The Image Performer Project

The Image Performer Project is aimed at organizing learning around the design and development of a visual music instrument, the Image Performer. Image Performer will be an iPad app, designed to serve as a foundation for a generation of visual synthesizers conceived and built by the artists and musicians who want to play them.

The instrument will serve as a boundary object, used to understand, test, and expand upon some of the big ideas that have arisen in the history of visual music. I announced this project in a video presentation at Seeing Sound 2020. This 15 minute presentation describes the vision and briefly identifies some of those ideas.

The Imager Project: Designing the Future of Painting

You can learn more on the Image Performer page of this site and you are invited to join the Image Performer Project.

References, in order of appearance

Willard Huntington Wright, The Future of Painting, 1923. The link is to a full text of the book that provided the structure for the talk.

John Loughery, Alias S. S. Van Dine: The Man Who Created Philo Vance, 1992. This is an engaging biography of Willard Huntington Wright which also provides great glimpses into the life of his artist brother, Stanton Macdonald-Wright.

Thomas Wilfred, “Light and the artist,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, June 1947, 247-255 and “Composing in the art of lumis,” December 1948, 79-93.

Stanton Macdonald-Wright, “A Treatise on color,” 1924 reproduced in the 1967 Smithsonian Retrospective Exhibition Catalog (edited by David W. Scott).

Thomas Cole, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole (Elliot S. Vessell, ed), Chapter 20, 1997.

John Whitney, Digital Harmony: On the Complementarity of Music and Visual Art, 1980.

Karl Gerstner, The Forms of Color: The Interaction of Visual Elements, 1986.

Gordon Pask, “A comment, a case history and a plan,”  in Jasia Reichardt [ed.], Cybernetics, Art, and Ideas, London: Studio Vista, 1971, 76-99.

Contributions, with thanks!

The drummer/composer/improvisor appearing in the first clip is Anthony Taddeo.

The artist/teacher appearing in the second clip is Catherine Butler. The music was Chrissie Hynde’s Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters.


Stanton Macdonald-Wright’s 1960-69 piece is titled the Synchrome Kineidoscope. It is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art collection.

Expanded Animation @ Ars Electronica

I am looking forward to my presentation at next week’s Expanded Animation symposium, held in conjunction with Ars Electronica. This year’s symposium, whose topic is Synaesthetic Syntax: Sounding Animation / Visualizing Sound, will be streamed online. My talk will be presented at 11:25 a.m. EST on Sunday, September 13th. I will then participate in a panel discussion shortly after at 12:05 p.m. The talk (available for preview on YouTube) is based on my paper Visual synthesizer design: Where modern art was headed.

If you’d like specifics on accessing the symposium (which takes place the 9th through the 13th), send me a note ( and I will forward the organizers’ email.

Saul Bass’ film title sequences

I have long been a fan of the designer Saul Bass, most especially of his film work. When I was doing design demos last year, a couple of the participants commented that what they were seeing and creating “felt very Saul Bassish.” Recently I came across a collection of most of his title sequences (and posters where film is not available) on the Saul Bass page of Christian Annyas’ excellent site devoted to movie title stills. On the strength of spending several hours with them, I added Bass’ work to the time line with a 1955 entry for The Man with the Golden Arm.

“Jammed” with drummer Anthony Taddeo

Drummer Anthony Taddeo and I met and decided we wanted to work together on a project just before the sheltering brought on by COVID-19. When he got an opportunity to put together a solo show he sent me a note asking if I would play Imager on a couple of the pieces. I had one day to take in the music, design a response and record each piece in a single take. Here is a link to Anthony’s performance which took place on May 27th. My improvisations were on the piece JawHarp (4:30), which starts at 12:00, and Bowls (9:45), which begins around 27:30.

“The hardest thing to talk about in music is melody”

I just added a quote from Pat Metheny’s stimulating conversation about Music and the Brain at Neuroscience 2018, to the “path to melody” item in Correspondences. Pat struggles with how to talk about melody in a way reminiscent of those music theorists that the great painter Gyorgy Kepes looked to for guidance in 1944. In doing so, he adds an important piece to this most complex of visual music puzzles: the long narrative or how to move from idea to idea to idea.

Creative Selection: a master class in software design

I have been teaching design for almost forty years and have been part of the explosion of interest in Managing as Designing since its inception. I have also been a software designer throughout that time, having designed several large applications, including one of the earliest personal data managers (The Desk Organizer for the Apple II, IBM PC and Macintosh computers). Ken Kocienda’s Creative Selection gives the most direct, clear and honest portrait of software design that I have encountered. I just posted a brief synopsis in the Design section of the Bibliography.

Seeing Thomas Cole’s Diagram of Contrasts

Sunday I spent the morning with Richard Sharp, Will Coleman, Jesse Bransford, Lisa Martin and Meredith Kane at the Cole House in the Hudson River town of Catskill, seeing and discussing what is likely the first manifestation by an American painter of an interest in color music.

The piece is a stunning color wheel just under two feet in diameter. As its title—Diagram of Contrasts—suggests, it is particularly focused on the issue of contrast in color, with each of its twelve segments moving from near white to near black versions of one of six hues.

Cole described his motivation for doing the piece in his November 5, 1834 diary entry.