Tonewheels live


optical sound & color music


Derek Holzer: sounds, electronics

TONEWHEELS is an experiment in converting graphical imagery to sound, inspired by some of the pioneering 20th Century electronic music inventions. Transparent tonewheels with repeating patterns are spun over light-sensitive electronic circuitry to produce sound and light pulsations and textures. This all-analog set is performed entirely live without the use of computers, using only overhead projectors as light source, performance interface and audience display. In this way, TONEWHEELS aims to open up the “black box” of electronic music and video by exposing the working processes of the performance for the audience to see.


video samples

cuT 31[RGB]-TONEWHEELS filmed by Eyes_For_Ears from macumbista on Vimeo.

cuT 30[draft]-TONEWHEELS filmed by Eyes_For_Ears from macumbista on Vimeo.

TONEWHEELS trailer from macumbista on Vimeo.



Derek Holzer has performed live audiovisual sets using laptops and the Pure Data programming language since 2001. During this time, he became frustrated with the performance limitations of the computer and began new experiments with all-analog systems. These experiments came together during a workshop on art for the overhead projector at the Moltkerei in Cologne in August 2007. Inspired by some of the pioneering 20th Century electronic music instruments such as the ANS Synthesizer, the Variophone and the Oramics system, Holzer developed electronic and graphical systems for playing light on the overhead projector.

The project was developed further for the Passengers International Festival of Public Art, which took place in Warsaw during October 2007. There, the piece was premiered in it’s fullest form–a duo using one projector for sound generation and another for visual manipulation. Holzer continued to develop the sonic aspects of TONEWHEELS for a 3 month residency at Tesla, Berlin DE during the months of Oct-Dec 2007, as well as in residence at STEIM, Amsterdam NL during February 2008. A workshop on analog sound and light techniques is also under development, and was first held at the WAVES exhibition in Dortmund, DE during June 2008 (see TECHNICAL). A lecure on the history of graphical synthesis and “drawn sound” is also available (see HISTORY). Finally, experiments for a TONEWHEELS installation, which visitors and audience members can play with light or design graphical scores for, were made at Access Space, Sheffield UK during July 2008.



Nov – Edith-Russ-Haus für Medienkunst, Oldenburg DE
Jan – Mind the Gap night, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Rotterdam NL


Oct – Le festival accès(s), Pau FR
Apr – Radio Sonores, Guimarães PT


May – Multiplace Festival, Brno CZ
May – Školská 28, Prague CZ
May – Fête01, Orléans FR


Nov – /dev/art/, Paris FR
Nov – I-R-L, Paris FR
Nov – Résonances Electroniques Festival, Museum of Fine Arts, Dijon FR
May – MIT, Boston MA USA
May – AS220, Providence RI USA
Apr – Bent Festival, New York City NY USA
Apr – Spark Gallery, Syracuse NY USA
Apr – Soundlab, Buffalo NY USA
Mar – Royal Music Conservatory, Aarhus DK
Feb – Nu-Fest, Padova IT


Oct – Whatnight #3, Tilburg, NL
Oct – DA Festival, Sofia, BG
Oct – Tiny Noise/Kunstwerk, Cologne, DE
Oct – [w/ Origami Boe] Salon Bruit, Berlin, DE
Sep – Oscillations Festival/Black Box, Belfast, UK
Jul – Sommercampworkstation/Ausland, Berlin, DE
May – OHP Festival, Malmo, SE
Apr – International Noise Conference/Gallery Wallywoods, Berlin, DE
Mar – Future of Light/Future of Sound, London, UK
Mar – E:vent Gallery, London, UK
Mar – Thursday Club, Goldsmiths, London, UK
Mar – Noise=Noise, Goldsmiths, London, UK
Jan –, Novi Sad, SRB
Jan – xxxxx_temporary_structures, Club Transmediale, Berlin, DE


Nov – [w/ Staalplaat Sound System] Lab.30, Augsburg, DE
Oct – Almost Cinema Festival, Gent, BE
Sep – Club Maria am Ostbahnhof, Berlin, DE
Sep – Full Pull Festival, Malmo, SE
Aug – Access Space, Sheffield, UK
Jun – “Waves” Exhibition, Phoenix Halle, Dortmund, DE
Apr – Werkleitz/Hochschule für Kunst und Design, Halle, DE
Feb – [w/ Sara Kolster] STEIM, Amsterdam, NL
Feb – [w/ Sara Kolster] DNK, Amsterdam, NL
Jan – [w/ Sara Kolster] NETMAGE Festival, Bologna, IT


Oct – K-ITA, Berlin, DE
Oct – [w/ Sara Kolster] Passengers International Festival of Public Art, Warsaw, PL
Oct – KUMU, Tallinn, EE Aug – “Kunst & Musik mit dem Tageslichtprojektor”, Cologne, DE



May – Rhode Island School of Design, Providence RI USA
Apr – Bent Festival, New York City NY USA


Oct – DA Festival, Sofia, BG
Oct – Tiny Noise Camp/Bollwerk107, Moers, DE
Sep – Digital Arts Center, Belfast, UK
Jan – Pickled Feet, Berlin, DE


Jun – “Waves” Exhibition, Phoenix Halle, Dortmund, DE



I would like to play as close to the audience as possible. This means not on an elevated stage, but on the floor so that people can get very close to see what I am doing. If possible, I would like to set up and play in the center of the room. The performance has a very wide dynamic range (20-30dB to 100-110dB), especially in the bass range, so a sound system capable of producing physical effect for the listeners is requested. Stage monitor speakers should not be necessary, as I will hear the same sound as the audience. I do not want or need any stage lights during the performance! Thank you.

Derek Holzer from Elektronen Toto on Vimeo.

Noise=Noise, Goldsmiths London, 18 March 2009 from macumbista on Vimeo.




Hi-resolution photos by Patrycja Stefanek of the Warsaw performance are available here (6 photos, 19.4Mb).




The TONEWHEELS project was developed as part of a residency at the Tesla media arts laboratory, in Berlin, Germany over the months of Oct-Dec 2007. Further technical assistance was provided by Martin Howse and Jeff Mann in Berlin, and Marc Boon in Amsterdam.

TONEWHEELS was conceived during the “Kunst & Musik mit dem Tageslichtprojektor” workshop at the Moltkerei (Cologne, DE), organized by Ralph Schreiber, Christian Faubel and Tina Tongerel. TONEWHEELS had it’s first full-scale premier at the Passengers International Festival of Public Art (Warsaw, PL), curated by Zuzanna Fogtt and Kuba Szreder.

Thanks also to STEIM for providing a working space during the last two weeks of February 2008.

Website photos by Jodi Rose and Patrycja Stefanek, and website video by Eyes 4 Ears.