The Illinois eDream Institute is dedicated to promoting arts that are conceived, created, and conveyed through digital technologies

Tao of Bach


Thursday, September 13, 2012, at 7:30pm | Tryon Festival Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Tai ji master Chungliang Al Huang has been called “a master in the arts of living” and “a sage for the modern age.”

A celebrated author and globally respected keynote speaker as well as a dancer, choreographer, calligrapher, and philosopher, Huang has collaborated with cultural icons as wide-ranging as Sammy Davis Jr., Bruce Lee, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Jane Goodall. He and his wife, Suzanne Pierce, performed in Krannert Center’s inaugural events and were the Center’s very first artists-in-residence, and for years he has called Champaign-Urbana home.

In The Tao of Bach, Huang joins forces with a collective kinship of multigenerational artists. The quintet of musicians—cellists David Darling and Michael Fitzpatrick, flutist Alexander Murray, and harpist Ann Yeung—will perform J. S. Bach’s solo suites and partitas as Huang improvises movements based on the Chinese meditative art of tai ji.

Collaborative partners from the University of Illinois’ eDream Institute (Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media), Advanced Visualization Laboratory, and National Center for Supercomputing Applications will complement this synthesis with animations mirroring Huang’s use of flowing calligraphy as a choreographic metaphor. These connections flow naturally for Huang, who says that “Bach’s original manuscripts are calligraphically breathtaking. They are music for both the eyes and the senses—waves of dancing energy.”

"Just Ancient Loops" premieres at Bang On A Can festival

AVL collaborated with multi-media artist and filmmaker Bill Morrison to create a Jovian moon visualization for his latest project "Just Ancient Loops". The visualization is based on Walter Murch's analysis of Jupiter and it's Galilean moon orbits and how they relate to musical ratios.

The project is a collaboration between renowned cellist Maya Beiser, composer Michael Harrison and  Bill Morrison.  Maya Beiser performed live in front of the film projection, which premiered June 17th @ 9pm during Bang on a Can’s Marathon

photo courtesy Bill Morrison

"Just Ancient Loops is a 25-minute piece that unveils every aspect of the cello – from its most glorious and mysterious harmonics to earthy, rhythmic pizzicatos. In this work the cello becomes this “über” instrument – laying down the drones, building rhythmical grooves on top of each other, singing melismatic melodies, and reaching up to the stratosphere as the music evolves and builds into a massive, exhilarating climax.

Michael Harrison explains, 'Just Ancient Loops uses Just tunings, Ancient modes and harmonies, and Loops of melodic and rhythmic modules. It is a musical odyssey for an orchestra of cellos, with each cello part recorded separately in the studio by Maya. In concert Maya plays the lead part live accompanied by a recording of all of the other prerecorded parts and a new film created specifically for the project by multi-media artist Bill Morrison.'" — text courtesy Maya Beiser

AVL formerly collaborated with Bill Morrison on a visual scene for the Great Flood project.

Space Junk IMAX 3D

AVL Helps filmmakers show dangers of ‘Space Junk’

released 01.06.12

Data-driven visualization of colliding galaxies created at the National Center For Supercomputing Applications.
©2011. All rights reserved. Space Junk3D, LLC

A growing collection of debris is orbiting the earth, creating hazards that jeopardize both space exploration and the satellite network that powers modern communication systems. These cluttered orbits are the subject of the new film "Space Junk 3D," which features data-driven scientific visualizations created by NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL).

"Since no actual images exist of the most spectacular orbital debris events," explains director Melissa Butts, "we set out to recreate them with scientific accuracy and mind-blowing visualization."

Building on previous animations developed for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope project , AVL created two sequences based on scientific data from computer simulations. The first shows the evolution of filamentary structure in the early universe, using data from Princeton astrophysicists Renyue Cen and Jeremiah Ostriker. The second features a dramatic collision of galaxies created based on simulations conducted by Brant Robertson at the University of Arizona.

"Not only is it cinematic, but it's in 3D, and it's pretty powerful to see these galaxies coming at you, and filling the screen and the room," Butts says.

