9Volt’s Sphereeletrik – music to see in Second Life

Selen’s Gallery: 9Volt Borkotron – Sphereeletrik

Currently open at Selen’s Gallery operated by Selen Love (Selen Minotaur) is an immersive multimedia installation by 9Volt Borkotron (with additional lighting support by Adwehe) entitled Sphereeletrik. It is actually one of three installations within the gallery’s spaces which between them feature the work of four artists (the other artists being Moya Patrick (Moya Janus), Livio Korobase and Bohemio Love (Bohemi0) – the latter two sharing the same exhibition space), and all of which opened on November 3rd, 2022. All of these exhibitions are worth of a visit, and can be reached via the main intra-exhibit teleport at the gallery’s main landing point, but here I want to focus solely on Sphereeletrik.

However, before I get down to discussing it in detail, there are a trio of points that need to be noted by those intending to drop into it if it is to be fully experienced:

  • Advanced Lighting Model should be enabled (Preferences → Graphics → make sure Advanced lighting Model is checked).
  • You should set your local environment to Midnight (to avoid media appearing washed-out).
  • You must enable MEDIA playback in the viewer (chick the movie camera icon in the top right of your viewer (v6) or in the media settings (v1.x) and accept the media stream. Failing to do so means you will not see the greater part of the installation.
Selen’s Gallery: 9Volt Borkotron – Sphereeletrik

The short form description of this installation is that it offers an enclosed space in which a variety of objects sit, hang or float. These range of sculptures to floating cubes and spheres to seating areas to exotic-looking plants. Some of these objects are static others are animated and may, like the walls, feature animated textures (in lieu of the media playback). Ramps slope and spiral into the upper reaches where – if you do not enable media – white prim faces appear to hang.

With media enabled, however, these faces, together with the walls and several other elements within the installation are transformed, becoming media surfaces on which patterns, images and colours are displayed and flow and dance – and not just randomly, as 9Volt explained to me:

It’s music I am streaming that generates the visuals. I created a server which uses a Fourier transform and other mathematical algorithms to measure the stream at 256 frequencies. The results are then displayed in real-time with the music in various ways, with the music offset just enough so it’s displaying exactly as the visuals appear for people in world. The data rate is about 320kbps – about the same as streaming an MP3 into SL, so it shouldn’t cause delay in viewer playback.

– 9Volt Borkotron

Selen’s Gallery: 9Volt Borkotron – Sphereeletrik

In addition to the external server handling the transforms and other calculations, the installation features an in-world script utilising sine wave controllers to count the prims and change some of their traits in iterative stages. This results in media played across some elements being staggered; for example, a pattern plating on one prim reaches a certain point in media playback, so it starts on the next, and on that playback reaching the same point, so the next starts, like a singing canon-in-the-round.

When taken as a whole, the results are – as noted – entrancing, and while walking around the installation is possible, I suggest sitting in one of the cushions and trying the installation in Mouselook and simply looking around at the different elements to see the play for media and patterns, images and colour and the way they chance over time in response to the music.

It’s likely that some of the latter may not be to everyone’s liking, as varied as it is (I’m admittedly not a great fan of EDM, which showed up on a couple of the tracks while I was visiting). However, there is a purpose to the mix of music within the installation (which incorporates instrumentals, pop songs, etc., as well), as 9Volt again noted to me during my visit:

My Gran, who was a music lover her whole life, was going deaf, so I thought that using images and light would allow her to appreciate her music using tunes she knows well, and letting her “see” the notes she could not hear, playing them back through SL and onto her TV screen. My hope is that this installation will give those in SL with hearing impairments a visual expression of music when otherwise they might only hear the bass parts of the music.

– 9Volt Borkotron

Selen’s Gallery: 9Volt Borkotron – Sphereeletrik

As a part of this, 9Volt is interested in gaining feedback from SL users with hearing impairments about this aspect of the installation, and in possibly working with them to further refine the technique to help those with hearing difficulties further enjoy music in alternate ways.

Intriguing as a concept, engaging as a visually immersive installation, and richly varied as a multimedia arts piece,  Sphereeletrik makes for an engaging visit.

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Royale is rated Moderate

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