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Chaotic Sound Synthesis

Author(s): Dan Slater

Source: Computer Music Journal, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Summer, 1998), pp. 12-19
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3680960 .
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Nearfield Systems, Inc. Chaotic Sound Synthesis
1330 East 223rd Street, No. 524
Carson, California 90745, USA

Solutions of chaotic and fractal equations have and reed instruments when played in a certain
provided artistically new and interesting classes of manner, and the sounds produced by an electric
images and sounds. Musical scores have been pro- guitar in heavy feedback. With a small change in
duced from Mandelbrot and Julia set images, and an initial value, the system output rapidly diverges
chaotic and fractal techniques have been used to in an unpredictable manner. A measure of this
directly synthesize a variety of sound waveforms chaotic sensitivity to initial conditions is the
(see, for example, Monro 1991). One popular ap- Lyapunov exponent, one of which has a positive
proach to sound synthesis is based on Chua's cir- value in a chaotic system (Moon 1992; Peitgen,
cuit (Mayer-Kresset al. 1993; Mayer-Kress, Choi, Jurgens, and Saupet 1992). The maximal Lyapunov
and Bargar1993; Hunt and Johnson 1993). Another exponent is a time-average logarithmic measure of
method, described here, uses cross-coupled fre- the rate of divergence of nearby trajectories, and it
quency-modulated oscillators (chaotic FM synthe- takes on a positive value if the system is chaotic.
sis). Sounds produced by the chaotic FM technique
vary from pure sine waves to a variety of complex
signals and colored noises. The chaotic FM algo- ElectronicAnalogComputers
rithm includes conventional FM synthesis as a
subset. This chaotic FM method can be combined Electronic analog computers provide a powerful
with other chaotic synthesis methods, such as the tool for chaotic signal generation and processing.
Ueda attractor, providing an even wider range of As most musicians are not familiar with analog
sounds. Chaotic synthesis and filtering can be computers, they are briefly described here. Elec-
used in both the analog and digital domains, pro- tronic analog computers were originally developed
viding similar results. Several examples of chaotic for a variety of aerospace applications, including
synthesis methods in both domains are provided real-time aircraft and missile flight-dynamics
in this article. The emphasis, however, is on the simulation (Kornand Korn 1972). Analog comput-
analog methods, with examples using the Moog ers provided a powerful method for solving nonlin-
modular synthesizer, Buchla electronic musical in- ear differential equations, and were instrumental
struments, and electronic analog computers. in the development of chaotic systems theory
(Gleick 1987). The electronic analog computer is
in many ways the aerospace equivalent of the ana-
Background log modular music synthesizer. This type of com-
puter consists of a modular patchable arrangement
Chaotic systems are deterministic dynamic sys- of operational amplifiers, integrators, summers,
tems that have a high sensitivity to initial condi- multipliers, diode function generators, and other
tions. Only dynamic systems that include a elements (Kornand Korn1972). Electronic analog
nonlinear feedback path are capable of chaotic be- computers were used extensively from 1950-1980,
havior. Common examples of chaotic systems in- similar to the time in which analog electronic mu-
clude coupled pendulums, pseudorandom number sical instruments were popular. The analog com-
generators, and the earth's weather system. Musi- puter has been replaced in virtually all
cal examples include sounds produced by brass applications by the digital computer and, like the
analog modular synthesizer, is now considered ob-
Computer Music Journal,22:2, pp. 12-19, Summer 1998 solete. Several representative electronic analog
C 1998 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. computer models are listed in Table 1.