The AVL team designed these scenes using their ultra-high-resolution 3D visualization environment and two key pieces of software they have developed: Virtual Director for interactive scene design and Amore for rendering both volume and particle data. They also used one of NCSA's supercomputers to complete computationally demanding tasks by the production deadline.

"It's a real treat to be asked to participate in the making of 'Space Junk 3D'," says Bob Patterson, AVL senior research artist. "It's an opportunity to contribute cinematic scientific visualization to a giant screen science documentary to tell the larger story of natural phenomena in the cosmos."

"Space Junk 3D" opens beginning Jan. 13 in IMAX® and other giant screen theaters in 2D and 3D.

"Space Junk 3D" is presented by Melrae Pictures, in association with Red Barn Productions. Produced by Melissa Butts and Kimberly Rowe. Distributed globally by K2 Communications, the 38-minute film is available in both 3D and 2D, for Giant Screen and Digital Theaters. For more information, including theater locations, see .

AVL team members
Donna Cox
Robert Patterson
Stuart Levy
Matthew Hall

First Impressions: Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

Cylinder and stamp seals played an important role in the legal and social culture of ancient Mesopotamia. These small stone or shell cylinders, usually no more than an inch long, were carved with a unique design to act as the equivalent of an owner's signature. They could then be rolled over the surface of a tablet to make an impression in the wet clay.  For centuries, this was the only practical way to see the various inscriptions carved on the seals. Technological innovation has allowed archaelogists to view these ancient seals in a new way. Using a specialized panoramic digital camera to take 360° images of the surface, researchers and archivists are able to discover new revelations about the artistry of the seals.

Using these images, eDream artists are working with museum staff to create an interactive kiosk exhibit to showcase some of these new discoveries.

The exhibit will include an interactive game designed to help visitors explore the various characters on the seals and identify animals & archetypes within "conflict scenes"

"The Great Flood" premieres at ELLNORA Guitar Festival

Illinois scientific visualization teams helps show impact of "The Great Flood"

Members of the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (eDream) and the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) collaborated with Obie-winning experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on "The Great Flood," a 75-minute multimedia work of original music and film inspired by the 1927 Mississippi River floods, creating data-driven visualizations of the Mississippi River Valley showing the extent of the destructive floodwaters.

"In 1927, the Mississippi River surged over its banks after heavy rains the previous summer set it pawing at its limits by the time the 15-inch downpours of April hit. Levees across the Midwest and the plains failed, as water pummeled communities along the shores. A mass exodus downstream carried the Delta blues northward, where it would become rock and roll."

Performance description from Krannert Center
Full NCSA Press Release
The Great Flood Trailer on IMDB, reviews and clips
The Great Flood, at

NCSA helps Chicago's Adler Planetarium create 'Deep Space Adventure'

released 07.05.11

Members of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory work with collaborators from the Adler Planetarium on data-driven scientific visualizations for a 'Deep Space Adventure.'Members of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory work with collaborators from the Adler Planetarium on data-driven scientific visualizations for a 'Deep Space Adventure.'

NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) collaborated with the Adler Planetarium and astronomy researchers to take planetarium visitors on an ultra high-definition "Deep Space Adventure" that combines a science fiction narrative with scientifically accurate renderings of planets, stars, and galaxies.

The Adler's Grainger Sky Theater now projects the largest single seamless digital image in the world with a resolution of more than 8,000-by-8,000 pixels.

In a June 21 interview with The (Chicago) Sun-Times, Adler chief technology officer Doug Roberts said "unless you have been to space, you'll have the highest quality that's ever been done before."

Deep Space Adventure's premiere show features colliding galaxies, a supernova explosion, and a black hole ripping apart a star. AVL had a hand in all of these dramatic data-driven visualizations.

"The NCSA team is known for combining cinematic flair with scientific accuracy to create inspiring, exciting visualizations," Roberts said. "They tapped into the power of supercomputers to provide truly cutting-edge images of our universe."

The AVL team has produced visualizations for planetarium shows in the past, including "Life: A Cosmic Story" for San Francisco's Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Science, "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity" with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and "IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System" for the Adler Planetarium.

