Sphere Packing

Subsculpture 15
"Sphere Packing" is a series of 3D-printed pieces designed to concentrate the entire musical production of a composer in a single dense multi-channel device. The size of each sphere is directly proportional to how prolific the composer was, for example the sphere for Johann Sebastian Bach has 48 cm diameter and holds 1100 loudspeakers playing simultaneously Bach's 1100 different compositions, while the sphere for Hildegaard Von Bingen only has 11 cm diameter and 69 loudspeakers. The project presents at a glance the comparative production volume of many composers. As people are a couple metres away from a sphere they hear a quiet murmur of sounds, but as they approach and put their ear up close to individual speakers they can hone in on specific compositions. The series is inspired by American composer Charles Ives' practice of simultaneity as a compositional tool.

Technically, a set of custom-made circuit boards allow the simultaneous playback of thousands of separate sound channels. The spheres are modeled algorithmically and then 3D printed in different materials depending on the composer. Each piece is suspended from a small playback box which is hung from the ceiling of the exhibition space. The piece begins playback immediately upon powering the box with 110 or 220V power. A small remote control allows the curator or collector to set an appropriate volume for the piece, although the piece is very quiet by its very design, even at its maximum volume a sphere produces a din that can be heard from about a 3 m radius. To discern individual compositions the public must be right beside a sphere, 5 cm away.

The first five composers for the series are as follows:

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Aluminium composite 3D print, 203 channels of sound, 18 cm diameter, 3 Kg weight.
Richard Wagner - Glazed porcelain 3D print, 110 channels of sound, 13 cm diameter, est 3 Kg weight.
Hildegaard Von Bingen - Bronzed steel 3D print, 69 channels of sound, 11 cm diameter, est 3 Kg weight.
Wolfgang A. Mozart - White polymer 3D print, 565 channels of sound, 35 cm diameter, est 5 Kg weight.
Henryk Mikołaj Górecki - Dyed transparent polymer 3D print, 105 channels of sound, 13 cm diameter, est 3 Kg weight.

The final list of composers is as follows, showing the number of channels for each one:

17 Claudio Monteverdi,39 Gustav Mahler, 69 Hildegaard Von Bingen, 70 Luigi Nono, 79 Conlon Nancarrow, 87 György Ligeti, 105 Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, 113 Richard Wagner, 128 Charles Ives, 129 Igor Stravinsky, 203 Karlheinz Stockhausen, 269 John Cage, 487 Ludwig van Beethoven, 565 Wolfgang A. Mozart, 612 George Frideric Handel, 998 Franz Schubert, 1128 Johann Sebastian Bach

Spheres can be acquired individually and each is an edition of 3 copies + 1AP. Three "constellation" installations of 5 composers exist + 1AP. One large constellation installation of 17 composers exists + 1AP. The recordings used are either in the public domain or legally purchased for the piece. Mitigating copyright concerns is that the volume of each track is extremely quiet and that a track can only be heard in the context of the other music being played-back.
Name in spanish: Empaquetamiento de Esferas
Year of Creation: 2013
Technique: 3D printed sphere using different materials depending on the composer, massive multi-channel sound system, custom-made electronics, stainless steel, IR remote control
Power: Uses 200W of power and 110 or 220V can be supplied
Dimensions: Sphere diameter and weight vary depending on the composer, sphere hangs 150 cm from the ground from a stainless steel playback box measuring 20 x 20 x 13 cm, total weight of 3 to 8 kilos
Edition: 3+1AP: single spheres, 3+1AP: constellations of 5 composers, 1+1AP: constellations of 17 composers
Keywords: indoor, generator, database, sound.
Photo library (click to expand)



  • Jordan Parsons - Programming and hardware
  • Stephan Schulz, Claudia Espinosa, Orion Szydel, Julie Bourgeois, Karine Charbonneau, Pierre Fournier, Carolina Murillo-Morales, Sergio Clavijo - Production support