12 Computer Music Journal

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Table 1. Several small analog computers suitable for electronic music applications
Model Operational Amplifiers Multipliers Function Generators Notes

ComdynaGP-6 8 2 Optional Desktop

Comdyna808 8 4 Optional Rack-mount
EAITR-20 20 3 2 Table-top
EAITR-48 48 5 8 Table-top

With the recent renewed interest in analog modu- UedaAttractor

lar musical instruments, the analog computer may
again become a useful tool. Many analog computers Chaotic signals can be produced as the solution of
use a ?10-V signal voltage range, and are electrically a set of nonlinear differential equations-for ex-
compatible with Moog, Buchla, and other analog ample, the Lorenz or Duffing equations (Moon
musical instruments. Many types of musically use- 1992). The Ueda attractor, a simplified form of the
ful processing that can be done by an analog com- Duffing equation, is a second-order nonlinear dif-
puter have no equivalent in an analog modular ferential equation that can be readily solved in a
synthesizer. The electronic analog computer is ca- small analog computer (see Figure 2):
pable of many operations, rangingfrom simple con- 3=Bcos(wt)
trol-voltage scaling and summing to complex
x+kx+x (1)
fractal/chaotic sound synthesis and processing.
When programmed with chaotic patches, the
electronic analog computer can be interconnected TheLogisticEquation
with electronic musical instruments (see Figure 1),
providing amplitude-, waveform-, and frequency- Similar chaotic results can be obtained in digital
dependent nonlinear filters. Unlike conventional computers. One of the simplest and most-studied
filters, these chaotic filters are sensitive to the in- chaotic systems is a first-order nonlinear differ-
put signal's amplitude and waveform, and can pro- ence equation called the Logistic equation:
duce frequencies not present at the filter input.
The sounds produced by these types of filters are
x =A(x - x). (2)
unique and musically interesting. The analog com- This equation states that the next x value will
puter can be replaced by simple analog operational be a coefficient A.times the difference between the
amplifier circuits, providing similar results at the current x value and current x2 value (0 < x < 1).
loss of some versatility. These analog circuits pro- This calculation can be easily carried out on a
duce the classic chaotic results, i.e., high sensitiv- pocket calculator. The solution to this equation is
ity to initial conditions, period doubling, broad chaotic when the value of 2.is between 3.57 and 4.
spectral outputs, transient chaotic operation, etc. A common application of chaotic algorithms in
External signals can be injected into the circuits, computer science is the maximal-length-sequence
allowing an unusual type of nonlinear amplitude/ pseudorandom noise generator, a binary version of
frequency filtering. Analog chaotic circuits are a chaotic system.
useful for sound generation, sound filtering, con- Although the Logistic equation is normally pro-
trol-voltage generation, and control-voltage pro- grammed in a digital computer, it is a discrete-
cessing in analog modular synthesizers. time equation that can also be solved in analog

Slater 13

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Figure 1. The Comdyna set program coefficients, Figure 2. The Ueda pair of integrators and an
GP-6 analog computer on select signal-monitoring attractor is similar to a x3 function. A chaotic sys-
top of a small Buchla 200 points, and select differ- state variable filter, ex- tem requires both feed-
series Electric Music Box. ent operating modes. cept that the inverting back and nonlinearity.
The GP-6 analog com- Front-panel displays are stage has been replaced The feedback is provided
puter is programmed with used to show potentiom- with an x3 circuit and the by the ring-circuit topol-
patch cords connected to eter coefficients, problem signal input is connected ogy, and the nonlinearity
a patch-board area. results, and fault condi- to the first integrator is provided by the x3cir-
Knobs to the right of the tions caused by opera- stage. The Ueda attractor cuit. The x, circuit can be
patch board are used to tional-amplifier overload. is based on a ring-circuit constructed from a pair of
topology that includes a analog multipliers.
......... ...+.......
... . i @j .m•.. :
6++.~ ... .

.. .. ........ .. ... ... . .

Input A

... ...!

B+ X3
... . ........ ...... .
1> >
Output 1 Output 2 Output 3

........... .
though relatively few have been studied. Hyper-
. ..... .............. chaos requires, at a minimum, a four-dimensional
...... .......
...* system with two or more positive Lyapunov expo-
nents (Rossler 1979). In hyperchaotic systems, the
01pp-" phase space can be stretched in a multiplicity of di-
rections. One hyperchaotic system that has been
studied numerically is a pair of cross-coupled Van
der Pol oscillators (Kapitaniakand Steeb 1991). A
variation of this technique is chaotic FM synthesis.

