Sphere Packing | Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

"Sphere Packing" is a series of 3D-printed pieces designed to concentrate the entire musical production of a composer in a single dense multi-channel device. The size of each sphere is directly proportional to how prolific the composer was, for example the sphere for Johann Sebastian Bach has 48 cm diameter and holds 1100 loudspeakers playing simultaneously Bach's 1100 different compositions, while the sphere for Hildegaard Von Bingen only has 11 cm diameter and 69 loudspeakers. The project presents at a glance the comparative production volume of many composers. As people are a couple metres away from a sphere they hear a quiet murmur of sounds, but as they approach and put their ear up close to individual speakers they can hone in on specific compositions. The series is inspired by American composer Charles Ives' practice of simultaneity as a compositional tool. Technically, a set of custom-made circuit boards allow the simultaneous playback of thousands of separate sound channels. The spheres are modeled algorithmically and then 3D printed in different materials depending on the composer. Each piece is suspended from a small playback box which is hung from the ceiling of the exhibition space. The piece begins playback immediately upon powering the box with 110 or 220V power. A small remote control allows the curator or collector to set an appropriate volume for the piece, although the piece is very quiet by its very design, even at its maximum volume a sphere produces a din that can be heard from about a 3 m radius. To discern individual compositions the public must be right beside a sphere, 5 cm away.

The first five composers for the series are as follows:

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Aluminium composite 3D print, 203 channels of sound, 18 cm diameter, 3 Kg weight.

Richard Wagner - Glazed porcelain 3D print, 110 channels of sound, 13 cm diameter, est 3 Kg weight.

Hildegaard Von Bingen - Bronzed steel 3D print, 69 channels of sound, 11 cm diameter, est 3 Kg weight.

Wolfgang A. Mozart - White polymer 3D print, 565 channels of sound, 35 cm diameter, est 5 Kg weight.

Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki - Dyed transparent polymer 3D print, 105 channels of sound, 13 cm diameter, est 3 Kg weight.

The final list of composers is as follows, showing the number of channels for each one: 17 Claudio Monteverdi, 39 Gustav Mahler, 69 Hildegaard Von Bingen, 70 Luigi Nono, 79 Conlon Nancarrow, 87 Gyorgy Ligeti, 105 Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki , 113 Richard Wagner, 128 Charles Ives, 129 Igor Stravinsky, 203 Karlheinz Stockhausen, 269 John Cage, 487 Ludwig van Beethoven, 565 Wolfgang A. Mozart, 612 George Frideric Handel, 998 Franz Schubert, 1128 Johann Sebastian Bach

Jordan Parsons - Programming and hardware

Stephan Schulz, Claudia Espinosa, Orion Szydel, Julie Bourgeois, Karine Charbonneau, Pierre Fournier - Production support