Developing a Fire-Breathing Music Sequencer

Sep 2010


Syzygryd is a 4.5 ton fire-breathing musical sculpture created by Interpretive Arson. I wrote the back-end music sequencer software and networking layer.

Large Collaborative Music Sculpture

Created for Burning Man 2010, Syzygryd was a huge metal fire-breathing sculpture built by over 100 people. My involvement was to create the back-end music sequencer and networking layer in C++ using JUCE.


Playful Gathering Space

Syzygryd created a comfortable, fun environment for groups to gather and enjoy.


Creative Collaboration

Featuring three networked stations, the sculpture allows participants to create music together and see each other’s work in real-time.


Heavy-duty Fabrication

Each station was built to withstand the dust-storms and beating sun of the playa.

The Process

I worked on a team of around 10 developers. My contribution was the music sequencing and networking software. Syzygryd has 3 stations with step-sequencer interfaces. Each interface needs to show the notes from the other 2 stations in near real-time. I wrote the networking layer and also the music playback layer.

I wrote the music sequencer in C++ that hooked up to a Processing frontend. The sequencer lived as a VST plugin and slaved to Ableton Live’s timing. Ultimately, the notes entered into this sequencer were used to drive sounds created by over 40 artists and also shoot fire.

I learned a ton during this project. First, I learned how to play a supporting role in a big team and share ownership. Also, I learned how to keep hardware running in brutal weather conditions. Also, I learned that I truly love working on large-format interactive multimedia applications used by thousands of people.


Keywords: Programming, C++, JUCE, Sequencing, Installation

Matt Sonic