"We have, over the years, accrued a lot of visualization and dome expertise working with other full digital dome systems," said AVL Director Donna Cox. But "this is the biggest dome resolution yet."

AVL worked with scientific data provided by scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the Adler.

The project relied on software developed by AVL: Amore, a volume renderer for the type of adaptive mesh refinement data typically produced by astronomy/cosmology simulations, and Virtual Director™, a collaborative choreography tool, and Partiview, an interactive visualization viewer. Using Virtual Director™, the Adler and NCSA teams could interactively collaborate. As the NCSA team created virtual flights, the Adler staff could watch the visualizations unfold in real time on their mini dome, providing immediate feedback.

"We had such a blast working remotely together using our virtual tools and treading new territory to help make the show both visually exciting and scientifically accurate," Cox said.

The Deep Space Adventure Pass includes general admission, "Deep Space Adventure," an additional show and the Atwood Experience. Adult $28; child (ages 3 to 11) $22. Chicago residents receive a $2 discount on adult admission packages and a $1 discount on child admission packages with proof of residency. Visit for more information.

AVL team members
Donna Cox
Robert Patterson
Stuart Levy
Matthew Hall
Alex Betts
AJ Christensen
Jeff Carpenter


The Illinois-Japan Performing Arts Network

see Performances for past events

The Illinois-Japan Performing Arts Network (IJPAN) uses advances in new media technologies to bring together Japanese performers, scholars, and audiences from across the physical distances that have too often kept them apart.  Through enabling this global cultural exchange, IJPAN celebrates pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Japanese music, dance, and theater. 

In practice, IJPAN combines the University of Illinois’s emerging technology capabilities (led by Guy Garnett, eDream Institute and Cultural Computing Group) and the academic cultural expertise of faculty (led by David Goodman, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures) with the programming strengths of the Japan Society in New York (led by Yoko Shioya, Performing Arts Director).  The Network’s seed funding has been generously provided by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

IJPAN’s External Goals:                                                                     

1.        Participate in the expanding number of global performing arts networks worldwide.

2.        Disseminate interactive performing arts programming via the internet, television, and digital media to sites around the world.

IJPAN’s Internal (U Illinois-Directed) Goals:

1.        Build on the expertise of Illinois Japan studies faculty to develop interactive programs in premodern, modern, and contemporary Japanese music, dance, and theatre using digital new-media technologies. 

2.        Integrate performing arts exchanges and collaborations with Japan into the curricular and research programs of East Asian Studies, Music, Theatre, Computer Science, Art and Design, and other departments at the University of Illinois. 

3.        Institutionalize the Japanese performing arts and interactions with Japanese performing artists as an integral and ongoing part of research and teaching at the University of Illinois and other institutions in our worldwide network.

Call for Participation

IJPAN is actively seeking creative and technical collaborators to participate in, contribute to, and help support interactive, networked performances; workshops; and streamed internet broadcasts for 2010-2012.


David Goodman and Guy Garnett /

with A. Colin Raymond and Ben Smith

mWORLDS: Cyberenvironments and Virtual Worlds


Roy Campbell (Computer Science) and Guy Garnett (Music / eDream)


NCSA's Robert McGrath and Mary Pietrowicz


Ben Smith, Brett Jones, Raj Sodhi, Tony Reimer, Stephen Lett, AJ Christensen

The mWorlds project will integrate research in virtual world creation tools and shared, persistent, digital environments with NCSA's expertise and technology in collaborative computing and cyberenvironments. The end result will be the beginnings of an extensible open source framework for building shared, persistent, highly scalable 3D virtual environments that will be suitable for a wide range of applications from the sciences, to education, to the arts.

Unlike commercially available virtual worlds such as Second Life and Active Worlds, mWorlds will provide support for a variety of input devices: from environmental sensor nets for scientific simulations to motion tracking devices in dance performance. It will also support scientifically accurate simulations and visualizations and operating with large-scale datasets in distributed computing environments.

