Imager Design Demos

Our design demos are informal gatherings aimed at deepening our understanding of the issues involved in putting dynamic visual instruments into the hands of artists, musicians, and others. We have hosted nine such gatherings in 2019.

This casual video (0:32) captures a bit of artist Catherine Butler’s exploration during the first hour of her exposure to Imager. The music she was using is Chrissie Hynde’s recent recording of Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters.


Modern artists and critics have written about ways in which the sonic and the visual arts might map to one another. Karl Gerstner referred to these ideas taken collectively as correspondences. Following are a few of the studies I have created while developing a catalogue of correspondences; I think of these as akin to an animator’s pencil tests. Details are available on the linked pages.

Thickness to amplitude (0:53)

“The pressure of the hand upon the bow corresponds perfectly to the pressure of the hand upon the pencil.“

Wassily Kandinsky, Point and Line to Plane, 1926.

Shape to speed (1:06)

“Karwoski and Odbert (1938) discovered a systematic relation between the shapes of synesthetic visual forms and the tempos of the music. The faster the music, the sharper and more angular the visual image. “

Lawrence E. Marks, The Unity of Senses, 1976.

Purity to pitch (1:06)

“And dark and light colors do actually have effects which are comparable to low and high musical tones.”

Karl Gerstner, The Forms of Color, 1986.

Unauthorized Duets: The Authorized Edition

Cover for Unauthorized Duets CD

Between 1997 and 1999 I used Imager to produce a series of pieces that I called Unauthorized Duets. Each was an interpretation of recorded music. These interpretations, in the form of computer code along with a player, could be downloaded from the Internet.

Viewers placed their own copy of the artist’s CD in their computer’s CD drive to experience the “collaboration” in its original form. Because the musical portion was not included in the downloaded files and the experience was a personal one, performance releases were not required (hence the title). In 2000, we released a CD-ROM of some of the pieces that was produced with (licensed) music by contemporary recording artists Brian Eno, David Bowie and Eileen Ivers.

Blue Glass (5:25)

This wonderful studio jam, Blue Groove, is from Eileen Ivers’ 1996 album, Wild Blue. Lisa Lehman designed the interpretation that we produced together.

Music by Eileen Ivers (Green Linnet Records)

Films for Music (3:09)

I had long wanted to do abstract visual interpretations of some of the pieces on Brian Eno’s 1978 album Music for Films. This is one of several that I did while at IBM’s Watson Research Lab in 1998-99. This piece started as a study of color values and clipping rectangles. Only when I was preparing notes for the finished piece did I notice the cut’s title—Slow Water.

Music by Brian Eno (EGMusic, Inc.)

weDDDing (5:04)

weDDDing is an interpretation of the David Bowie instrumental The Wedding from his 1993 Black Tie White Noise album. While I was working on this piece, Cliff Pickover of IBM Research dropped a pair of Chromatek 3D glasses on my desk and wondered out loud what I might do with them. The glasses work by shifting warm colors forward and cool colors back and moving less saturated colors toward the center plane. Both of these effects are used, particularly in the latter half of the piece.

Music by David Bowie (Savage Records)