Around 1970, I composed a 20-min piece of experi-
mental music on a small Buchla Music System 3
(MS3) instrument. This piece of music was a com-
plex and evolving sound sculpture. The small
form. As an example, the Logistic equation was Buchla electronic musical instrument included
programmed into an analog Moog modular music two voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs), a pro-
synthesizer. Three 902 VCA modules and a 928 grammable pulse generator, three envelope genera-
sample-and-hold module were interconnected as tors, and an envelope follower.
shown in Figure 3. A bifurcation plot of the Logis- After storing the tape for many years, I listened
tic equation is shown in Figure 4. to it again. Even though the Buchla MS3 had only
two audio oscillators, the piece of music had an
unexpectedly wide range of complex sound tex-
Systems tures. The sonic timbres produced by the two os-
cillators varied continuously over a wide range
When multiple chaotic interactions in a multidi- from pure sine waves to white noise, and often had
mensional phase space occur, the system can be- interesting stereophonic properties. Furthermore,
come hyperchaotic (Moon 1992). Many real-world it did not seem possible to approximate this piece
systems are likely capable of this behavior, al- of electronic music either by synthesis or by

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Figure 3. An analog imple- puts and outputs. The term. The control-voltage oscillator in the 928 mod-
mentation of the Logistic - and + signs indicate in- input into the third 902 ule sets the sample inter-
equation on a Moog verting and noninverting VCA is the chaos level (k). val. Adjusting the 928
modular music synthe- inputs (or outputs). Two All 902 modules were set slew rate limiter distorts
sizer. The 902 VCA mod- 902 VCA modules are used to the linear voltage-con- the discrete-time nature of
ule is a voltage-controlled, to form the x2 term. A trol mode. The 928 mod- the system, providing in-
variable-gain amplifier third 902 VCA module is ule provides a one-sample teresting variations to the
with both differential in- used to form the k(x - x2) time delay. An internal chaotic output.


xl in + +
Moog Moog Moog
Moog 928 902 +- 902 902
Sample & Hold VCA VCA
x3 out VCAOutput Output
+ X2+X - +
- + X k(x2-X)
x Chaos CV input

sampling on a state-of-the-art Kurzweil K2000 L= R= 1 = initial oscillator value (complex

music synthesizer. It rapidly became apparent signal vector),
that chaotic dynamics were at the core of this = -4,050T = frequency of oscillator 1 (Hz),
musical piece. fl = 800T + 200 =
The foundation of the musical piece was a set of f2 frequency of oscillator 2 (Hz),
cross-coupled FM-modulated-oscillators: VCO 1 k = 10,000T = oscillator 2 FM coupling
was frequency-modulating VCO 2; and likewise, to oscillator 1,
VCO 2 was frequency-modulating VCO 1 (see Fig-
ure 5). As the FM gains were increased beyond a k2
= 20,000T = oscillator 1 FM coupling t
certain point, the sounds became clearly chaotic as oscillator 2,
each oscillator was frequency modulating the s = 44,100 = sample rate (Hz),
other. With increasing FM gains, the sound as-
sumed a wide variety of timbres, finally becoming T = independent control variable
chaotic and eventually turning into white noise. (dimensionless), and
Additionally, the Buchla oscillator frequencies and i = -1.
waveforms could be varied, providing an even
larger sonic palette. The patch was further musi- The stereo audio output was produced from the
cally enhanced by a feedback loop through the en- real component of the L (left-channel) and R (right-
velope follower, programmable pulse generator, channel) signals.
and envelope generator. Nonlinearity and feedback are necessary condi-
As an experiment, the two-oscillator chaotic FM tions for the existence of chaotic processes. In this
synthesis portion of the patch was programmed in pair of equations, feedback is produced by cross-
an IBM PC computer. The sounds produced in this coupling the difference equations (Equations 3a
experiment were quite similar to those produced and 3b) through the and k2 terms. The required
by the Buchla 258-oscillator module. The follow- kz through the real-part(Re)
nonlinearity is developed
ing pair of difference equations were used to functions of the oscillator output. For a unit-length
implement a set of chaotically coupled linear-fre- signal vector, the k, and k2 terms have nonlinearity
quency-modulated oscillators operating at a 44.1- gain function of radians/[cos (radians)].If either
KHz sample rate. or k2 has a value of zero, the feedback path is re-kz
moved, and the equations form a single
Ln+i = /s))
Re(Rn)+2n(fh (3a) nonchaotic two-oscillator FM-synthesis operator.
If both k, and k2 are set to zero, both oscillators
Rn+ = Rne-i(k2 Re(Ln)+2n(f2/s)) (3b) will produce unrelated sine waves.
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Figure 4. This bifurcation low in value, the circuit Figure 5. A Buchla Music
plot (Gleick 1987) of the output is a square wave at System 3 with a chaotic
Logistic equation was pro- 1/2 of the sampling fre- patch. The dual oscillator
duced directly by a Moog quency. As Ais increased at the lower right has the
modular music synthe- in value, the control-volt- two outputs cross-
sizer coupled to a age output slowly bifur- coupled to the two FM
Tektronix 466 oscillo- cates into a four-level inputs.
scope. The vertical plot waveform, then into eight
axis is the output of the levels, and finally into
Logistic equation patch, random voltage levels.
. ...........
.... ...
shown in Figure 3. A Similar techniques can be .........
:;..:... j~
Moog 921 oscillator with used to produce Poincard
a sawtooth output was maps and other displays
used to sweep the value of of chaos (Gleick 1987). ..
............r .... ...... _?::.i;.
A,providing the horizon- These techniques can be
tal plot axis. The bifurca- used to produce voltage-
tion plot provides an controlled bifurcation and
'' "~''
""'Z'::::::-?: ""':~::'~~~.~~n
insight into the wave- Poincard outputs suitable
forms produced by the Lo- for controlling musical pa-
gistic equation. When Ais rameters.

