Scriabin's "Poem of Fire" visualized in 3D digital colour space

Hilversum, 19 October 98 "Dem Licht entgegen" formed the inner breath in the life and work of the Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin. In 1911, his fifth and last symphony was created in Moscow as a magical synaesthetic game between colour and music. Blessed with the spiritual gift to associate the specific tones of a chord with a particular colour, Scriabin provided a unique part for light-organ in Prometheus, Poem of Fire. The mystical interaction between the listening spectators and the white-dressed orchestra bathing in an ocean of colours could barely be realized at a time in which the light was born out of a simple plank with twelve coloured light bulbs. The modern art of virtual video and high performance computing techniques has roused Prometheus once and for all as the bringer of light. The Dutch visual artist Peter Struycken has been inspired by Scriabin's work to design a complex 3D digital colour space. In turn, director Frank Alsema created a virtual fantasy in which both computer and video art have been fused into a fascinating universe of whirling coloured particles in which the choir, pianist and orchestra are looming up as floating white mysteries.

The collaboration between Peter Struycken and Frank Alsema fits into the objectives of an Esprit funded HPCN TTN virtual studio technology project

The initiative aims at the development of a scalable telematics platform for the execution of real time interactive television scenarios. For this purpose, a Virtual Interactive Studio (VIS) environment has been built in which Frank Alsema recorded the Prometheus fantasy. Pianist Alexander Toradze and the Radio Filharmonic Orchestra and Choir conducted by Valery Gergjev performed the symphony in the virtual blue space of the NOB Interactive Studio. Here, the essential facilities are offered to mix real and synthetic characters or objects in any thinkable combination with real time monitoring through the use of supercomputers.

Scriabin's symphony comprises eleven themes with similar tonal material, arranged in a diversified temporal development. The entry of each theme introduces a change in the coloured light, which is organized in two layers. Peter Struycken has generated two colour spaces in order to intermingle at the right moment in the musical score. For this matter, the composition has been divided into seconds. The 3D colour space consists of a particle system of coloured elements with varying mobility, independent speeds of direction, and various fluctuations in both number and movement. The particles can swerve collectively like a flock of birds in a deep coloured sky when applying accurate mathematical calculations. A change in colour automatically brings about a change in the particles' direction and speed.

Struycken's colour space has an infinite structure in which impressions of form, movement, density and rotation are generated by means of high end computer graphics software and equipment. The formal design of the 3D digital colour space and the storage of the compute intensive images has been executed by specialized computer scientists to offer director Alsema a fixed colour structure in perspective which he was free to use and interpret in combining the particle system with the recorded video images of the musicians. Frank Alsema has tried to avoid a strict division between back- and foreground through the use of one continuous camera-movement. In this way, the conductor occupies a central position in a spatial development of circular infinity in which both the colour space and the musicians are evolving.

Director Alsema defined his method of recording by means of a detailed script, inspired on the computational space design and the musical analysis of the score by Scriabin expert, Clemens von Gleich. The resulting television programme constitutes a voyage throughout the 3D colour space and forms a harmonious synthesis between the recorded musical reality and the virtual coloured universe. Television and computer technology suggest a profound experience of infinity which cannot be reached on the real stage of a concert-room. The programme was broadcast by the Dutch television on October 19th 1998. Please, consult the Prometheus home pages for more information on the project.


Leslie Versweyveld