Web Mandala

by Bill Alves

The Web Mandala is currently being tested. I welcome your comments on how well it runs (or doesn't) on your system. Be sure to include details about your connection and system.

In order to experience the Web Mandala, you will have to have Macromedia's Shockwave plugin for your browser. If you don't have it yet, you can download it here:

At least a 28.8Kbaud modem is required to experience the Web Mandala in streaming form, though about 440K has to be downloaded before it will start playing. If you have a 28.8Kbaud modem, you might want to go get a cup a coffee and then come back.

Click here to go to the Web Mandala.

A mandala is a work of art of circular design especially intended for contemplation, such as meditation associated with the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, where the art of mandalas is an especially important part of the culture. However, similar types of art can be found all over the world, from the stained glass rose windows of European cathedrals to the sand paintings of the Navajo. The different symmetrical patterns of the art tend to draw the eye inward, and, by extension, inward to oneself.

It occured to me that the Internet forms a similar focal point for many people who may sit for hours contemplating the cultural flotsam that courses through (in Lou Harrison's words) the "techno-industrial umbilicus" of our times.

So I wrote a program called the Web Mandala. It takes documents from the web that match certain search criteria that I provide and forms random words from those documents into mandala-like patterns. I have then arranged these patterns into a slow animation over a radially-patterned background (also derived from those words). The animation cycles through a series of patterns (eventually repeating after about six minutes and forty seconds) that occassionally hit points of resonance where striking symmetries occur because of the harmonic relationships of the motions of the pattern elements. This is a concept I adapted from computer animation pioneer John Whitney.

The music that I wrote to accompany the animation is also based on the same kinds of harmonic resonances, both in time and frequency. Pitches related in this way are said to be in Just Intonation. I created the music with Csound computer music programming language. The music is best heard over headphones or speakers with decent bass response (i.e. not the one built into your computer).

Thanks to Steve Axelrad for his help with this project. I welcome your comments or questions.