Intricate Patterns Reveal 'The Hidden Order' Of Music And Geometry

See ensemble music transform into meticulous geometries in Sama Mara and Lee Westwood's "A Hidden Order."

Octagon III. Solo conga. 60 x 60 cm. Giclée print on paper. 2014

Bejeweled by meticulous geometries in the same vein as traditional Islamic textiles, while the physicalized graphs of Sama Mara and Lee Westwood’s A Hidden Order are worth admiring on their own, they’re actually just a small part of the duo’s project— sourced from Mara’s history as a geometer and artist, and Westwood’s background as a musician, the many chains of octagons and squares and hexagons are intricate visualizations of ensemble music.


Hexagon I. Ensemble: Flute, Cor Anglais, Shakers, Bass Drum, Cello. 173 x 100 cm. Giclée on paper. 2013-2014

“Using a bespoke computer program, built around Sama's theory which enables the conversion of sound into pattern and vice versa, we translated these recordings into their geometric counterparts, allowing the music to take on its physical form,” Westwood tells The Creators Project. “The computer program allows us to create a digital version of our artwork, which can then be exported as separate frames to create our short films, or as a hi resolution complete image to then be professionally printed to create the final artwork.”

Mara expands on this, noting how the compositions come through in each design. “In A Hidden Order, time is translated into space, so the varying dynamics of the musical piece are now experienced over space; we see sparse regions in the artworks with only a few marks in a very minimal pattern, contrasting with rich textures and colors densely packed, all created directly from the varying complexities and dynamics of the musical performance.”

In the beginning stages, ten musical pieces were curated for a mixed ensemble of flute, cor anglais, marimba, assorted percussion instruments, and cello. Once they decided on a specific geometry— hexagon, octagon, square, etc.— they could then decide on a time signature to apply to the music. “Hexagonal symmetry is always 12 beats per bar, whereas square grid will work with divisions of 4’s or 8’s,” explains Westwood.


Octagon II. Ensemble: Flute, Cor Anglais, Marimba, Cello. 80 x 80 cm. Giclée print on paper. 2013-2014


Square. Ensemble: Flute Cor Anglais, Marimba, Cello. 100 x 100 cm. Giclée print on paper. 2013-2014

Once these compositions were set and recorded, they were processed in Sama’s unique computer program, converted into geometric patterns, and printed. Some of the longer compositions were split into “motifs” in order to make succinct visualizations that weren’t muddled by too much time, so to speak. So how exactly did they curate so many different variables? With infinite choices of color, timbre, song, pattern, and so on, how was it possible to navigate towards a satisfying conclusion of A Hidden Order's aural and visual elements?

According to Westwood, it was the result of long-term study and fastidious observation. “Over the years of workshopping that preceded this exhibition, we learned a lot about the relationship between sound and pattern which informed the kind of music we ultimately wrote,” he says. “For example, musical repetition is visually strong; long, winding melodies don't always hold together visually very well.”


Pentagon III. ‘Roundels’ ensemble. Motif II - Flute, Cor Anglais, Marimba, Cello. 40 x 40 cm. Giclée print on paper.

“Sometimes it can be frustrating when a musical element which sounds good just doesn't work visually, and the same goes the other way,” he continued, but the experimentation paid off: like musical performances, no single piece is exactly alike, and through layers of patterned, intricate beauty, each offers the viewer a chance to experience a soft form of synesthesia.

A Hidden Order made its debut at Prince’s School Of Traditional Arts, Shoreditch, from March 19th-28th. To learn more about the project, visit A Hidden Order on Musical Forms.

All images courtesy Kashya Hildebrand gallery.

Follow Johnny Magdaleno on Twitter: @johnny_mgdlno


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