Mahakala Oratorio is a collaboration with composer Leila Adu. The piece, originally commisioned by chatterbird, had its live performance premiere with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at New York University's Skirball Center in NYC, March 2024. Adu composed the music and I created the visuals, which were projected above the orchestra during the concert.

Mahakala Oratorio’s inspiration draws directly from the Buddhist deity of the same name. Adu adapted Plainsong Pujua of Mahakala, originally compiled by Lama Chimé Shore from ancient texts from the late Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche and the late Ven. Kalu Rinpoche, describing Mahakala as a tool to empower listeners to consider the idea of radical compassion in this era of social, political, and environmental extremism.

Building upon this theme, the visuals center around creating contemporary mandalas, circular spiritual/art artifacts found in Vajrayana Buddhism. The archetype of a circle appears in many cultures throughout history. The Native Americans had the medicine wheel, which is a symbol for healing, growth, and finding one’s place in the universe. Carl Jung postulated that the circle symbolizes wholeness of self, unifying the conscious and unconscious parts of our psyches. The geometric patterns in Islamic art are often started with a simple circle, overlapping and combining with other shapes forming complex patterns, which can extend indefinitely, suggesting infinity. In Sanskrit, the word mandala literally translates as ‘circle.’

I built a physics system that generated the visuals for the performance. By varying the starting conditions of the system, many diverse circular images emerge through the accumulation of the system's moment to moment state over time. Often, the system will find a place of equilibrium after some time, but eventually it breaks down into chaos, naturally expressing entropy.

Links: ICE and

(note: video is black for the first 30 seconds before visuals come in):

Mahakala - ICE Mahakala - ICE Mahakala - ICE 37_vertices 17_vertices 50_vertices


Composed by Leila Adu
Visuals by Aaron Sherwood


Leila Adu-Gilmore, voice

International Contemporary Ensemble:

Kalena Bovell, conductor
Isabel Lepanto Gleicher, flute
Alice Teyssier, flute & voice
Emmalie Tello, clarinet
Rebekah Heller, bassoon
Hugo Moreno, trumpet
Nicolee Kuester, horn
Kalia Vandever, trombone
Miranda Cuckson, violin
Pala García, violin
Kal Sugatski, viola
Chris Gross, cello
Nuiko Wadden, harp
Vicky Chow, piano
Edward Kass, bass
Nathan Davis, percussion
Clara Warnaar, percussion
Pheeroan akLaff, drumset