Company Post

Creating Music from Geometry with GeoMusica

After 4 years of research and development and on the Full Moon of August, Rui Gato released his passion project GeoMusica, an incredible tool that enables one to make music with geometry. Now on the Winter Solstice - and also the day of the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter - the cosmos aligned and we are very pleased to bring you this feature! Rui's instructions on using GeoMusica are simply to "compose geometries and listen to the musical translation in realtime, perform and experiment with the Sacred Geometry inspired methods and be amazed by the beauty hidden within the Mathemagics." 
GeoMusica is structured as a multi-layer composing tool, focused on geometrical parameters that can be set with special proportions and shapes, and should be used as a MIDI note generator, connected with your favourite electronic instruments to reproduce the musical output. Therefore, it should be considered as a generative MIDI sequencer in terms of families of musical software, and it’s aimed at musicians that use electronic tools for creation.

Derivative: Your website is Rui Gato: Musician, Sound Artist, Geometer.  So your career path was architecture > music and sound design > Geometer (a person skilled in geometry). Had music always been an interest and was sacred geometry also something you were interested in via architecture or did that come later?

Rui Gato: Music has always been my core, I've dropped architecture for it, and it is still the artistic activity that connects more deeply with my whole being. I’ve always been exposed to it during my childhood, it had a constant presence on the daily activities and on the family gatherings, and it has served as the glue for the artistic experiments during the early years. When I look back to my timeline of activities, it is the only constant one, always appearing from time to time. The geometrical thinking got kick started with architecture for sure, I remember doing the first investigations on Sacred Geometry using the tools needed for studying the first matrices for generating architectural elements. Geometry always felt to me like a language of some kind, one without sign but with an intrinsic meaning. Like the pleasure of playing a musical instrument, drawing and contemplating geometry have this nice effect on me, like a brain massage or something.

Derivative: What initially drew you to the study of Sacred Geometry and what gave you the idea and inspiration to build GeoMusica?

Rui Gato: I got into the study of Sacred Geometry naturally, through the process of maturity and the intensification of my connection with Nature. On my personal research I gradually discovered links between the conceptual and the natural world, that were brought to light when looked at via the tools of geometry. Did most of that research alone, drawing and reading what I could find (not much serious information was easily available 20 years ago), until in 2015 got lucky and found a teacher doing a workshop for the study of Sacred Geometry, Luís Elye. I understood quickly that he had what was needed to do a proper transmission of the knowledge, and enrolled in a 3 year course, and right after the first months the idea of bridging together two “sister” sides of the old Quadrivium subjects appeared to me as natural and logic, and also exciting has it can be. Also at that time, the amount of time I've put into learning TouchDesigner already was boiling into a way of thinking without borders, dealing operationally with concepts of mathematical vectors, 3D surfaces, audio signals, geometrical dimensions. Also the signal path of generating geometry that translates to music was a less common way than the opposite direction, so I identified a wide field of research that kind of brings together my skills and my favorite artistic questions.

Derivative: At what point did you encounter TouchDesigner and how did it help shape or change your vision?

