Number Tree: Process

Last modified on 2012-01-19 09:29:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

When I had the show at mineral in 2009, I showed an interactive audio/visual installation there called the “Number Tree.”  It was a number-based 3d animation that would trigger notes in my synthesizer to make music that was related to the numbers used and events happening in the animation.  Yes, I know that sounds confusing.  Let me try to explain.

A still image from my "Number Tree" animation. The flakes above are 10-sided polygons, and the spheres on the tree represent the number one. When the flakes collide with the tree "leaves" the animation would send the value 10/1 to my synthesizer.

There are two basic components to the visual animation, the “flakes” which are recursive polygons (polygons layered with other polygons of the exact same shape, but smaller),  and the leaves of the tree, which are like flowers that represent numbers. You can see that more clearly in the picture below:

Here you can see the flowers on the tree better. if you count the 'petals' on each flower that gives you the number each flower represents. For instance, a four-petaled flower colliding with a spherical "flake" creates the value 1/4 and sends it to the synthesizer.

I was struggling with ways to create visual representations of numbers.  I found that it was quite difficult to create something that was truly comprehensible, and ended up making most of my decisions based on aesthetics.  Here is a picture of a recursive polygon I drew in the course of my research for doing this animation:

This is just an image made by layering octagons over each other thousands of times. To explain: each vertex of an octagon is the beginning of a new octagon centered on the point of the vertex, but smaller. So one octagon has 8 more octagons on its vertices. by the time you draw 8 octagons on each of those new ones, and are 3 "iterations" into the snowflake, there are 73 octagons. And it increases exponentially.

Anyway, the numbers that are created by the collision events between the flakes and the flowers, represent musical frequency ratios.  For insance, the 10/1 ratio I brought up before–that is a representation of the tenth harmonic in the overtone series, or a major third several octaves above the original note, or “root frequency.”  All these numbers the animation creates represent different musical pitches.  The animation sends these numbers to my synthesizer.

I have a digital modular synthesizer called a “nord g2″ that is programmable with this visual coding and patching language.  I was able to make some sophisticated sound presets that used the numbers to make different sounds with the melodies created by the animation, and accompanied those melodies with some drums and so on.  I also made the synthesizer change sounds randomly every few minutes, to keep things interesting.  I made a recording of the sound:

Number Tree audio example mp3 download

I also took a quick and dirty video of the animation with sound:

Number Tree video example.  mov file

Those are some LOW notes

One other thing that was included with the installation was the option of user input.  I set up a number pad, and viewers at the gallery could enter sets of numbers and hear the resulting music.  It was a lot of fun!




Algorithmic Drawings: the Sketches

Last modified on 2012-01-15 06:19:14 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

There was a lot of hair-pulling and tooth-gnashing that went into the coding of my program that I use to make my algorithmic drawings.  It took a few weeks to get right.  And the algorithm is very processor intensive, so I would sometimes have to wait 5 or 10 minutes or longer just to see the results of one specific set of values for the algorithm.   And then I would tweak the numbers a little bit, and try again.  It was a painstaking process.  Here, I’d like to share some of my “drafts” that I made before I came to my final results.  I’ll post a gallery of images with explanations in the captions.

This is the original photo that I used for my "Stair Trees" image. it is an alley in downtown Seattle with a fire escape.

Stair Trees Draft 1

This is a kind of first draft, where I am testing that the algorithm correctly found the lines and angles in the image.

A second draft, seeing if I could do something interesting with lines and boxes.

Here I make my first attempt at using an "L-System" algorithm to draw over the image. I was going for a fractal, geometric look.

Here, I start getting close to my final result. I use the same "L-System" algorithm but start trying to get a more organic look.

And this is the final version! It is displayed as a 13"x19" print.