Mary Ellen Bute is the experimental artist we need right now

This Animation Pioneer Turned Music into Pure Light

Via the Creators Project: "With kaleidoscopic and surreal imagery that dances across the screen in perfect succession to its musical accompaniment, the film and animation of Mary Ellen Bute puts the viewer in an alluring dreamlike world where music is not only heard but also seen. Active from the 1930s until her death in 1983, Bute was on a continued quest to unite images and sound through her work. In this pursuit she explored many different tactics of animation and experimental filmmaking, most famously oscilloscope-generated imagery. The latter practice involves using the oscilloscope, an instrument designed to observe and track electrical signals and use information about voltage and configuration gained from this process to describe shapes. Bute began filming the images generated by music she fed through this instrument. Cindy Keefer a curator, archivist, and director for the Los Angeles based Center for Visual Music (CVM) explains, 'She then combined those images with that same music and layers of animation. Other animators began to film oscilloscopes after this, but her work makes her one of the earliest, and a pioneer in electronic art.' [...]

As the rise of the internet and emerging visual and audio technology makes the relationship between audio and visual art more analogous, it's important to look back on the pioneers whose work paved the way for these developments. Mary Ellen Bute was not the kind of person satisfied with letting her ideas remain abstract thoughts, stating in 1936, 'We need a new kinetic, visual art form - one that unites sound, color and form.' Looking at her oeuvre in hindsight, it is clear the work is a well thought out experiment in seamlessly combining these elements."

Luminous Rainbow Wheels

Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky

Via Slate: "Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky was a 20th-century avant-garde pianist devoted to 'creating a work capable of awakening in every man the slumbering forces of cosmic consciousness,' according to his journal. To achieve this mystical ideal, he set out to create sounds that no one had ever heard before. His music was microtonal, a style that transcends the limitations of the 12-scale tuning system in traditional Western music. [...]

In the late 1940s, he translated his ultrachromatic compositions into these mesmerizing rainbow color wheels. He applied the concepts of synesthesia, blurring the line between sound and color. Each cell on these drawings corresponds to a different semitone in his complex musical sequences. If you look closely enough, you can follow the spirals as if it were a melody and listen to the scores they represent."

Thanks to Marcus Schmickler!

Visual Music Archive

A non-institutional and highly subjective collection.

During my sabbatical 2009/10 I started building an online archive for Visual Music. Since the Visual Music Archive is not a blog it accumulates slowly and steadily, and shall continue to far into the future.
To seek completeness in the field of fine arts seems rather eerie. A wunderkammer, on the other hand, is far more interesting, challenging, and provides inspiring impulses. As a library's inner sanctum.
I love the intelligent design by Chewing The Sun and the elegant CMS architecture by Julian Furthkamp.
The Visual Music Archive is supported by the International Music Residencies program of the Goethe-Institut Germany and the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles.

Organised Sound

Volume 17 Issue 2

Via ACM Digital Library: "Table of Contents:

Editorial by Nick Fox-gieg, Cindy Keefer, Margaret Schedel   

From sonic art to visual music: Divergences, convergences, intersections by Diego Garro
This paper introduces strategies for the electroacoustic community to relate to, and engage with, the visual music phenomenon. It addresses technological, historical, cultural and idiomatic intersections between the two art forms. From the personal viewpoint ...

Consonance and dissonance in visual music by Bill Alves
The concepts of consonance and dissonance broadly understood can provide structural models for creators of visual music. The application of words such as 'harmony' across both music and visual arts indicates potential correspondences not just between ...

Translation, emphasis, synthesis, disturbance: On the function of music in visual music by Anton Fuxjäger
Starting from the premiss that the central aesthetic feature of non-representational moving images (visual music) is their structuring of reception time, the function of the accompanying music in contributing to the total (combined) temporal structure ...

The evolution of notational innovations from the mobile score to the screen score by Lindsay Vickery
This article examines the evolution of music notational practices from avant-garde-era experiments in 'mobility' to the advent of the digital 'screen score'. It considers the varied goals of the composers who initiated these developments and the dissonance ...

The oramics machine: From vision to reality by Peter Manning
The pioneering contributions of Daphne Oram to visual music, notably the construction of her unique synthesiser known as the Oramics Machine during the 1960s, have yet to be fully recognised. The development of this synthesiser, in terms of both the ...

Audiovisual harmony: The realtime audiovisualisation1 of a single data source in construction in zhuangzi by Ryo Ikeshiro
This paper explores the context and technical and aesthetic considerations behind the author's generative and improvisational audiovisual work, Construction in Zhuangzi (2011), and in particular the approach of 'audiovisualising' the same source ...

