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MusIcon: “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump”

Hint: place your mouse over the picture and move it around. For best experience click full screen.

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” by Joseph Wright of Derby depicts a scientist performing an experiment in which a bird is deprived of air, before a varied group of onlookers. The bird will die if the demonstrator continues to deprive it of oxygen, and Wright leaves us in doubt as to whether or not the cockatoo will be reprieved.[1] In this painting there are 6 different music themes:

  1. The Scientist.
    A mysterious theme with repeating motivos representing the challenging look of the scientist as he is inviting us to participate/decide the faith of the bird.
  2. The Couple.
    A romantic theme in 19 century style for piano. The couple is complete isolated from everything is happening in the room.
  3. The Girls and the Father.
    A scary theme that has many things in common with the scientinst’s music.
  4. The Thinking Man.
    A minimalistic theme for the thinking man who is watching the experiment with pure scientific interest.
  5. The Man with the Watch.
    A simple clock tick for the man who is timing the experiment.
  6. The Boy.
    A mysterious boy. We do not know whether this boy is closing the curtains or has his hand on the cord that might release the cage to be used for the saved bird. Through the window we see a moon through clouds. Here I use a simplified version of the “Thinking Man” theme for organ.

I also added some ambient sounds. In this case is the sound of wooden floor squeaks, some footsteps and bird’s flapping wings.

What is a MusIcon™?

MusIcon™ is a picture where you can move and listen to different music moments. There are various music sources that come from different points. If you want to read more about the creation and inspiration of MusIcon™ read my post here.

Background Information.

Music in its nature includes motion but most times it doesn’t interact with the listener. So I designed a virtual 2D audio canvas where I placed a number of music sources in the space. Every source is like a small orchestra that plays a music relevant with the specific picture’s detail. Some of these music sources are musically related and some other are not. The listener can move around (using the mouse) and listen to different musical moments as he is the composer-mixer. The duration of the music of every source is different so there is no obvious restart point of the mix. Considering also the fact that the movement of every listener is also different, gives us unlimited musical moments. In other words, MusIcon™ is an image with an interactive soundscape.

I chose the painting “An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump” by Joseph Wright of Derby and I started composing music for several details (the couple on the left, the girls and the father or the central figure, the scientist). This painting depicts a scientist performing an experiment in which a bird is deprived of air, before a varied group of onlookers.

The result is a music space which is always changing. I have the belief that the final result, the feeling of the viewer/listener, is similar to Cinemagraphs and gives the illusion of an eternal moment. All these musical moments, because they are constructed from the same sources, have similar qualities and characteristics and this creates the sense of a repetition.


A couple of months ago I visited Jamie Beck’s “From Me to You” website where I discovered the magic of Cinemagraphs (Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, creators of Cinemagraphs, define it as “[…] an image that contains within itself a living moment that allows a glimpse of time to be experienced and preserved endlessly”.) I was fascinated by the new dimension that Cinemagraphs give to photography by moving it one step ahead without removing the magic that still pictures have (like occasionally video does). Although you know that this is a loop of some seconds, you can find yourself watching it for minutes. I was first thought to combine Cinemagraphs and music. Then I realized that Cinemagraphs were too distracting combining with music so I decided to use still images. This was the inspiration for creating MusIcon™.

NEW: Get it on your android phone!

I created an android application so you can enjoy the MusIcon in your phone. Explore the painting with your finger or tap the magic wand and use the “Random Tour” while you are on the go with your earphones. You can download it from bellow:

Share it!

If you want to post this MusIcon™ in you website or blog then use the following code:

[code]<iframe width=”100%” height=”410″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen scrolling=”no”></iframe>[/code]

Note: Copy & paste the above code as html and not as text. Click here for instructions for embedding code on sites powered by popular web apps such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, dotNetNuke, BlogEngine.NET and ScrewTurn Wiki.

More info:

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  1. Painting description from the National Gallery, London.