Skip to content

MusIcon: “The Empire of Light”

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

While working on this MusIcon™, the “The Empire of Light (L’Empire des lumières)” by René Magritte, I faced a problem. I wanted to have the sound of the morning birds only in the blue area of the sky. Additionally, the music I compose for the light, heard only in around the light and up to the dark area of the trees. Using the “music sources” approach (in short, having music source around the image like small speakers. For more info read my previous post here.) this was impossible.  So I decided to move forward and upgrade the MusIcon idea. I totally damped the “music sources” and instead now I use what I call “music heatmap” for every music source. A music heatmap is a visual representation of the music volume just like a heatmap is a representation of the temperature. In our case, is a grayscale  image representing the volume of the music from black=0% volume  to white=100% volume. Have a look in the images bellow (The Light, The Window, The Sky) where these are colored versions of the music heatmaps.

This approach has many benefits. For example, you can control the spread of the sound and the direction. You can have a sound that stops immediately in an area or spreads  smoothly in another. You can also have the same sound in two ore more areas of the image.

The Empire of Light (L’Empire des lumières)” by René Magritte, numerous versions of which exist (Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, The Guggenheim Museum), gets its title from a poem by Paul Nouge. It depicts a dark, nocturnal street scene is set against a pastel-blue, light-drenched sky spotted with fluffy cumulus clouds. With no fantastic element other than the single paradoxical combination of day and night, René Magritte upsets a fundamental organizing premise of life. [1]

In this painting there are 3 different music themes:

Music heatmap of "The Light" music theme.

Music heatmap of “The Light” music theme.

The Light.

A slow melancholic theme played mainly by the piano and the harp.

Music heatmap of "The Window" music theme.

Music heatmap of “The Window” music theme.

The Window.

A theme that is use in “The Light” music played by the flute and the english horn. A harp is accompanying.

Music heatmap of "The Sky" sounds.

Music heatmap of “The Sky” sounds.

The Sky.

The sky is filled with the sound of morning birds.

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.

More info:

[list style=”star”]


  1. Painting description from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.