When I heard
Wind Chime (After “Dream”) at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, I fell in love with the droning harmonies it produced as the wind plucked endless melodies from the bars of a John Cage piece.
This love letter is an attempt to increase its scale.
Welcome to Chimera Steppes
Etched out from the shortgrass prairies of northeast Nebraska, Chimera Steppes features millions of expertly tuned and placed wind chimes that form chords in every diatonic scale. Deemed the world’s largest art installation, with its virtually limitless possibilities, no two visitors share a favorite spot.
Chimera was completed in a few sprints while the sounds at the park were still fresh in my memory:
- Tuesday planning sprint. I spent the evening planning the project, documenting its goals, and outlining the major modules with a ton of comments.
- Friday world generation sprint. After cobbling together code from past projects to build a basic interface, I created the world generator and wind system. The chimes are generated in chunks; however, rather than living in the world, they are stored in a partitioned space as probabilities, and the wind rolls the dice for when and where to strike.
- Saturday graphics sprint. With chimes populating the world, I had enough information to sample and draw to the screen. I enjoying working with periodic functions within the HSL color space to generate its dynamic color schemes.
- Saturday audio sprint. The audio in this project is largely based on my previous work to synthesize glockenspiel sounds. Here it’s generated in two layers, with percussive melodies dissolving into a harmonic drone. The drone is a polyphonic synthesizer that randomizes notes when they are retriggered to keep it fresh.
- Saturday polish sprint. To complete the package, I refocused myself on the user experience. This led to hotkeys for toggling auto movement and randomizing the scene, which needed documented in a user manual that was beginning to resemble a travel pamphlet. Image assets and screenshots were generated to accompany the final build.
The future of Chimera
While I’m overall quite happy with the project, there are a few items I’d like to address if I can find a balance between life, work, and priority projects. Specifically: it would be great if the entire park could be traversable without the randomize button, the wind could have greater influence over the sounds, and there are some mixing things to tend to once the air conditioner can be shut off for good. Ultimately I’m excited to bring what I learned here back into my next S.E.A. update.
Enjoy the park, and thanks for playing!