Final Project Proposal

Group: Marina, Maxwell, Vivian

For our final project, Marina and I are once again dividing our interests into two sides: form, and concept.

We are interested in working with live dance performance with projection overlaid. This was our initial inspiration, and has been with us since the beginning of the semester. In addition, we will be using sensors such as heart beat monitors and accelerometers to gather data from the dancer, which will then feed back into the piece, potentially affecting projection, sound, and so on.


We want to explore the cycles of life through different living beings, tracing upwards and downwards on the evolutionary tree. We are interested in the cycles of life and death, and the threads that connect all living and organic matter. Through abstraction, projection, and dance, we want to experiment with making those those threads and cycles visible.



Cosmic Consciousness – Reflection

Brakhage, the Whitney brothers, and Belson all contrast each other in ways that helped push the envelope for visual music and light shows throughout the 20th century.
Breakage seems to be the most “old school” of the three, often relying on less technology based approaches: scratching the surface of the film, superimposition of images, out of focus shots, etcetera. He also put sound on the back burner, though he was heavily inspired by the music he heard.
The Whitney brothers were the most interested in new tech, and were big plays in the R&D that would go into visual music and light shows. They were obsessive about furthering the technology available, and were especially interested in combining Eastern metaphysics, concepts of atomic energy, and new technology.
Belson stood between these two, and sought out combining both old and new. He was especially influenced by yogic practices, and was equally invested in the destruction of representational images.

Our current experiences at pop concerts and dance music events are remarkably shaped and influenced by the Vortex Concert series and the following light shows. You almost cannot find a concert or club these days that doesn’t have intense light shows going on, with smoke, lasers, and visual effects synced to the music.

Midterm Post – Valentine My Funny

Valentine My Funny


Through the manipulation of physical objects, projection, and Max 8 programming, Marina and I created a deceptively simple performance method that involved both choreographed moments and improvisation. The ending result was a visual and auditory performance that used a sparse musical score, with an abstract visual presentation that allowed the audience to draw their own conclusions about our performance.


The project that Marina and I worked on was a visual abstraction of the musical piece Valentine My Funny, by F.S. Blumm and Nils Frahm. Conceptually, we were interested in representing the music in abstract form, focusing on separating the piece into separate colors that helped shaped the performance.

Our intention with this piece was first and foremost to experiment with physical form, then add digital manipulation over it. We did not want it to be a digital piece with physical elements, but rather, the reverse. We wanted to look at how  we could build a unique physical performance and use the digital to enhance it, rather than to distract from it.

Perspective and Context:

Our project fits a little better into the period of visual music predating modern computers. In particular, I created with Oskar Fischinger’s Komposition in Blau in mind. Our physical elements were designed to line up with the music, and evoke some of the same senses of unity seen in Komposition in Blau. As I focused mainly on the physical elements, this was by biggest inspiration.
As for the shapes we made, I also thought often of Walther Ruttmann, and the fluidity of movement in many of his pieces (particularly Lichtspiel: Opus II).

Komposition in Blau

Development and Technical Implementation: 

Marina and I wanted to lead with something simple. She created the stage herself, fitting a white sheet of paper to some cardboard. From there, we started playing with light and shadows, projecting light behind the sheet and manipulating the shadows with several found objects.

From here, we started designing objects specifically for our sheet. We cut some cardboard, and got our hands on some lighting gels to start manipulating color on the sheet. We added a couple simple tabs so we could have gels held to the structure, allowing us to wash the entire sheet in different colors as we wanted.

Our final product wasn’t much more complex than this. We kept the same stage, added some structural security, and used simple shapes cut out of gels and cardboard (as well as some found objects) to manipulate the shadows and colors being shown on the sheet, then put a webcam in front of our sheet.

The other element of this project was, of course, our Max patch. Marina handled the patching for the most part, as I was focused on the physical elements. However, she built herself a patch that allowed her to manipulate several features of the video feed, including rotation and rotation speed, as well as hue and saturation.

     Top down view of our performance space –

    General view of the shadow play at work!

 Our Max Patch, courtesy of Marina’s hard work!


To be honest, I think our performance went better than Marina or I expected. That’s not to say we weren’t confident, but it felt like everything lined up perfect. The Max patch was working beautifully, and all the physical elements went smoothly. There was a lot of new improvising on both her and my part that served the piece well.

There is a lot that could be ironed out for future performances. There were several moments of downtime on my end that could’ve been used better, and we had a slight struggle in that when we initially set up the light was essentially blinding our audience. Slight changes to our set up and configuration, as well as further rehearsal and choreography, would both undoubtedly benefit our piece.

Graphical Score:

The score is more of a suggestion than anything. You read from left to right, starting in to the top left corner; there are imprints of motion, and imprints of effects. but further than that, it is completely open to interpretation.


Overall, I am happy with what we put together. As far as physical construction went, it was a simple piece, and I think we actually benefit from that simplicity. It was a great experiment in basic form, and allowed both Marina and myself the freedom to explore and craft with simple materials, as well as get some experience in manipulating Max.

