bret battey • bat hat media


Writing on the Surface

for computer-realized video and quadraphonic sound (2000)


When all things are stirring together,
I only contemplate The Return.
For flourishing as they do,
Each of them will return to its Root.

— Lao Tzu

But something in us, while the millennia
monotonously pass
                                and pass,
hungers to offer up
our specks of life as fragile tesserae
towards the vast mosaic-temple, eidolon;

to be, ourselves, imbedded in its fabric
as if, once, it was from that we were
      broken off.

— by Denise Levertov,
from Variations on a Theme by Rilke,
from A Door in the Hive.
Copyright © 1987 by Denise Levertov.
Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

The full scope of time renders all of our proud, anxious, and violent dramas mere writing on the surface of water. Yet during something as brief as the soft flow of one moment's breath, one may hope to discover undercurrents deeper than one's work or its impermanence — and to find the source and goal of one's acts gently transformed.


  • Honorable Mention: Bourges Concours International de Musique Electroacoustique Multimedia Category, France, 2003.

Technical Details

My primary audio tools were Rick Taube's Common Music, Csound (particularly extensions created by Richard Karpen), and James McCartney's SuperCollider. This is my first work to demonstrate the use of "compressed feedback synthesis" — which entails amplitude compression and pitch-shifting of feedback loops — and "Variable-Coupled Map Networks" — an algorithmic event-generation process driven by hierarchical networks of chaotic oscillators.

My primary video tool was Adobe AfterEffects; my computer animation tool was 3D Studio Max 2.5. Subsegments of the work were connected using Final Cut Pro. Of particular interest is the footage I have captured of low-frequency vibrations passed through liquids (acknowledgment to the inspiration of Hans Jenny). Portions of the work also utilize Animation Exension to Common Music (AECM) — software I developed that allowed Common Music to generate scripts for the Studio 3D Max animation environment, allowing me to utilize the same code to shape both musical and visual materials.

Presentation Details

Duration: 15 minutes

This work was authored in DV NTSC, with stereo and quad versions. It is available in DV NTSC (stereo), DVD NTSC (stereo PCM and quad AC3), and Quicktime H264-encoded (stereo and quad) formats.


  • (audio only) Finalist: SEAMUS 2000 Student Composition Award

Selected Presentations

  • September, 2011 - Solo show, Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, Ohio, USA
  • December, 2009 - 50th anniversary of the Studio für Elektronische Musik, Universität Mozarteum Salzburg, Austria
  • April, 2009 - Solo show, CCRMA, Stanford University, USA
  • January, 2008 - Solo show, GEMdays Festival, Huddersfield, UK
  • 2006 - (audio only) Washington State University, USA
  • 2004 - CINtax Film Forum, University of California, Riverside, USA
  • 2004 - Música Viva Interactive Lounge, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2003 - 12th Annual Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival, University of Florida, USA
  • 2001 - The Harmony of Sound and Light, Harvey Mudd College, USA
  • 2001 - Film Festival g-niale 2001, Stralsund, Germany
  • 2001 - Not Still Art Festival, New York City, USA
  • 2001 - Connecticut College Biennial Symposium on the Arts and Technology, USA
  • May, 2001 - WRO 01 Bienalle: Screens, Wroclaw, Poland
  • 2000-2001 - Sonic Circuits VIII, various venues, USA
  • March 2000 - (audio only) SEAMUS 2000, University of North Texas, Denton, USA
  • 1999 - (audio only) Electroacoustic Music Festival, Seattle, USA
  • August, 1999 - (audio only) Bumbershoot International Arts Festival, Seattle, USA

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