Stravinsky Rose Dome format

Details and documentation of the screening of Stravinsky Rose in half sphere format at the Understanding Visual Music – UVM 13 Concert, 9 August 2013, Galileo Galilei Planetarium, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Extract from the Understanding Visual Music – UVM 13 ‘Call for Papers & Works’. 



Considering that part of the symposium will be held in a Planetarium, the theme “From macro to micro” suggests the possibility of exploring multiple universes that we are just beginning to discover. Those worlds that are beyond human scale; real worlds, unreal worlds, perhaps worlds of unimaginable dimensions. Outer space, inner space, and those spaces in-between. An approach that can also allow us to leave the center of the stage.


“From macro to micro” is proposing us to look beyond, possibly far beyond, and maybe much more closer too. A challenge that can unite art, science and new technologies through a rich and attractive form of expression, and from a multiplicity of perspectives.




Concerts will be performed in the Galileo Galilei Buenos Aires Planetarium and in the General San Martín Cultural Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Worth remarking that this Planetarium has a new equipment that will allow an excellent quality of visualization for the images projected inside its dome. The projections inside the planetarium can be made in the whole half sphere (Dome format) or in 3 screens almost rectangular, uniformly distributed and equidistant (conventional format). Works could be submitted for those formats or conventional one single screen. The technical specs accepted for each format will be made public on this webpage soon.


I lurve planetariums and I’d never made a half sphere/Dome format film before, so this was an irresistible opportunity. I took a punt and made the following submission – which was accepted 😉

The Cymatic Cosmos

I propose developing a new half sphere work for UVM 2013 extending my 2012 work, The Whitney System, first showcased as part of Whitney Evolved at Kinetica Art Fair, February ’12 in London, UK in the massive underground, industrial P3/Ambika exhibition space. 15,000 visitors saw the works projected at large scale onto the rear wall of the venue throughout the 4-day event.

Realised in Processing and using the metaphor of the orrery to express the periodic and cyclic nature of John Whitney Sr.’s ‘Rose of Grandii’ algorithm, The Whitney System explores the Just Intonation – that is small whole number ratio – harmonic relationships that drive the divergence and convergence of a ‘solar system’ of dynamic visual patterns. Each orbiting rose is also a sound emitter – its pitch determined as a ratio of a base frequency according to its progression along the cycle of the algorithm. These orbiting audiovisualisations cycle around drifting in and out of harmonic alignment.

Referencing the concept of deep space probes, I plan a ‘fly through’ of close encounters with these various orbiting systems, revealing a series of refined audiovisual experiments where a live video capture of Cymatic patterns on the surface of the vibrating diaphragm of my instrument is augmented with digital visualisations realised in creative code that explore the Pythagorean Law of Harmony in visual form – such as the Superformula, 3D Lissajous figures and a virtual drumskin.

The various integrated elements of my performance system – a nodal sequencer, Lamdoma Matrix musical interface and hand-coded software synthesiser will  feature on screen as part of the ‘Heads Up Display’ as the probe continues its journey through this Cymatic cosmos. 


Admittedly I’d been opportunistic with the submission, but I’d significantly underestimated the sheer scale and consequential timeline required to produce a work in this format. (I’ve since learnt the hard way that is a substantial undertaking – my final 7:20 film comprised of almost 13,000 4k (4096×4096 pixels) PNG files totalling more than 51Gb.) So despite planning, collating resources and story boarding for The Cymatic Cosmos, once I’d started to make it I quickly realised there was actually no way I could produce it in the timeframe. I regrouped, apologised to the organisers and attempted a Dome format version of an existing work instead, Stravinsky Rose.

Stravinsky Rose
Lewis Sykes, Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD), Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

A ‘Whitney Rose’ inspired visualisation of Igor Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo (1918) performed by Fiona Cross of the Manchester Camerata

Stravinsky composed these colourful and witty works late in 1918, five years after The Rite of Spring and towards the end of his ‘Swiss’ period. His focus at the time, on miniatures and spartan musical textures scored for just a handful of musicians, culminated in The Soldier’s Tale – with its first production in September 1918 financed by Werner Reinhart. Composed immediately afterwards and closely linked to it, Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo were written as a thank you present to him. These three short monologues are among Stravinsky’s “biggest” little works. The first slow and introspective piece, which explores the clarinet’s low register, most likely began life as a song and was sketched as early as 1916. The second is Stravinsky’s “imitation” of improvisation (he had recently heard live jazz for the first time), written without bar lines. The third revisits the ragtime and tango of The Soldier’s Tale.

John Whitney Sr. is considered by many to be the godfather of modern motion graphics. “Beginning in the 1960s, he created a series of remarkable films of abstract animation that used computers to create a harmony – not of colour, space, or musical intervals, but of motion.” Based on the trigonometry of Euclidian geometry, Whitney used simple mathematical equations to generate elementary animated figures, arguing that their vital, alternately diverging and converging forms, could be viewed as a visual parallel to the sonic harmonic series. Drawing on Whitney’s legacy, this custom-coded, real-time visualisation adapts his geometric algorithm, ‘The Roses of Grandii’, to create dynamic ‘naturalistic’ patterns representative of each piece and more or less equivalent to the harmonic structure within the music itself.

Fiona Cross is one of the leading clarinetists of her generation. She has a varied career, combining chamber music for numerous ensembles with a solo career and playing guest principal clarinet with all the leading British orchestras including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and the English Sinfonia. She is currently principal clarinet of the Manchester Camerata and Professor of Clarinet at Trinity College of Music, London.


While this still presented a significant technical challenge – details of which are documented in a ‘Making of Stravinsky Rose Dome format’ post  at my Tumblr Digital Sketchbook – I just managed to realise the work in time and it was screened to a full house in the Galileo Galilei Buenos Aires Planetarium as part of the UVM 13 concert programme on the evening of Saturday, 9th August. 

Despite somewhat comical distortions due to an error of judgement on my part on the field of view of the dome, an unpolished audio track and a fairly coarse edit – it was amazing!

Photographs and video of the screening I shot using my Canon S100 – even at it widest angle – captured only a fraction of the dome – it was enormous. So the best documentation I can offer is a screen capture from DomeTester – a Cinder based app by Christopher Warnow and Dimitar Ruszev as featured on the University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam website that remaps a low resolution (512×512 pixel) version of the half sphere format onto a virtual dome (I only wished I’d found this sooner).