It also set us up with a good springboard to move forward in our work. Now that we’ve worked with a simple set-up and a relatively simple patch, we can keep building from this point. How can we keep the physical elements, while making them more complex, and even automating some of the processes? How can we make the Max patch more autonomous so both Marina and myself are free to manipulate the physical elements even more? The flow of our project allows us easy avenues into exploring these things in the future.

Pioneers of Colored Music – Reflection

While it is difficult for me to imagine, I think I would have been truly amazed by the early performances of people like Mary Hallock-Greenewalt on her Sarabet. The sheer beauty of the projected colors leaves me in awe today, let alone in a performance space like the venues in which they were shown initially. A piece like Abstronic (1952) is so beautifully expressive and awash in color that I think I would be all but awestruck.
Especially seeing it when it was first in concert, I think it honestly would have felt like magic (as it still does today). I would love to see some combination of these kinds of performance with a contemporary show today — looking at you, Radiohead.

Final Project — Digital Fabrication

For my final project, I wanted to take inspiration from my life. I thought for a long time about what needs in my daily life weren’t being met, or what could be made easier in the ways I moved through the world. I thought about my traveling, my studies, and one of the most important things in the world to me, my family.

When I finally thought about my family, it was an easy step to the heart and soul of my project.

My grandmother — we call her Nonnie — was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (阿兹海默症) around 8 years ago. Since then, she has been living at my mother’s house. When I was still in high school, we all lived under the same roof, and my mother continues to take care of her at home to this day.

Nonnie’s disease is a difficult reality of our life. She is a wonderful woman, and she handles it with grace. She stays chipper most days, and has an incredibly sharp sense of humor. However, as time progresses, her memory and ability to function on her own continues to go, and at this point she cannot be left alone for any period of time longer than a few minutes.

It was with this in mind that I started to design. I wanted to make something simple and relatively easy to construct that would help my mother and Nonnie. I had no idea what form this was going to  take, but I started to research.

In looking at sites with goods specifically made for people suffering memory and cognitive losses, a few things became apparent. First and foremost, most of the products that already exist are extremely expensive, and are most likely not affordable for many people. Secondly, many of them were simple, or designed to look simple. Third, they attempted to engage a person’s motor skills and creativity.

Another phase of my research was looking at art created by people with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. Not a ton of this made it into my product, but here’s a photo of a self portrait done by William Utermohlen in his last few years living with the disease for reference.

From here, I moved on to design. I wanted to work with a few principles in mind.

1) Affordability
2) Simplicity of Design
3) Long term usage — something that works for someone at multiple stages of the disease
4) Durability

At this point, I was picturing some kind of case that you could put an alarm inside of. The intention would be that as the alarm goes off, the person using it has to work out how to open the case (it’d be quite simple), and once they opened it and turned off the alarm, there’d be simple reminders or rewards inside the case with the alarm.


These simple drawings were my launching ground.

With these ideas in mind, I reached out to my family to get their thoughts on the process. My mother gave me a harsh reality check (albeit in a gentle way). She told me that an alarm/schedule based object would probably be too complex for Nonnie at this point, and suggested instead I create a rewards based system that would engage my grandmother for a short amount of time, and would offer a reward.

With this, my idea shifted, and it was back to the drawing board.

Though rough, this shows where my thinking headed. I was now looking to create a simple box, where the person using it could see whats inside. I wanted it to be simple, with a few extra steps that could be added to make it slightly more complex if the person found the original version too simple.  The tabs crudely drawn would hold the box closed from all four sides, and the person using it would have to remove all four tabs to open the box.

I started designing in Rhino, 3D modeling a rough version of the box:

The person would be able to see into the box! At this point I hadn’t designed the top.
At this point, Marcela walked over, stopped me, and informed me that laser cutting a box would be far easier. This led me to:

A simple box, made with Added are the slots in the side where the person using the box could see into it, and four holes on the top that allow for some sort of peg mechanism to be used (which I hadn’t yet worked out).

Upon construction, we had a box!!!!

Next up was to design the tabs and pegs that would go into the slots on the box, holding it closed.

I modeled into rhino, 3D printed, and here’s what I got:

MISTAKES. The left two both printed incorrectly. The one on the right (which i printed on its side) was better, but didn’t line up well with the peg holes I had made in the initial box.  Back to rhino!

This tabs printed like a beauty, and also fit well with the holes on the box!

Last up was to design the tabs that would go in the holes on both box and the pegs. This was simple, just had to make sure I got my dimensions correct.

What you are seeing in the photo is two pegs hot glued together (making them easier to grab), with tape on one end to make the fit a little tighter when inserted into the box.

Put all together (with a golden arrow cut from vinyl sticker to make sure the lid is always on correctly, we get:

The Box in Action

(video link above)

There is still much work to be done on this process. The box, though semi-functioning, is hardly a complete product. It is far too simple, the dimensions aren’t quite right, and the construction of certain elements — mainly the tabs and pegs — could benefit from being done in higher quality.