'i ?t t 9•
? ? •
- .. ....
41• than conventional oscillators. For example, when
using the Buchla 265 "source-of-uncertainty"
.. . ?.•
oo. module, the random voltage outputs can be cross-
coupled to the probable-rate-of-changecontrol in-
puts. It is hard to describe the result, but it is
musically interesting.
In chaotic FM synthesis, as is typical of all cha-
The chaotic signal produced by Equation 3a is otic processes, it is desirable to have high-resolu-
shown as a spectrogram on the front cover of this tion (0.05 percent or better) control of the
issue. The y-axis has a frequency span from DC to oscillator frequencies and FM cross-modulation
22.05 kHz. The x-axis corresponds to T, which is gains. In analog systems, a ten-turn helipot can
linearly swept from 0.468-0.625. This spectrogram be used to provide this type of controllability.
shows both regions of wideband noise and regions Even then, significantly different sounds may oc-
of complex oscillations with structures somewhat cur as the pot wiper jumps a single wire turn.
analogous to classical period-doubling areas. Like a Patching tricks can be used in the Buchla 200 to
maximal length pseudorandom number generator, obtain a similar fine chaos control. Analog com-
this time series is completely repeatable if the puters have an excellent ability to provide high-
same kernel, coefficients, and floating-point word magnification exploration of chaotic systems.
format are used. Chaotic FM methods, like other chaotic systems,
Probably all modular analog music synthesizers are closely related to fractal structures, which can
are capable of chaotic FM synthesis. One of the have exceedingly fine detail. This is rather like
most popular applications of the small EMS AKS looking through a microscope at a large object
briefcase synthesizer is the creation of unusual with fine detail. There is quite a bit of acoustic
chirps and noises. These sounds are often based on detail in the chaotic FM algorithm, and one must
cross-coupled oscillators that produce chaotic os- be careful not to miss the subtleties as the coeffi-
cillations. Even a pair of cross-coupled frequency- cients are varied.
modulated laboratory function generators can As another experiment, the previously described
produce a wide variety of interesting chaotic FM Ueda attractor was programmed into a Comdyna
sounds. The cross-coupling method for producing GP-6 analog computer. The analog computer was
chaotic signals can be used with modules other used to chaotically modify one feedback path of a

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Figure 6. An "artist's con-
ception" of a chaos mod-
ule for a Buchla 200 series
Electric Music Box.

