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Molecular music: Repurposing a mixed quantum-classical atomic dynamics model as an audiovisual instrument

Hyde, Jo I; Mitchell, Thomas J.; Tew, Phillip; Glowacki, David Ryan

Molecular music: Repurposing a mixed quantum-classical atomic dynamics model as an audiovisual instrument Thumbnail


Jo I Hyde

Tom Mitchell
Professor of Audio and Music Interaction

Phillip Tew

David Ryan Glowacki


Molecular Music is an offshoot of a long-term collaborative project, the multi- award winning danceroom Spectroscopy (dS)[1]. dS has its roots in computational molecular dynamics, and was originally conceived to serve as an interactive platform for molecular simulation [2,3,4]. It offers a multisensory immersive experience based on cutting-edge science facilitating an understanding of the principles of our microscopic world through direct experience rather than traditional academic learning. It consists of system of particles, simulated according to strict scientific principles; represented both visually and sonically, which can be interacted with through human movement. The project consists of a public installation, and also a contemporary dance piece, Hidden Fields, which is performed using the system. Hyde’s contribution to the project consists of the sonification (interactive systems and sound design) for the installation, and the composition of an interactive score for the dance piece.
Molecular Music is intended to facilitate further exploration of the audiovisual relationships at play in dS and Hidden Fields and to explore more deeply how to sonify vibrations on a micro scale (where sound does not, as such, exist). We have built some highly developed algorithms based on FFT analysis of molecular vibration data outside the range of human hearing to yield subharmonics on which sonic material can be based. We also have in place a sophisticated system whereby sound can control the particle system and the particle system can in turn control the sound. We are exploring how this combination can be used to make a novel kind of feedback loop, and a network of non-trivial audiovisual relationships whereby the influence of sound on image and vice versa is mediated via the medium of an advanced mixed quantum-classical model. Using these tools we can use dS as a highly evolved ‘visual music’ instrument.

The performance consists of a solo audiovisual performance of around 15 minutes duration. The paper outlines the algorithms at the heart of the dS system and their broader implications for Sci/Art visualisation/sonification and understanding, before moving on to examine how these algorithms have been adapted as an audiovisual instrument. The history of the project, including installations, dance performances and music-based collaborations, will be examined followed by a look to the future – in particular the development of dS as a large-scale permanent exhibit for ZKM in Karlsruhe to open in 2015.


Hyde, J. I., Mitchell, T. J., Tew, P., & Glowacki, D. R. (2014, December). Molecular music: Repurposing a mixed quantum-classical atomic dynamics model as an audiovisual instrument. Paper presented at 17th Generative Art Conference GA2014, Rome, Italy

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 17th Generative Art Conference GA2014
Conference Location Rome, Italy
Start Date Dec 17, 2014
End Date Dec 19, 2014
Publication Date Dec 17, 2014
Deposit Date Aug 4, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2016
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords molecular physics, interactive environments, art, science, sci-art, audiovisual installation, sonification, generative art, generative music
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : 17th Generative Art Conference GA2014


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