ChromaticField (2002–2004)

ChromaticField is the name of a project by Martin Kuentz (aka Unkuentz), Hanns Holger Rutz (aka Sciss) and Axel Volmar. A few forerunning activities left apart, this trio initially started performing in summer 2002. CF is mainly a music performance group but includes work with other media and extends the mere performance aspect by organizing workshops.

The central element has always been the use of self built buzzing circuits as the sound producing devices. Since they are powered from a small solar cell, we call these machines solar modules. Departing from a circuit layout by cologne based artist Ralf Schreiber, the idea of the buzzers is to use general purpose integrated circuit (IC) chips and make feedback loops that become stable or unstable depending on the control voltage provided by the solar cell. The cell can be seen as a controller and we explore various ways of manipulating the light energy that touches the cells.

The following animation shows a sonagramme of an excerpt from a concert recorded during our residency at Hull Time Based Arts, England (2003). A sonagramme shows the content of different spectral parts of a sound, where low frequencies are at the bottom and high frequencies are at the top. The brightness roughly corresponds to the energy in a certain frequency band. Time elapses from left to right and the slides approximately correspond to the time window you’re listening to. Note the horizontal and vertical patterns and the chromatic total (the spectrum was cutted at the top by the computer but in fact there is a lot of ultrasound energy above your upper hearing margin which can even cause interferences with nearby video monitors)—hence the name ChromaticField like the beautiful piece by Morton Feldman, “Patterns in a Chromatic Field”.

Sonagramme Timebase Excerpt


While the live performances are usually improvisations or tape or computer accompanied improvisations with a battery of these modules fed through mixers and a public address sound system, we teach people to build the modules themselves in the workshops. Using a small piezo loudspeaker makes them fully independant of any other audio gear and allows the creation of very cheap sound devices.


The interaction with light opens a field of vast possibilities of creating the visual and performative side of the project. Quasi automatic situations known from installations can be created, reactivity to video or slide projection, light organs and computer displays have been explored.

Concert Shot (Video: Yoann Trellu)

Slides: Natalie Bosko