chaotic FM synthesis patch on a Moog analog

modular synthesizer. Four audio outputs, suitable CHAOSPROCESSOR
for a quadraphonic sound space, were obtained: UEDAATTRACTOR POINCARE'
two sine-wave outputs from the two oscillators
and two outputs from the two integrator stages in
the Ueda attractor. The sounds produced were notch band low
high Input1
clearly chaotic, and formed a superset of sounds
relative to those produced separately by either the
standard chaotic FM patch or the Ueda attractor. A
Poincar6 map (Gleick 1987) could be readily 2
formed on a storage oscilloscope, showing the un- nput
usual dynamics of the underlying strange
attractor. When the analog computer was put in . .input
S5h 20khz rlrence
the repetitive-operation mode, interesting rhythms
were formed.

Soutput 1
The theory of chaotic dynamics had not been de-
veloped during the time that most analog modular n "rity oupumt2
synthesizer development occurred (1965-1980).
What synthesizer modules would have resulted EQUATION
from a formal knowledge of chaotic dynamics .LOGISTIC
theory? Chaotic sounds are produced by many
nonelectronic musical instruments, and the desire
to emulate these would likely have driven a desire chaos level ... mbd in out
for a chaos module. The following is a design con-
cept for a chaos module that is compatible with a
Buchla series 200 Electric Music Box. The chaos
module includes three subsections: an Ueda chaoslevel lab in out
attractor for audio processing, a Poincar6 control- -
-? ?
voltage processor, and a pair of Logistic circuits, , :? ??:? ..? ?:???i:• ??? ?... .?

one for audio signals and one for control-voltage

processing. An artist's-concept drawing of this
module is shown in Figure 6. The concepts pre-
sented here could also be used in the design of an limiter. Three terms will be voltage-controlled: k,
equivalent software module for a digital synthe- Q, and frequency. There is one audio input and
sizer or computer. four audio outputs (high pass, low pass, band pass,
The similarities in circuit topology between the and band reject). The band-pass and low-pass out-
Ueda attractor, state-variable filter, and quadrature puts are in phase quadrature.
oscillator suggest a module with multiple capabili- The Poincar6 map processor consists of a circuit
ties. By using an xk function, the circuit can be dy- that produces a short pulse at each positive-going
namically varied between a Ueda attractor (k = 3) zero-crossing of the reference audio input that
and a state-variable filter or quadratureoscillator drives a pair of sample-and-hold circuits. Nor-
(k = 1). The quadrature-oscillator capability can be mally, two of the outputs of the Ueda attractor in
obtained by supporting an infinite Q and a soft phase quadraturewould be connected to the

