An Audiovisual Environment Suite

Real-Time Systems for Fluid Abstract Expression:
Painterly Interfaces for Audiovisual Performance
Golan Levin, MIT Media Laboratory, 1998-2000.

Scribble Concert,
Ars Electronica 2000.
Photo: Tanya Bezreh,

SCRIBBLE CONCERT MPEG VIDEO (28 Mb) Courtesy Ars Electronica Festival

AVES DEMO VIDEO (35 Mb) Courtesy Communication Arts Magazine

The Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES) is a set of five interactive systems which allow people to create and perform abstract animation and synthetic sound in real time. Each environment is an experimental attempt to design an interface which is supple and easy to learn, yet can also yield interesting, infinitely variable and personally expressive performances in both the visual and aural domains. Ideally, these systems permit their interactants to engage in a flow state of pure experience.

The AVES systems are built around the metaphor of an inexhaustible and dynamic audiovisual "substance," which is freely deposited and controlled by the user's gestures. Each instrument situates this substance in a context whose free-form structure inherits from the visual language of abstract painting and animation. The use of low-level synthesis techniques permits the sound and image to be tightly linked, commensurately malleable, and
deeply plastic.

The AVES systems inhabit a domain at the juncture of art, design, and the engineering of tools and instruments. As artworks, they extend an established Twentieth century tradition in which artworks are themselves generative systems for other media. As a set of tools, the AVES work represents a vision for creative endeavor on the computer, in which uniquely ephemeral dynamic media blossom from a close collaboration between a system's user and designer. Detailed information about the design and context of the AVES systems can be found in my Master's thesis.

At Ars Electronica 2000 I presented Scribble, a color-music performance which uses the AVES instruments. In this concert, composed and developed in collaboration with my colleagues Scott Gibbons and Greg Shakar, our trio created sounds and dynamic visuals which were at times carefully scored, and at other times loosely improvised. Scribble has since appeared, or will appear, at Opera Totale 6 (Venice, 1/01), the Berlin Transmediale (2/01), and Interaction01 (Gifu, 10/01).

The AVES instruments are available (for Windows2000) from the Ars Electronica Center Store, as part of a DVD-ROM compilation disc,
Active Score Music, which documents the premiere performance of Scribble. More information about the DVD is available here.

This work was made possible through the generous support of Professor John Maeda and the Aesthetics and Computation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. The contents of this page are Copyright 2000 Golan Levin and the MIT Media Laboratory.

Golan Levin is interested in creating artifacts and experiences which explore supple new modes of nonverbal expression. He graduated in September 2000 from the MIT Media Laboratory, where he studied with John Maeda in the Aesthetics and Computation Group. Prior to MIT he worked at Interval Research Corporation on the design of tools and toys for multimedia play and production. [Home site]
[Curriculum Vitae]

Quicktime Videos
AVES demo
16.1 Mb
8.4 Mb
27.4 Mb
6.7 Mb
28 Mb
35 Mb
140 kb
147 kb
188 kb

Aurora (1999) permits the user to create and manipulate a shimmering, nebulous cloud of color and sound. This glowing formlessness rapidly evolves, dissolves and disperses as it follows and responds to the user's movements. [image 107 kb]


Floo (1999) disperses and deflects soft-edged tendrils in response to the user's movements. Sound granules in a circular pitch-space create chorused drones as the tendrils grow. [image 767 kb]

Yellowtail Yellowtail (1999) repeats a user's strokes end-over-end, enabling simultaneous specification of a line's shape and quality of movement. When placed into an 'inverse spectrogram', these marks are sonified by an additive synthesizer. [image 191 kb]

Warbo (2000) allows the user to create animated compositions of glowing blobs. When a second cursor is played over the surface of the spots, it produces tones and chords from a Chebyshev waveshaping synthesizer. [image 253 kb]


Loom (1999) wraps an animated score around the spine of a user's mark. As the marks are perpetually redrawn, they are sonified by a curvature-sensitive FM synthesizer. [image 30 kb]


A photograph of the AVES systems installed at the OK Centrum fur Gegenwartskunst in Linz, Austria, September 2000. Photo: Otto Saxinger [image 83 kb]



>> Award of Distinction [2nd Prize]
Prix Ars Electronica 2000.

>> Honorary Mention (Software Art),
Berlin Transmediale, 2001.

>> Bronze Medal, ID Magazine
Interaction Design Awards, 2000.

>> Winner, Communication Arts
Interactive Design Annual 6, 2000.

>> Best of Interactive Category,
BitByBitDigital juried exhibition, 2000.

More Information and Images
More about Scribble Concert
Master's Thesis Document

concert pictures
(photos by Tanya Bezreh)