Experiments in Visual Music
Since ancient times artists have longed to create with moving lights a music for the eye comparable to the effects of sound for the ear. (Moritz)
Still from Kreise (Circles) by Oskar Fischinger, 1933
Read Towards and Aesthetics of Visual Music by William Moritz (online)
Explore The Center for Visual Music (site)
Read at least sections 2.1 & 2.2 of this paper about Mary Hallock-Greenewalt
Mary Hallock-Greenewalt was an early composer and performer of audiovisual music. Around 1910, she created some of the first films designed as musical accompaniment by painting on strips of film, a technique explored later by Len Lye and Norman McLaren, among others. Hallock-Greenewalt also developed the Sarabett, a color organ for musical performance. We will look at color organs and audiovisual instruments again later this semester.
Paul Friedlander distinguishes between 3 types of visual music…
- Visual Music is a means of converting music to images using a system or set of rules which can be implemented as machine or computer code.
- Visual Music is a means of expressing music in visual form requiring the active involvement of an artist, designer or director to interpret the music and find the means to express it visually.
- Visual music is about creating visual relationships which change over time.
Take a look at a few pieces with these descriptions in mind… comment about these pieces and/or the idea/genre of visual music more generally.
McLaren describes his process in a 1951 BBC interview:
I draw a lot of little lines on the sound-track area of the 35-mm. film. Maybe 50 or 60 lines for every musical note. The number of strokesto the inch controls the pitch of the note: the more, the higher the pitch; the fewer, the lower is the pitch. The size of the stroke con- trols the loudness: a big stroke will go “boom,” a smaller stroke will give a quieter sound, and the faintest stroke will be just a little “m-m-m.” A black ink is another way of making a loud sound, a mid-gray ink will make a medium sound, and a very pale ink will make a very quiet sound. The tone quality, which is the most difficult ele- ment to control, is made by the shape of the strokes. Well-rounded forms give smooth sounds; sharper or angular forms give harder, harsher sounds. Sometimes I use a brush instead of a pen to get very soft sounds. By drawing or exposing two or more patterns on the same bit of film I can create harmony and textural effects.
Synchromy N2 Abstarct film 1935/36, by Mary Ellen Bute
While Brakhage’s films are replete with other oppositions, on the levels of both style and subject matter, his editing is not merely—or even mostly—oppositional. Most frequently, a sequence will be followed by a kind of lateral move; rather than answering one set of visual forms with its opposite, he understood that opposition is a form of affirmation, because it accepts the terms of what is being opposed, and instead sought to shift the very grammar of the film’s discourse.
Gondry actually plotted out the synchronization of the song on graph paper before creating the video, eventually “modelling” the scenery with oranges, forks, tapes, books, glasses and tennis shoes. (wikipedia)
Driven by the primary principles of datamatics, but objectively deconstructing its original elements – sound, visuals and even source codes – this new work creates a kind of meta–datamatics. Ikeda employs real–time programme computations and data scanning to create an extended new sequence that is a further abstraction of the original work. The technical dynamics of the piece, such as its extremely fast frame rates and variable bit depths, continue to challenge and explore the thresholds of our perceptions. (from Ikeda’s Website)
With the heart of a video synthesizer and the brain of a videogame console, Ming Mecca is the first of its kind: an ontological toy, a videogame easel, and a love letter to all things retrofuture. Designed for use in Eurorack format synthesizers but built to meet the demands of even the most seasoned micro-galactic interlopers, Ming Mecca modules will take your rig where no rig has gone before. (from the Special Stage systems website)