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The shaping of the acoustic.

How can the morphing of content through different stages bring the designer to new formal approaches? For the piece Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich, a series of experiments has been created in order to visualize the avant-garde piece of music. Different approaches were explored and tried to unite. A geometric system was created to embody the music as a sculpture or architecture in space, but also two-dimensional, in motion and interactive. This whole process was recorded in a carefully designed book.

“ ... the sophisticatedly visualized details of this work thus translate the acoustic dimension of the composition and extend it with visual coding, to an approach that ultimately blurs the boundary between science, art and design. The complex solutions projected by the work manifest themselves in systems and formations that possess outstanding expressivity with respect to the various design possibilities of the respective media used.”
Jury Red Dot Award, 2013


Graphic design
Information visualization
Interaction design
Web design
Editorial design



Music visualization

The analogy of crystallization to form and content in music stems from a music-historical research. In a phase of phenomenological approach, the aesthetics of crystal were tested to harsh sounds, and a structural analysis of the piece underlined its fractal character with crystal structure. From these experiments a system resulted, how single bars of notation in space and object can be represented. This system was again the impetus for a two-dimensional design grid. Against the background of this grid, further applications can now be designed.

Presentation of music in space

Music for 18 Musicians, Section 1


On the eight corners of the cuboid, the key of A major was distributed, on its six surfaces the 18 instruments arranged, always 3 per side. Starting from the corners, the eight notes converge in the center of the cuboid. The three instruments per square side are arranged on the unfolded cube so that their positions approximate the performance plan. In the cube (folded back together) an instrument is marked by passing a line from the instrument’s starting point over a control point, the midpoint of the page, and then on to the sound it plays and back to the starting point. This delimits an area that illustrates which instrument plays which tone. For a two-dimensional design grid, the pattern was continued on the unfolded cube. As a periodic pattern, it quite corresponds to the clear tonal center and rhythm of the original music.

The bars of Section 3A are literally frozen into crystal form. In the 3-D program Rhino, the three-dimensional grid was used as a framework for the object design of the first 15 bars. The translucent acrylic 3-D printed crystals are displayed on a light box.


“Everybody is a participant”. This quote from Steve Reich about how music should work is also the title of this interactive application. Just as, thanks to the lack of a conductor, every musician is a variable in the performance of the piece, any visitor to Section 6 on the touch screen can influence the developments of the patterns on the grid. For example, you can set an initial pattern and start it up with a start button to observe how the pattern is generated according to the laws of the “Conways Game of Life”. There are so many possibilities that it is unlikely they will ever form the same sequence, and that it will take different amounts of time for the process to die. Or you can intervene in an already moving pattern and thereby influence it in its development. Tapping the triangular boxes on the touch screen is similar to the pattern-changing display of the vibraphone with short bursts.

“The musicians take a deep breath and repeat certain notes for so long,
as the breath comfortably carries.”
Steve Reich


A lung visualized with the newly developed two-dimensional grid is projected to section 4 on the (resonant) body. The respiratory rates are chosen randomly, but are within the specified parameters of the score.

“The breath determines the duration of the phrases.”
Steve Reich

If a visitor stands in front of the projector installation, the lungs will be beamed to their chest. The pulsing of the lungs should be contagious and encourage you to breathe in the same frequency with section 10. One finds oneself in the situation of the musician who listens to the breath of others. The lattice structure of the lungs also supports the hard sounds.


The website summarizes the book and shows the experiments using gifs and the films of the results. The type of information visualization is broken down interactively. Starting in 2019, the website, which is already getting a bit old, will appear in a new look.


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