As a commemoration of the 50 years of the Moon Landing Mission, as well as the 50th Anniversary of the University of Texas at Dallas, this interdisciplinary project explored the ways in which artistic visualization of scientific astronomical data could accompany a musical performance by the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. The pieces included Josef Strauss' Music of the Spheres, Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune, and Gustav Holst’s The Planets,
The images used for creating the videos were conceptualized and visualized by Dr. Donna Cox and her team at the Advanced Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
An overview of the process
In order to create visuals for accompanying the music, me and the team that worked on this project had to get familiar with the music and listen to it in different ways. Sometimes in silence, other times taking notes, discussing, or stopping to comment. We collectively documented our ideas and first impressions, and put those in conversation with the comments of the conductor of the orchestra, as well as the initial concept of the planets that the composer had for creating the music. For instance, Mars was understood as "The bringer of war", Mercury as "The Winged Messenger" and Jupiter as "The bringer of Jollity". Below are some images of the way we organized and documented our process:
Board for brainstorming: Picture by Christine Veras
The creative process involved experimenting with the visual material created by Dr. Donna Cox and thinking on a narrative for each one of the videos, aiming at enriching the experience of the concert, without distracting the audience from the performance of the musicians. This balance between our intentions, and the meaning of the pieces were part of regular conversations with the larger team of artists, designers and educators in ATEC that were involved in the project, as well as the conductor of the performance (Clay Couturiaux) and the musicians.
We edited the videos for each planet, as well as an interpretation of "Music of the Spheres". The videos were projected in a giant screen behind the orchestra, manipulated by a remote synchronization system that made possible the coordination between the music and the visuals.
In conversations with Dr. Donna Cox, we explored the importance of bringing scientific visualizations to non-expert publics. Her work has been used for a variety of purposes, some of them are educational, as demonstration of research or to foster debate on climate change policy. When these images are contextualized in a new environment and in a new experience (as in this project), we are making scientific knowledge accessible through artistic interventions, and opening spaces for conversations about the bridges between art and science.
Some of the final clips are below: