Words by Chris Clark

The faces, masks, and patterns in this scene were
inspired by David Byrne and Brian Eno's "Mea Culpa"
It's not very often you come across an experience like SonicVision. Now playing at Denver's Museum of Nature and Science as well as the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and New York's American Museum of Natural History, the exhibit offers a mind-expanding adventure through auditory and visual stimulation.

Attempting to put the SonicVision experience into words provides a bit of a challenge. Produced by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the joyride through artistic space is an exhibit exploring how we as individuals interpret art. In doing so, it asks, "How do you listen to music?" Moby, who lent a helping a hand to SonicVision, also placed his unique touches in choosing the exhibit's fine musical selection, from Coldplay to Radiohead and from Boards of Canada to U2.

The intense beats of "First It Giveth,"
by Queens of the Stone Age, inspired these images
Before I get too much into SonicVision, I must first give some information on the planetarium's workings. Zachary Zager, who is the Planetarium's Systems Administrator in Denver, took a few moments to share some details on just how the Gates Planetarium operates.

"Gates Planetarium creates its full-dome digital image using 11 DLP projectors running at 1280 x 1024," says Zager. "This is created using a digital playback system by QuVIS. The sound system is a 16.4 mix - 16 speakers around the dome and 4 sub tracks. This allows us to be able to not only place the audio around the audience, but anywhere in the planetarium - up, down, around."

For those of you - myself included - who have no idea about any of the technological mechanisms discussed in the previous paragraph, Zager sums up the notion well. "Gates Planetarium is one of the most technologically advanced planetariums in the world. There are only a handful of digital domes in the world and each is unique in its design, making them difficult to rank."

Alex Grey's painting, Collective Vision, was adapted to accompany Zwan's "Honestly"

Rank or not, the room is truly a sight. As you walk in, the feeling of being completely encircled in space surrounds you. This awe-inspiring setting gave me the feeling of being trapped in the outer reaches of space and feeling utterly comfortable there. Before getting a chance to completely soak in the entirety of the surroundings, the sounds of Stone Temple Pilots' "Lady Picture Show" began, the lights faded, and SonicVision began.

Audioslave's "Cochise" inspired this image of
a fantastic journey through space
For some 40-plus minutes, we were treated to and sometimes startled by the exhibit's mesmerizing graphics and musical combinations. From Alex Grey's painting entitled Collective Vision adapted to Zwan's song "Honestly" to the bursts of electrifying color during Audioslave's "Cochise," SonicVision began with a boom that never ceased. U2's "Elevation" was set against the art being called Alien Planet Ride, provided a dizzying adventure through tripped-out galaxies occupied by dancing geometric robots with antennas and glowstick hands.

After five minutes, my mind was already blown.

Perhaps the most intriguing and impressive portion of the event was during Coldplay's "Clocks." This segment, dubbed "Mandala Machine-Clocks," enjoyed blow-your-mind visuals that flowed flawlessly with Chris Martin's delicate voice and intricate piano playing.

Truthfully, there were no dull moments in SonicVision.

Whether it be Prodigy's "Fire Starter," which saw a crew of green aliens dancing in a swirling cosmic universe, or Boards of Canada's cathedral-filled, jump-out-of-your-seat structures in "Julie and Candy," SonicVision was the best 40 minutes I've spent in some time.

If you live in the Chicago, Denver, or New York metropolitan areas, I would highly recommend taking the hour out of your schedule to go see this exhibit. Plan in advance though, because SonicVision is sold-out for a month in Denver, and it's surely a tough ticket wherever it may be.

Radiohead - Everything in its right place
Audioslave - Cochise
U2 - Elevation
Moby - Into the Blue
Stereolab - Metronomic Underground
White Zombie - Blood, Milk & Sky
Goldfrapp - Utopia
Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentleman We are Floating in Space
Brian Eno & David Byrne - Mea Culpa
David Bowie - Heroes
Coldplay - Clocks
Fischerspooner - Emerge
Prodigy - Firestarter
Queens of the Stone Age - First it Giveth
Moby - We are All Made of Stars
The Flaming Lips - Do you Realize?
Zwan - Honestly
Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters

View the SonicVision Trailer here.

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[Published on: 12/17/05]

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bobcatoutthebag starstarstarstar Thu 12/15/2005 12:30PM
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i hope this eventually moves to other places as well. i would love to se this come to columbus, or any other city in ohio for that matter.

NickBoeka starstarstarstar Thu 12/15/2005 02:21PM
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going down to denver this weekend to check it out. been looking forward to it. No Boards of Canada on the Denver playlist, which is a let down, but the ambience of the experience I think will make up for it.

Foominaut starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/15/2005 08:37PM
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wow.That looks amazing! Think if put on another exhibit with some lets say, Grateful Dead,STS9, Umphrey's, etc. That could be amazing!

ShattrdHarlequin Fri 12/16/2005 09:27AM
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SonicVision is sweet! I went last month here in Denver and it was just mindblowing..... the funniest part is theres always a cop standing inside the doors and everyone that walks up slows down and checks out the cop.... me included.... haha...

vic_vega star Sat 12/17/2005 08:20AM
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I saw SonicVision last year at Hayden Planetarium in NYC, and I have to say, it was the most over-priced, cheeseball computer graphics I've even seen in my life. I get more stimulation from the visualizations in my WinAmp player. I guess it's something to do if you're at the museum/planetarium anyway, but I wouldn't suggest hittin' this up on it's own. Kinda surprised there's even a write-up on it.

ShimmiNuts starstarstarstarstar Sat 12/17/2005 10:45PM
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This was dope, nothing cheeseball about it. The fact that there was an underlying message about inner beauty displayed through the music and beats of the grapics to the music without any narration is pretty phenomenal. Also gained respect for Moby which I never had before.

gd4life Mon 12/19/2005 06:00AM
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this would be good with real music.Dead,SCI,STS9 etc.

BUJ starstarstarstar Tue 12/20/2005 10:47AM
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I just watched the trailer and it seems pretty damn cool...

I don't see any cheesy effects here.

cinnamongirl starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/20/2005 01:51PM
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Looks like fun and hey gdforlife~real music? the bands you list could really only wish for the musical talent of radiohead. Open your mind.

Siddartha Wed 12/21/2005 07:56AM
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I'm sorry, posting on Jambase is not really my thang, but when somebody posts that this experience would be better with "real" music and cites String Cheese Incident under that heading...I want to vomit on myself. You're right on buddy, SCI is the truth, while David Bowie, Radiohead, and The Flaming Lips are are just a bunch of no talent hacks that can't shred the Electric Mandolin. If you are 12 years old or less, then please accept my apology, if not, somebody should probably teach you that there is a lot more to music than spacey drawn out jams and ganja gooballs bra.

hellyeah Fri 12/23/2005 01:28PM
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hey cinnamon girl, saying in this forum that the grateful dead could only wish for the musical ability of radiohead is like running into a church and talking shit about jesus. it would be fun but i just don't do it. know what i mean....

surfline4 starstarstarstar Thu 2/9/2006 07:38AM
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I have seen this show over 3 times. It is one of the greatest expierences I have had so far. I would highly recomened it.

JPFlounder starstarstar Mon 3/6/2006 03:49PM
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Whats the deal with this? Other than Radiohead the rest of the the bands in this show are kinda lame. It sounds like a totaly cool show but the choice of artists doesnt seem as appealing. Aduio Slave? im sorry but when there the last band i wanna here at a trippy show like this.