Depth modulation: Composing motion in immersive audiovisual spaces by Ewa Trębacz
The field of electroacoustic music has witnessed years of extensive exploration of aural spatial perception and an abundance of spatialisation techniques. Today the growing ubiquity of visual 3D technologies gives artists a similar opportunity in the ...

Visual music after cage: Robert breer, expanded cinema and stockhausen's originals (1964) by Andrew v. Uroskie
Within William Seitz's 1961 exhibition The Art of Assemblage for the New York Museum of Modern Art, the question of framing-of art's exhibitionary situation within and against a given environment-had emerged as perhaps the major issue of postwar ...

Musique concrète thinking in visual music practice: Audiovisual silence and noise, reduced listening and visual suspension
by Joseph Hyde
This article is based on my creative practice as an electroacoustic composer who has developed a practice of audiovisual composition broadly sited within the field of visual music. A brief contextual survey sites my work by first presenting a personal ...

Acousmate: History and de-visualised sound in the schaefferian tradition
by Brian Kane
The word acousmatic has a strange and complicated history. Recent Schaefferian accounts have replicated François Bayle's sketch of the histoire du mot from his Musique acousmatique-in particular, the assumed synonymy between acousmatique ..."

Thanks to Marc Matter!

It’s all there for you now! Go forth!

Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (1963-67)

Via The Hum: "Treatise, which was composed between 1963 and 1967, is considered to be Cornelius Cardew’s greatest achievement. It’s also a total head-fuck for anyone who attempts to approach it. It’s a 193 page graphic score with no instruction – completely in the hands of the conductor and musicians who interpret it. Whatever you make of the music that grows from it, Treatise is an undeniable thing of aesthetic beauty. The work is rarely realized in its totality. Performers tend to focus on distinct passages. It can be performed by a single player, or by as large an ensemble as possible. There is no indication of preferred instrumentation or duration. Because the work bears no description beyond itself, there is little to say about it. Wanting to share it, I’ve included three realizations focused on pages 1-14, 57-58, and 140-165, by separate ensembles respectively. I’ve also included a series of images which depict the score in its totality, an image of the original bound score made by Cadrew, and scans of the each of its entire 193 pages. I hope you enjoy."

Birth of Music Visualization

The Clavilux by Thomas Wilfred

Via Modern Mechanix: "The Clavilux has three manuals and a triple light chamber, corresponding respectively to the keyboard and wind chest of the pipe organ. Disk keys appear on the manual, moving to and from the operator and playing color and form almost as the pipe organ plays sound.

There are 100 positions for each key, making possible almost infinite combinations of color and form. The music, or notation, is printed in figures upon a five-lined staff, three staves joined, as treble and bass clefs are joined for piano, to provide a clef for each of the three manuals. A color chord is represented by three figures as, for example, 40-35-60; and movement of the prescribed keys to the designated positions on the numbered scale of the keyboard produces the desired figure.

The artist sits at the keyboard with the notation book before him. He releases the light by means of switches. By playing upon the keys he projects it upon the screen, molds it into form, makes the form move and change in rhythm, introduces texture and depth, and finally injects color of perfect purity in any degree of intensity.

The light is concentrated into a beam which is projected through a form-producing device for depth and texture, then filtered through colored screens. And then in a darkened hall, through the three – dimensional projection of the color organ, the light pours from lenses at the back of the instrument and the flat white screen is made a window into space where fluid light-forms are built up in fantastic compositions. The result on seeing it for the first time is the same as if music had never existed and one were suddenly to hear the strains of a violin."

Thanks to Joost Rekvelt!

Hand drawn on film and made from cut paper

Listen to early Soviet synthesizer music

Via Dangerous Minds: "Sometime in the early 1920s the Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy suggested that a new form of music writing could be created from the grooves in phonographic records. He believed experimenting with the groves would enable composers, musicians and artists to produce music without recording any instruments. Long before scratching, Moholy-Nagy also believed the phonograph could become an overall instrument… which supersedes all instruments used so far.

With the arrival of synchronized sound in movies, as seen and heard in the first talkie The Jazz Singer in 1927, Moholy-Nagy refined his idea believing a whole new world of abstract sound could be created from experimentation with the optical film sound track. He hoped such experimentation would enrich the sphere of our aural experience, by producing sounds that were entirely unknown.

