DAC Home The 21st C. Virtual Reality Color Organ

Jack Ox
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Jack Ox will give a description of the algorithmic, music visualization system she developed over a period of twenty years outside of cyberspace. She will then describe the transformation of this system into a Virtual Reality 3 D immersive world utilizing supercomputing technology.

Ox makes detailed analyses of musical data from either the written score and/or an electronic score known as MIDI. This information might include any or all of the following; pitch, harmonics, phonemes and/or formants, time, timbre, and dynamics. Each of these is translated into a visual data system created by the artist.The environment through which the data is experienced or seen has always been landscape and/or architectual images which are connected to the visualized music in metaphorical and structural ways. These visual images or 3d worlds are cut up and otherwise abstracted by the information flowing from the source music and put together into structures which are the collective, unpredictable results of the interaction of independently operating systems.

She has also developed several complex color systems for the carrying of information including harmonic movement and quality, vowels, timbre, and dynamics.These color systems ocupy an important place in the complex of systems needed to translate music into visual images with a satisfactory level of detail.

The latest version of this group of systems has become an actual visualization instrument, which is a collaboration with David Britton, CTO of Sputnik7. This means that its systems and visual environment can be used for more than one composition and also for different composers. It is called ãThe 21st C. Virtual Color Organä because it is the most recent incarnation of an ongoing number of interesting precedents like the 1730 Ocular Harpsichord by Louis B. Castel, numerous experiments at the end of the 19th C. with color organs, continuing into the late 1940âs with Charles Dockumâs Mobil Color. The Virtual Color Organ is an interactive, stereoscopic, immersive sound and visual environment, virtual reality instrument, which can be performed in the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment.

Ox will describe the project currently being realized in the Organ, ãIm Januar am Nilä, by the internationally known computer composer, Clarence Barlow. The melodic structure of this piece takes its mathematical components from a spiral, while the harmonic structure comes from the formants of vowel sounds.

The Virtual Color Organ has been supported by NCSA at UIUC, including time in their CAVE and funds for software support. Silicon Graphics has given
hardware support and EAI has given Sense8's World Tool Kit the program being used to develop the Virtual Color Organ. Ars Electronica provided the initial research and development money, Robert Putnam from SCV at BU is doing the interactive, kinetic sound placement and 3D localization. Ox was visiting fellow in the department of Computer Science at Loughborough University, England, in 2000. ASCI is supporting the project as the umbrella organization receiving non-profit funds.


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