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Poincar6 map processor to derive the x and y gistic equation, and related bifurcation displays-
terms. The input to the Ueda attractor circuit in can be directly produced by a conventional, un-
this case is used as a reference input. An internal modified, analog modular music synthesizer.
delay network, all-pass filter, or Dome filter can be Almost all currently existing digital musical in-
used to derive the second channel when only a struments allow only a narrowly defined set of
single chaotic signal, such as that produced by the preconceived topologies (patches). As an example,
Logistic circuit, is available. The reference signal virtually all current digital synthesizers exclude
can also be derived in a similar manner if it is not nonlinear feedback paths, a mandatory require-
explicitly available, as in the case of a chaotic FM ment for the existence of a chaotic system. One
patch. The necessary signal routing is automati- significant exception is Kyma, which is capable of
cally accomplished by "normaled" front-panel a wide variety of user-defined patches, including
jacks. The Poincar6 function provides control-volt- those with nonlinear feedback.
age outputs that correspond to the x- and y-coordi- Wide-band, wide-range, high-resolution, con-
nates of the chaotic attractor. An image of the tinuous parameter control is desirable because of
underlying attractor can be formed by plotting the fractal nature of the chaotic systems. These
these x-y voltage outputs on a storage oscilloscope. types of control signals are produced naturally by
Front-panel LED indicators reveal the control-volt- analog modular synthesizers and electronic analog
age outputs. computers. Most currently available digital sys-
There are two similar Logistic circuits in this tems are quite limited in producing these types of
module: one for audio, and one for control voltages. control signals. This is not to say that digital tech-
The audio version acts somewhat like a voltage- nology is incapable of solving these limitations. As
controlled waveshaper, with the output varying was shown earlier in this article, chaotic algo-
from a square wave to various subharmonic and rithms are easy to implement in digital form.
noise waveforms. Both Logistic circuits accept
chaos-level control-voltage inputs and provide
stepped voltage outputs. The control-output voltage Conclusions
is indicated by the brightness of a monitor LED.
Chaotic systems are useful for sound generation,
sound filtering, control generation, and control
AnalogMethods processing in electronic musical instruments. A
chaotic system fundamentally requires that a non-
This article has emphasized the use of analog in- linear feedback loop be present. Chaotic processes
struments for the production of musically interest- can be implemented equivalently in analog and
ing chaotic systems. While the current-generation digital systems.
digital synthesizers are very capable of emulating Chaotic FM synthesis produced by cross-coupled
conventional musical instruments, they are more frequency-modulated oscillators provides a par-
limited in the exploration of abstract musical ticularly simple and powerful tool for the produc-
ideas. Here, the older analog modular instruments tion of a wide variety of dynamically variable,
provide two significant advantages: (1) the modu- musically interesting timbres. This single patch is
lar analog systems can be patched into a wide capable of producing sounds that are dynamically
range of nonstandard topologies, including various variable, from pure sine waves to various forms of
classes of chaotic systems; and (2) modular analog complex colored noise. Chaotic FM synthesis in-
systems provide multidimensional wide-range, cludes conventional FM synthesis methods as a
wide-bandwidth, high-resolution (continuous) pa- subset. Probably all modular analog synthesizers
rameter control. can use chaotic FM synthesis techniques without
Chaotic signals-such as those produced by cha- significant modifications.
otic FM synthesis methods, the discrete-time Lo- Tools of chaotic dynamics research can also be

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used in a musical context. Voltage-controlled bi- References
furcation and Poincar6 maps can be used to con-
trol musical parameters in analog modular Gleick, J. 1987. Chaos: Making a New Science. New
synthesizers. Equivalent software programs can be York:Penguin.
implemented in digitally based music synthesizers Hunt, E., and G. Johnson. 1993. "Keeping Chaos at
(or on general-purpose computers). Bay." IEEESpectrum (November):32-36.
Chaotic processes can be combined, providing a Kapitaniak, T., and W. Steeb. 1991. "Transition to
larger subset of available sounds. One example is Hyperchaos in Coupled Generalized Van der Pol
the insertion of the Ueda attractor into the chaos, Equations." Physics Letters A 152(1,2):33-36.
Korn, G., and T. Korn. 1972. Electronic Analog and
producing feedback paths of a chaotic FM synthe- Hybrid Computers, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
sis patch. The sounds produced are chaotic but
Mayer-Kress,G., I. Choi, and R. Bargar.1993. Sound
have a wider range of sonic characteristics than Synthesis and Music Composition using Chua's
those produced individually by either chaotic FM Oscillator. In Proceedings Workshops of the
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tems have been studied by only a small percentage its Applications (NOLTA), pp. 65-70.
of the chaotic dynamics researchers. This area is Mayer-Kress,G., et. al. 1993. Musical Signals from
worthy of much more attention. For example, Chua's Circuit. IEEETransactions on Circuits and
what happens if more than two oscillators are FM- Systems 40:688-695.
coupled in a ring or star configuration? What hap- Monro, G. 1991. "FractalInterpolation Waveforms."
Computer Music Journal 19(1):88-98.
pens if other cross-modulation techniques, such as
Moon, F. 1992. Chaotic and Fractal Dynamics. New
amplitude modulation (AM), double sideband York: Wiley Interscience.
(DSB), and single sideband (SSB)are used? What Peitgen, H.-O., H. Jurgens, and D. Saupet. 1992. Chaos
happens if a pair of Ueda attractors are cross- and Fractals. New York: Springer-Verlag.
coupled, or if a reverberatoris inserted into a cha- Rossler, 0. 1979. "An Equation for Hyperchaos."
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