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Becoming... Carsten Nicolai: In his work Carsten Nicolai, born 1965 in Karl-MarxStadt, seeks to overcome a separation of art forms and genres for an integrated artistic approach. Influenced by scientific reference systems, Nicolai often engages mathematic and cybernetic patterns such as grids and codes, as well as error, random and self-organising structures. Carsten Nicolai also works as a visual artist. Using the principles of Cymatics he visualizes sound. Nicolai’s practice is formed by a convergence of sound, painting and sculpture that results in installations exploring the idea of creativity filtered through modularized systems and codes.

For this project I had to investigate, research and become a chosen designer, which was Carsten Nicolai. to become this person I had unterstand him and live inside his head, thinking like him and being able to understand what inspires him.

Idea for presentation

Due to the fact that Nicolai concentrates on sound visualisation I think their are a number of ways to represent this. Using processing – we could record ourselves doing To begin with we worked in groups to research the presentation with processing using the sound Carsten Nicolai, and learn about what he does as a to create a visual / then overlaying the audiences designer. after carrying out research within the group response over the top during the presentation. sharing different areas and time periods within his We could simply design a presentation based around work, we began brainstorming ideas for how we were the idea of visualising sound through graphic design. going to present an artefact in his style. Create a 3D representation of sound – maybe looking at particles and movement recreated – maybe using flasks and speakers while were talking using a mic. As well as being a designer Nicolai is a musician known as Alva Novo – something that influences his art, with his art influencing his music.

Carsten Nicolai VS Alva Noto... Carsten Nicolai: Alva Noto is a stage name of Carsten Nicolai. Nicolai transforms sound by looping oscillators and tone generators. He edits his work to give his compositions rhythmic structures. Under the pseudonym noto Carsten Nicolai experiments with sound to create his own code of signs, acoustic and visual symbols. As alva noto he leads those experiments into the field of electronic music.

Sound Visual Installation... His interest in sound and its physical qualities may be inspired by his childhood obsession with bats, whom as a child he believed he could communicate with. He first studied architecture and landscape design before pursuing an interest in the theoretical properties of sound and space. Resettling in Berlin in the early 1990s, Nicolai founded the experimental music label Noton as a platform for his conceptual and experimental musical concerns. In 1996 this was to become Raster -Noton.

Spray spray is a room installation consisting of a folded, stealth-shape seating area and a video that can be seen from both sides of the projection screen. The 8-minute loop of the video shows the process of pixels accumulating, setting up orders, building up patterns, modelling moirÊs, decaying into fragments and dissolving again. The idea behind the work is to show that although our communication system tends to atomize information, the original sense remains. The stealth forms seen in the video of spray dissolve into particles, which still contain enough information to regain the original forms again and build up a cycle of persistent repetition. The main metaphor of spray is the mechanism of masking and concealing – of stealth. It shows the contradictory essence to produce and secure information as well as hide and absorb it.

Research... Carsten Nicolai:


Looking at Carsten Nicolai’s work you straight away notice a few things… Complexion, Sound and Theory. Behind all of his work these three things are a common and repeated theme. A theorist at heart, he finds it incredibly satisfying to challenge himself with his ideas, and others, to push them into a path of exploration. Often looking at chaos theories, and the way sound gets influenced by other medium’s he always tries to choose situations that can be altered and affected by a number of variables. Alva Noto (Nicolai’s musical alter-ego) is a huge support for his design work, with him often using his extremely complex visuals to support his just as varied music. Very much an inspiration to other musicians and designers, due to his long and detailed work processes, and his progression of sound and design.

Using electronic sound and visual art as a kind of hybrid-tool, Carsten Nicolai creates his own microscopic view of creative processes. His world looks more like a laboratory – constantly morphing in space and time, influenced by the impulses of this media world, sound the message as code – becomes the primary theme via his visualised sound performance. During my research I came across this design which I thought was very intersting because of the way visualises sound and creates lighting effects to reperesent each sound. As part of my experimentation I would like to incorporate this technique into my own design using processing.

Ideas/Development... The Idea: From my research I have learnt that Carsten Nicolai likes to portray simplicity within his work and uses sound to create visualisations; therefore I have decided to create my own piece inspired by him, which consists of a method that uses sound to create visualisations. This method consists of using a cornstarch mixture with water, a subwoofer and an amplifier. I carried out some research and further development of this idea and learnt that the beat/ sound I will be playing through the subwoofer consisting of the cornstarch mixture will enable the liquid to jump with the different tones and beats, with an outcome of a visual display. As a method of capturing this visualisation I will be using paper which is placed above and beside the subwoofer catching the liquid which is bouncing of the subwoofer, these will vary depending on the level of bass, volume and tempo. I will also capture the visualisations using photography.

The Setup:

For my final piece I used a subwoofer which was connected to an amplifier, and then played bass through the subwoofer, I mixed together the cornstarch mixture experimenting with the consistency making it thinner and thicker to see how the results varried, and then applied the mixture to the subwoofer. Overall I would say that the difference between the consistency did have an affect on the outcome the thicker mixture created 3d form and shape, whereas the thinner mixture created waves and movement within the mixture itself.

The Final Piece... Corn Starch Sound Visualisation:

Experiment 2:

Experiment 3:

I decided to produce an artifact influenced by Carsten Nicolai. After doing some research I came up with an idea to produce sound visualization using corn starch and a subwoofer, the reason for this would be due to the way that the cornstarch mixed with water reacts to the bass and creates a visual display . I also decided to do some more experiments with this technique such as making the consistency of the mixture thinner and thicker which enabled me to gain different results, adding colour to the cornstarch mixture and seeing the effect it has, and also attaching a marker pen to the subwoofer and allowing the levels of bass to create drawings on a paper that I held above.

Low Bass Level:

Experiment 1:

Medium Bass level:

This is another example of an experiment I carried out as part of my final piece, which consists of adding colouring to the cornstarch mixture and allowing the bass from the subwoofer to make the colours flow and mix together.

High Bass Level: These are the final outcomes from the marker pen experiment, showing how the line drawings vary depending on the level of bass. From this experiment I learnt that by applying a higher level of bass more lines are created and the marker pen is less controlled creating different patterns.

Final Piece Video Editing Using Adobe Premiere I have edited and put together all of my footage, showing how I made this project and the resuts of the final outcomes.


here are my folios for the becoming project