A key design goal is to make it possible, even easy, for non-specialist users to create or customize their own virtual world without having to leave the virtual world environment, and to maximize the capability to communicate objects, avatars, and behaviors between such worlds. Our goal therefore is to create tools for developing virtual worlds that would make such resources as easy to use as the world wide web. Such virtual world building tools are also important for educators to be able to create context specific virtual worlds for collaborative, experiential learning. NCSA's MMOLES (Massively Multiuser Online Learning Environments) project is another application area that we intend to actively collaborate with.

This project is part of a collaboration of researchers from many departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The fellowship will build on NCSA's cyberenvironments and cyberinfrastructure, and will create new environments for collaboration, computing, and creativity.

Prairie Futures

How the Midwest and its Women in the Arts Contributed to the Technological Revolution that Changed the World (forthcoming)

Author / Editors: Donna Cox, Ellen Sandor, and Janine Fron

In Prairie Futures, we tell the story of women working in digital arts media who made essential contributions to the major global technological revolution that started in the Midwest around 1985, helping to catalyze what we now think of as the Information Age.  This revolution includes seminal events at the University of Illinois and in Chicago, converging at an intersection in social feminist change, advanced academic technologies, and the Chicago art scene.  Digital gaming, virtual reality, supercomputing graphics, and internet browser-based art all emerged from this convergence.

Sally Rosenthal's famous demonstration of
NASA VR Technologies

We mark 1985 through 1991 as a threshold period of technological progress on the prairie, with a surge in innovation from then onward.  In national terms, for example, 1992 was a year when 3D graphics in games began to enter the mainstream (e.g., a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumnus co-developed Mortal Kombat), while in 1994 Microsoft débuted at SIGGRAPH (the ACM Special Interest Group in Graphic Arts continues to be a major meeting in the field).  In Midwestern terms, 1992 was the year the CAVE was born at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Lab; two years later, Netscape (developed at NCSA as Mosaic) had its initial public offering, becoming the first widely used, graphics-based browser.  Author / editor Donna Cox was fortunate to be creating in the thick of it, working in the area of scientific visualization and emergent technology.  Also in that time in Chicago, (art)n (a digital arts media artists’ collective) was involved working with Spielberg  and testing digital medical applications in hospitals as real, applied products.  Author / Editors Ellen Sandor and Janine Fron were also there, helping to create and lead in the digital arts.  Kelly Searsmith rounds out the authorial / editorial team as a humanities scholar working to help shape the future of digital arts media programming in higher education.

In conducting our research on these historical developments, we are recording interviews with pioneering women whose stories extend from the fertile Midwestern art/scientific environment during WWII to our present day digital cultural experiences within the arts, science, and entertainment.  Interviews we have completed are with Martyl Langsdorf (designer of the famous Doomsday Clock), Carolina Cruz-Nera (co-inventor of the CAVE and a leading engineer and education still vital in the field), Brenda Laurel (one of the first women in video gaming and a leader of the independent GRRL gaming movement), Joan Truckenbrod (School of the Chicago Institute of Art Professor, artist, and author of the pioneering book Creative Computer Imagining, 1988), Claudia Hart (a feminist 3D graphics and subversive gaming artist, and Faculty, School of the Art Institute of Chicago), and Maxine Brown (Associate Director of EVL, leading organizer and theorist of the digital arts technologies).  Each woman is placed on a timeline of evolution in arts, technology, feminism, and world history–from a period when no women were mentioned as major contributors in art history books to today, when women play significant leadership roles in major institutions in digital media.  These digital pioneers became drivers as well as adopters of new technologies, and their migratory patterns have shaped much of what we recognize as the new digital media in visual and performative art today.

Emerging digital media and its foundations are of significant academic and historical interest.  Several recent scholarly books expand upon important digital art developments (such as Edward Shanken’s valuable Art and Electronic Media: Phaeton, 2009 and Judy Malloy’s Women, Art & Technology: MIT Press, 2003).  However, they lack the important social and technical connections among digital pioneers in the Midwest (see the eDream Institute’s timeline of contributions here on campus as a foretaste)–especially the stories of the contributions of women.  Our approach, we believe, is unique because we are revealing a little-known synergy between individuals and institutions, global migratory patterns and the impact of pioneering efforts from Midwestern women’s points of view.