Bay Area Artists Create Fire-Breathing, Beat-Thumping Art Structure

Four Bay Area art groups have come together to build a 2.5 ton fire-breathing collaborative musical instrument. Syzygryd (pronounced Si-zee-grid) is a 2010 Burning Man art installation that will be assembled in Black Rock Desert later this August for the event.

Syzygryd was conceived of by Nicole Aptekar and Ian Baker, two core members of Ardent Heavy Industries, in late 2009. Together, Ardent Heavy Industries, Interpretive Arson, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) and False Profit Labs joined forces to conceive of and build this installation.

I first heard of Syzygryd last Spring by one of the main collaborators, Dan Silverstein. As Dan explains, “We'd like Syzygryd to be a town square for collaborative creation of music; a public space, a sculpture, and a musical instrument.  We want to share the joy we take in community, music, technology, fire, sculpture and architecture, and show that anyone can learn to make music with others, regardless of experience.”

With that in mind, Syzygryd consists of three custom grid sequencers arranged at three equidistant points around a 60' diameter circle.  The center of the circle is a huge metal tornado of cubes that pulse with synchronized sound, light, and fire.


Each grid sequencer controls a single instrument that is syncronized with the other two. By controlling time, pitch and harmony, these devices make it easy for people with no musical training or talent to create compositions on the fly.

To get a better idea of what this might look and sound like when completed check out this video the Syzygryd team created:

Syzygryd Software Preview from nicole aptekar on Vimeo.

Syzygryd is being built at NIMBY and recently reached its Kickstarter goal that will allow for fire art to be included on the piece. While I won’t be making it to Burning Man to see the project live, this is an awesome example of one of the really innovative projects local makers are working on.

If you'd like to learn more, or are interested in helping with the construction, coding and design Syzygryd is looking for volunteers (no experience necessary). Learn more here.

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