In 1929, the Russians produced their first talkie, the snappily titled The Five Year Plan for Great Works. The possibility of synchronized sound inspired a trio of pioneers, composer Arseny Avraamov, animator Mikhail Tsihanovsky and engineer Evgeny Sholpo who were fascinated by the curved loops, arcs and waveforms on the optical soundtrack. The patterns made them wonder if synthetic music could be created by drawing directly onto the sound track. Of course, this they did, at first testing out vase-shapes and ellipses then Egyptian hieroglyphs—all with startling results.

In 1930, Avraamov produced (possibly) the first short film with a hand-drawn synthetic soundtrack. [...]

Elsewhere, Nikolai Voinov was developing the idea of cutting paper to create a synthetic soundtrack—a technique that used magnetic tape and an ultra-chromatic 48 tune microtonal system which was produced by drawing on the magnetic tape. Voinov produced very basic short animations using this technique such as Rachmaninov Prelude (1932) and The Dance of the Crow (1933)."

Thanks to Andrew Mottl!

Can Synesthesia Be Learned?

Adults Can Be Trained to Acquire Synesthetic Experiences

Via On Psychology and Neuroscience: "However, participants gained more than these perceptions. Bor et al. (2014) also found that participants who completed training showed an increase in their IQ by an average of 12 points, compared to controls. This suggests that there is something about learning synesthetic links that can result in an enhanced cognitive ability. These results are useful and exciting to explore. It is possible that this training could help individuals at risk for dementia or other diseases that cause cognitive decline."

The Sound of Sorting

Audibilization and Visualization of Sorting Algorithms

Via YouTube: "Sorts random shuffles of integers, with both speed and the number of items adapted to each algorithm's complexity. The algorithms are: selection sort, insertion sort, quick sort, merge sort, heap sort, radix sort (LSD), radix sort (MSD), std::sort (intro sort), std::stable_sort (adaptive merge sort), shell sort, bubble sort, cocktail shaker sort, gnome sort, bitonic sort and bogo sort (30 seconds of it)."

Via Panthema: "This web page presents my own demo program for sortings algorithms, called The Sound of Sorting, which both visualizes the algorithms internals and their operations, and generates sound effects from the values being compared. See below for YouTube videos created with the demo.

The demo is implemented using the cross-platform toolkits wxWidgets and SDL, can be executed on Windows, Linux and Mac, and runs in real time.

All of the sorting algorithms are implemented in the SortAlgo.cpp.

Since November 2013, there is also the SoS-CheatSheet.pdf, which contains pseudo-code of a small selection of the algorithms.

On 2013-10-24, the viral YouTube video infected the front page of my current employer: the Department of Informatics at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), which is of course whom I originally made the demo program for. See the blog post about this occasion for another more technical description of the sorting demo program."

Thanks to Florian Zeeh!

Geometry Dash

More Visual Music games

Via Wikipedia:"Geometry Dash is a 2013 mobile game, developed by Sweden-based developer Robert Topala, and also published by RobTop Games, which was founded by himself. It is a rhythm-based running game which has 16 levels currently, with each stage featuring unique background music. Although the player is not required to complete a level to advance to the next, they will often increase in difficulty. Other features of the game that exist in the latest versions is the level builder, map packs, user-created levels, secret coins, and a great variety of icons.
Topala also created a free version of the game, known simply as Geometry Dash Lite, which include the first 6 levels of full version up to now. This variant, excluding several features from the paid version, also does not feature level builder and user-created levels. Geometry Dash Lite has, however, been far more popular of a game in both the App Store and Play Store due to its pricing."

Via Cult of Mac: "His quirky, rhythm-based running game, a $1.99 gem called Geometry Dash, went on to own the App Store, crawling in less than a year from total obscurity to the top of the paid iPhone charts. 'Word of mouth,' says Topala, explaining his game’s monumental success. 'It’s as simple and frightening as that.'
As it happens, word of mouth may be an understatement. The super-addictive Geometry Dash has become an iOS superstar and is now spreading to other platforms like Android and Windows Phone. All told, Topala says the game has been downloaded more than 20 million times, across both paid and non-paid versions.
So what’s his secret?
For starters, we’re in the midst of a golden age for independent game developers in the iOS App Store. One of the big advantages of the platform is the level of interaction it allows between the coders who make games and the people who play them. For example, most indie devs are more than happy to strike up in-depth conversations with players — something almost unheard of in the world of AAA games, the classification given to those titles with the highest development budgets and levels of promotion (think Grand Theft Auto V or Mass Effect).

