleatory music composer is Karlheinz Stockhausen. [Sabine Feisst, "Losing Control: Indeterminacy and Improvisation in Music Since 1950", "New Music Box" (1 March 2002): § [ "Aleatory—Pierre Boulez"] .] Qubais Reed Ghazala, founder of the circuit-bending chance-music movement, is an important contemporary chance artist also pioneering aleatoric work in visual media (original techniques in suminagashi, dye migration, aperture shift photography).


In film-making, there are several avant-garde examples; Andy Voda's "Chance Chants" (1979) was created completely using various chance operations (coin flip, choosing words out of a hat, a recorded "telephone game", the vagaries of tracing over drawings) in the decision-making for each creative choice. It was a three part film, the first part being a hand-made computer film, the second a visualization of Allison Knowles' [] computer poem "House of Dust", and the third a visualization of evolution through a children's telephone game. Fred Camper's "SN" (1984, first screening 2002) [Fred Camper, [ "SN", a film by Fred Camper"] , 2002.] uses coin-flipping to determine which three of 18 possible reels to screen and what order they should go in (4896 permutations). Barry Salt, now better known as a film scholar, is known to have made a film, "Permutations", six reels long which takes the word aleatory quite literally by including a customized die for the projectionist to roll to determine the reel order (720 permutations). [Anon., [ "Six Reels of Film to Be Shown in Any Order (1971)"] , BFI Film & TV Database.]


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  • aleatory — ale·a·to·ry / ā lē ə ˌtōr ē/ adj [Latin aleatorius of a gambler, from aleator gambler, dice player, from alea, a dice game]: depending on an uncertain event or contingency as to both profit and loss the aleatory nature of a lawyer s contingency… …   Law dictionary

  • Aleatory — A le*a*to*ry, a. [L. aleatorius, fr. alea chance, die.] (Law) Depending on some uncertain contingency; as, an aleatory contract. Bouvier. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • aleatory — (adj.) of uncertain outcome, lit. depending on the throw of a die, 1690s, from L. aleatorius pertaining to a gamester, from aleator a dice player, from alea a game with dice; chance, hazard, risk; a die, the dice; perhaps lit. a joint bone, a… …   Etymology dictionary

  • aleatory — (also aleatoric) ► ADJECTIVE 1) depending on the throw of a dice or on chance. 2) relating to music or other forms of art involving elements of random choice during their composition or performance. ORIGIN from Latin aleator dice player …   English terms dictionary

  • aleatory — [ā′lē ə tôr΄ē] adj. [L aleatorius, of gambling < aleator, gambler < alea, chance, a dice game] 1. of or depending on chance, luck, or contingency 2. ALEATORIC …   English World dictionary

  • aleatory — /ay lee euh tawr ee, tohr ee, al ee /, adj. 1. Law. depending on a contingent event: an aleatory contract. 2. of or pertaining to accidental causes; of luck or chance; unpredictable: an aleatory element. 3. Music. employing the element of chance… …   Universalium

  • aleatory — adjective Etymology: Latin aleatorius of a gambler, from aleator gambler, from alea a dice game Date: 1693 1. depending on an uncertain event or contingency as to both profit and loss < an aleatory contract > 2. relating to luck and especially to …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • aleatory — Synonyms and related words: Nachtmusik, absolute music, accidental, adaptation, adventitious, adventurous, air varie, aleatoric, aleatory music, amorphous, arrangement, blobby, blurred, blurry, broad, casual, causeless, chamber music, chamber… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • aleatory — a•le•a•to•ry [[t]ˈeɪ li əˌtɔr i, ˌtoʊr i, ˈæl i [/t]] also a•le•a•tor•ic [[t]ˌeɪ li əˈtɔr ɪk, ˈtɒr , ˌæl i [/t]] adj. 1) law Law. depending on an uncertain event: an aleatory contract[/ex] 2) of or pertaining to luck or chance; unpredictable 3)… …   From formal English to slang

  • aleatory — adj. [L. alea, chance] Pertaining to organs that are existing or lacking, depending on chance; see vertition …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

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