Rui Gato: I came across TD in 2011, when I was researching for a tool to generate the visuals of the live set for the electronic rock band Blasted Mechanism, together with David Negrão. I saw the ISAM show by Amon Tobin and looked no further: gotta learn this amazing tool! The truth is that I've always enjoyed visual coding, starting from first experiments in Generator (precursor to Reaktor), and the ubiquitous MAX. But what really hooked me to TD was the realtime thumbnail operators, genius. The ability to look and instantly know what is happening in a network was the game changer for me. The way I look into datasets and operations today is very much influenced by what I like to call the “transmogrification of datasets”, the possibility to change from image data (pixels) into vector math, then to 3D surface operators, then into text based table, then back to vector math, and lastly back to pixel data (with a lot more other possible routes). Also the end of the dreaded render bar, from the non real time workflows, was a no turning back point, can't go back there after!
Derivative: Can we talk about some of your other TouchDesigner projects?
Rui Gato: Sure, I’ve been using TD for all my creative outputs since 2011, and that includes experimental theater, art installations, music live acts, light design, video mapping, tutoring. Since 2018 I’ve joined OCUBO with the role of Lab Director, with the task of building up the Lab division of this international renowned studio based in Portugal. We have been doing projects all over the place, from Eindhoven Glow (generative light installation), to Bright Brussels (interactive large scale floor),  to Porto Legends (50 head immersive gallery), and many others. The 2020 hindered us but did not stop us, and we just premiered a Magical Garden nature and light experience here in Lisbon, happening inside a botanical tropical garden, with two installations driven by TD.
Derivative: Can you explain how GeoMusica works and what can be done with it?
Rui Gato: To put it simply, with GeoMusica you can do geometry and music. At the same time, and by that order. You start by parametrically defining the geometry, using one or more layers to compose a geometrical shape. Then you apply time (rotation) into it, and select different MIDI instruments for each geometrical layer, to listen to the musical output. You can also listen to the music using the built in GeoMusicaSynth, that is still in a very early stage of development (so be advised for possible misbehaviour!). One of the most challenging aspects of GeoMusica is that the frequencies extracted from the geometrical shapes are “free” from any kind of tuning (12TET / current western music standard, and others). I’ve found that the fact that we can use the direct proportion to frequency relation, unbiased, resonates much more deeply with the human body, and opens a field of research for the use of this tool, into the sound healing and musical therapy areas.

It is inspired by the ancient experiments by Pythagoras, and in line with the Indian and other Eastern civilizations' range of frequencies. Also the mathematical aspect of the composition is highlighted in GeoMusica. You can visualize the frequencies directly on the software, and use a lot of mathematical constants and ratios (in the shape of roots, PHI, euler) to modulate the geometrical shapes. You can also use the Fibonacci sequence (more sequences are on the way), geometrical progression growth ratios, angle divisions, patterns for rearrangement, modulus operations for scale… the list goes on, and its growing.\

Derivative: Over the course of your research and build you performed with GeoMusica at live events and so on? Could you tell us a bit about those please?

Rui Gato: Shortly after the beginning of the research, I’ve constructed an electronic music live set especially for the Boom Festival 2016 Chill Out Gardens stage, performed live using a Leap Motion sensor for the modulation of the sonical aspects, and a Lemur for the modulation of the geometrical aspects. The concept of the live set was you bring the alchemical planetary archetypes in seven compositions.

After this, GeoMusica was presented live in a demo fashion during the 2018 TD Berlin Summit, used in the composition for Rui Toscano’s “I am the Cosmos” sound art piece, used in my own audiovisual piece “Mónada Nómada”, in the interactive audiovisual installation “Aparelho Geométrico Levógiro”, and presented live in the talk “Sacred Geometry In Music Composition”, at the Liminal Village stage of Boom Festival 2018.


Derivative: What ideas do you have for future performances and composition? 

Rui Gato: After this intense initial period that culminated in the release of the tool in the community, now it is time to generate compositions and think about performances, for sure. One setting I would love to try is the dome format, I think it might be perfect for GeoMusica performance. It relates to cosmological (planetary setting), mathematical, geometrical and musical, so all of the Quadrivium aspects. So something that is conceptually connected with the macrocosmos, with visual and musical live performance, might be worth thinking about. Compositionally-wise, the field of research with geometry is immense, so there’s a lot of work ahead. Also, with the Ableton 11 release almost upon us, I’m planning on having an update to GeoMusica to make the integration with Ableton really sweet for the users.
Derivative: What do you hope to see from the community in terms of further development of GeoMusica? 
Rui Gato: I would love to start doing experiments with the community merging different visualization methods with performance tools, so we can work together on some kind of live set or experimental jamming “machine”. A protocol for data exchange between the generative aspect and the audiovisual outputs. So in a perfect setting, we could do jams in the spirit of an experimental lounge or something like that. The field of music therapy and sound healing is also something I would love to see expanding, I’ve already been contacted by one of the Patreon supporters that wants to do scientific work experimenting with GeoMusica for that purpose.


Today i’m releasing an update to the GeoMusica package, with Ableton Live 11 (beta) support. I’ve decided to do a Ableton Live branch that uses Live as a sequencer, now that it supports Polyphonic Aftertouch, it can finally be a host for GeoMusica free temperament compositions (with no constraints to the sound frequencies generated by the geometry). You can download it on the assets section of the Derivative website. Happy Solstice to everyone!


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