Glasgow School of Simulation & Visualisation Sound for the Moving Image

Ron Mackay (He/Him)

Ron is a multifaceted creator, his interests established in the experimental implementation of combined sound and image configuration. Regarding himself as a producer who emphasizes tone and atmosphere over structure and rhythm, perceiving the increasingly blurred line between sound designer and composer in current filmmaking practice as a situation of extraordinary interest.


After studying the integrated concepts and techniques behind Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in his dissertation, he has opted to resuscitate the esteemed ‘Stargate’ sequence using current digital technology. Observing the fusion of innovative methods that assembled in the mind-manifesting segment from contemporary composer György Sándor Ligeti and special effects artist Doug Trumbull from a procedurally generated perspective, he has created a work that produces emergent complexities from novel combinations, retaining the potential to surprise.


Through his research on the film, Ron found there to be extensive references on the visual and sonic elements, allowing him a deeper understanding of the scene’s working process. Initially tackling the sound element, he found Kubrick had been experimenting with different types of pre-existing classical music to accompany the mysterious sequence and discovered Ligeti’s unusual work to integrate seamlessly. Feeling there is a need to comprehensively investigate the atonal compositions due to their appropriateness and finding it interesting how Kubrick’s placement of the work ameliorates it in the context of the visuals, he decided to investigate the theory behind the musical style Ligeti coined ‘micropolyphony’. Using Ableton’s generative composition capabilities while adhering to Ligeti’s micro polyphonic theory, he has created an infinite journey of atonal ambience.


Visually the work reflects Doug Trumbull’s special effects in the film where one of Kubrick’s noted Panavision cameras would move towards a slit in a black screen. Beyond the slit a slower-moving glass sheet containing various translucent artworks was moved from left to right, the cameras moved towards the slit set to a slow exposure time, resulting in the impression of movement through a tunnel of light. Using time displacement tools inside Adobe After Effects, Trumbull’s “Slit Scan” technique is revisioned. These animations are randomly selected constantly changing and adding to the complexity of the work.



Through studying the immersive techniques Stanley Kubrick adopted in his cult classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, I found there were many references I could research about the techniques used in the film both in terms of visual and sonic elements. I find the work undertaken in the ‘Stargate’ sequence particularly important due to its ability to immerse the spectator through interesting visuals and awe-inspiring sound.


This scene uses the skills of two experimental artists, firstly the visual element was created by Doug Trumbull, an animator who worked on other sci-fi films of the period. He created an elaborate setup that would allow a camera to essentially film light. I had a notion this animation could be recreated using our current digital technology. This animation uses another complex composition to direct the narrative; sitting alongside the music of György Ligeti we are immersed further, and the emotions evoked tend to push our thoughts deeper into the existential horror narrative.


I found these classical compositions to be of the utmost importance in terms of driving the sequence. Ligeti coined the name ‘micropolyphony’ for the particular piece we hear, making use of a large orchestra, layering different lines of dense canons resulting in rich vertical tone clusters. Further research demonstrated that modern digital audio workstations allowed me to program the same theory Ligeti uses in his compositions to give a similar effect using Spitfire Audio’s BBC Symphony Orchestra.


Taking influence from a statement made by Ligeti regarding his own attitude to musical composition “creating something that already exists is not interesting to me. If something has been tried out and a result has emerged from it, it is not worth making the experiment again”, I decided to apply his theory to generative techniques I had been investigating, aspiring to create something different.


The resulting compositions are so far away from the field of music yet feel relative to the chaotic procession of images, colours, shapes and endless falling towards the infinite and thus create a musico-visual experience. Adopting an autonomous mindset in relation to all aspects of the work, we have an infinite Odyssey inspired by the experimental minds behind Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.


The artist devised a simple virtual concept to display the work similarly to the initial Panavision cinema screenings.

Odyssey Live Stream

The artist's Youtube stream where he will update the concept and test new iterations.

Floyd NFT #009

Feeling the work may be regarded as kitsch, we find the artist investigating the current trend in odd rarities sold in the form of a non-fungible token.

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