However, I think that this project serves as a better prototype for my concept, than for a marketable product. My box is simple, easy to construct, and cheap to manufacture. It is easy to understand, and with small adjustments could be quite easy for someone with limited mobility to grab and take apart. The concepts behind it show through in the design, and I am happy that this model can serve as inspiration for further iterations of this product as I continue to develop it.

Additive & Subtractive Methods — Maxwell Murray

For 3D printing, I wanted to make something I would actually use in my day to day life. It took me a long time to think of an object I thought would be useful, but I eventually opted to try and make earrings out of the characters of my Chinese name. I chose 3D printing because I really like how the material looks when it has finished printing (though Marcela pointed out that laser cutting would be easier AND give me a cleaner finished product).

The process itself was not very difficult. In mocking up the characters, I simply used Rhino and drew them to the best of my ability, mainly using curves and later extruding them. The tools that ended up being the most useful for this creation were ExtrudeCrv and the Mirror tool, as there are several parts of the piece I wanted to be lined up identically on either side.

A lot of my trouble came in working with the printers themselves. Several times, the raft wouldn’t print correctly, and I would have to stop the printing. It turns out that the board needed to be recalibrate — in lieu of doing that, I eventually moved the printing to happen on a different spot, and it took.

My next problem came in the form of the finished product.

With all three of the above models, I had different problems. For all three, the raft was far too thick and the print too small, so it was nigh impossible to get all of the raft off, and they all ended up looking sloppy. Also, for two of the prints, part of the model did not print fully or printed in a way that was structurally insecure.

When I do this again, I’ll be sure to laser cut. Will be about 30x faster and cleaner. Now I know!

Final Project Proposal — Maxwell Murray, Oct. 9th Assignment

For my Final Project, I wanted to turn to something that was important to my life. I thought for a long time, and eventually settled on the idea to work on a product that may be useful for someone with Alzheimers, as my grandmother suffers from the disease, and I thought it may be nice to create something that could be useful for her and for my mother who takes care of her.

My research started with looking at other products that were made for people with memory problems. This research also helped me develop the design constraints I was interested in working with.



My biggest inspiration, which you might find in the photo above, is price. Goods and products made for people with Alzheimers and Dementia tend to be incredibly expensive, and I wanted to make something that was affordable for every.

I also talked for a long time with my mother and siblings over the phone, and my mother in particular thought it would be useful for me to focus on something that would give the person working with it a concrete reward.

I also took inspiration from artists who have created while living with Alzheimers (like the self-portrait pictured above), and the simplicity of design of products marketed to people with memory problems or visual impairment.

For starting off, I thought I would begin by 3D printing the designs for a simple box that could contain the necessary object. Sketches below!


3D Modeling with Rhino – Maxwell Murray

For this assignment, I again wanted to keep it simple, as I had no prior experience with Rhino. I decided to try and model an earring holder, and I have plenty of earrings that I simply keep in a little tin, which isn’t convenient in the least.

Started with some simple boxes then through in a bit of boolean difference to get a gap. Following, I added a number of boxes (good old drag + option to get copies) to get the basic shape.

Simple enough at the point, but I wanted to add a LITTLE bit of flair to it, since…why not? I added some shapes, used some more boolean difference, and extruded a line here or there to get my final product.

I think, if I were to actually print this, I would probably have to add some sort of base to one of the sides, otherwise it’d topple easily. Ideally I would print a separate bracket that could change the sides it was sitting on.

2D Design & Fabrication Documentation – Maxwell Murray

Having never used Illustrator before, beginning to design and create for this class seemed extremely daunting to me. I was very unfamiliar with the program, and with digital design in general, so I wanted to start off small and create something that was familiar to me.

With that, the first object I created in Adobe Illustrator was the White Lotus Pai Sho piece, from the popular television show Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Method wise, this was pretty simple; I simply trade the design in A.I. The biggest challenge for me (after the initial learning curve) was how to get all of the unique shapes to a space that felt similar enough to me. I quickly ended up learning about the Anchor Point tool, and that became my saving grace for the course of the project. The other main struggle was in deciding which layers to engrave and which to leave — my brain hadn’t really had to think in that way before, and it was tough to visualize things in space in this way.

I ended up creating a rubber stamp! This went pretty seamlessly. I think in the future I would make the engraved portion a little deeper, as the stamp doesn’t pick up ink incredibly well.

Following, I tried tracing another design, from a cup I had back in NYC (a friend sent a photo for me). This was a lot of the same process; tons of Anchor Points, though I definitely started to understand the tool a lot better around this point.

This took a bit longer — especially the rose — but in the end, I wouldn’t call it too difficult. It helped me further continue to hone my skills with the program.

I opted to try the embroidery machine with this design, and am very happy with my final product.

The machine itself gave me a LOT of trouble. For starters, I didn’t really know my way around a sowing machine. Following, though, the machine clogged multiple times, and my first few attempts at using it ended up in failures, in which I spent upsides of 20 minutes trying to fix the machine which ultimately made the designs off center. This final time it went smoothly, in part because I slowed the stitching speed WAY down for the specific portions that seemed to give the machine trouble.