Topala wisely took things to the next level. While most indie developers go no further than soliciting feedback about features that gamers would like to see in future versions, with Geometry Dash Topala fully embraced the idea of letting his game be driven by its players. He created a level editor mode that lets users create and share their own levels of the hit game. More than 500,000 such custom stages exist now.
'The amount of user-generated content is insane, and the quality of many levels is truly amazing,' he says."

Thanks to Stephanie von Fragstein!

Reflection On Norman McLaren, George Balanchine And Absolute Ballet

by Aimee Mollaghan
May 18th, 2014

Via Animation Studies: "Although Norman McLaren’s ballet films are often considered independently of his animation work, they do essentially engage with many of the same core concerns. McLaren’s assertion as to the plotless, abstract nature of the film notwithstanding, he has attested to the idea of relationships between two objects, continuously drawn to one another across his body of work. The dancers in Pas de Deux eventually become abstract forms, their auras seeming to move through space and each other so that they become indivisible at points, in a manner similar to the fluid formations in his hand painted animations to express Madame Chiriaeff’s philosophy: La danse, c’est le mouvement, et le mouvement, c’est la vie. [Dance is movement, and movement is life]."

Thanks to Center for Visual Music!

320° Licht

Spatial experience | Gasometer Oberhausen

Via Urbanscreen: „The 320° Licht installation of URBANSCREEN uses the cathedral-like beauty of the Gasometer as the starting point for a fascinating game with shapes and light.
Within a radius of 320 degrees graphic patterns grow and change on the 100-metre high inside wall of the Gasometer.
The observer experiences the interplay between real and virtual space, in which the Gasometer seems to dissolve into its own, filigree structures and yet finally always reverts to its clear shape. [...]
With approx 20,000 square meters of area played upon, the installation is among the world’s largest and technically most sophisticated interior projections - interconnecting 21 powerful projectors to one projection screen.“

Thanks to Florian Zeeh!

Pictures Of Sound: One Thousand Years Of Educed Audio: 980-1980

by Patrick Feaster

Via Dust to Digital: "Using modern technology, Patrick Feaster is on a mission to resurrect long-vanished voices and sounds—many of which were never intended to be revived.
Over the past thousand years, countless images have been created to depict sound in forms that theoretically could be played just as though they were modern sound recordings. Now, for the first time in history, this compilation uses innovative digital techniques to convert historic pictures of sound dating back as far as the Middle Ages directly into meaningful audio. It contains the world’s oldest known sound recordings in the sense of sound vibrations automatically recorded out of the air—the groundbreaking phonautograms recorded in Paris by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in the 1850s and 1860s—as well as the oldest gramophone records available anywhere for listening today, including inventor Emile Berliner’s recitation of Der Handschuh, played back from an illustration in a magazine, which international news media recently proclaimed to be the oldest audible record in the tradition of 78s and vintage vinyl. Other highlights include the oldest known recording of identifiable words spoken in the English language (1878) and the world’s oldest surviving trick recording (1889). But Pictures of Sound pursues the thread even further into the past than that by playing everything from medieval music manuscripts to historic telegrams, and from seventeenth-century barrel organ programs to eighteenth-century notations of Shakespearean recitation.

In short, this isn’t just another collection of historical audio—it redefines what historical audio is."

Thanks to Helga Szentpétery!

The Eye and the Ear

by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson

Via Luxonline: "The Themersons' last film, The Eye and the Ear, was also made in England in 1944-45. The film consists of four parts, each based on a song from Karol Szymanowski's Słopiewnie. In the second and third part, the film is an abstract graphic transposition of the music (if one does not count Piero della Francesca's Nativity, which serves as a background to various abstract patterns). The movement and shape of the geometrical forms on the screen reflect exactly the main melodic line as well as the instrumental elements. Technically the film was made in a simple as well as an inventive way. In the second part organ-like forms were created by glass sticks. Triangular smoke-like forms symbolizing notes were achieved by passing the light beams emitted by small bulbs through a special lens. Other geometric forms were cut out of paper and superimposed. The close-ups of della Francesca's singing angels were composed so as to give the impression of one angel moving his lips to the tune. In the last part a glass container filled with water become a receptacle for small clay balls. The camera, placed as before, pointed upwards from below.

The film, although reminiscent of similar abstract music films by Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye or Norman McLaren, differs from them in one essential point. While the artists mentioned above attempted to create visual equivalents to music, the Themersons' approach was of a more scientific character. They treated the film medium as a tool for the analysis of musical structure. The film has been provided with comments which explain the precise function of each element appearing on screen.

In 1983 Stefan Themerson wrote to this author:

'Experiment — exercising to see the result. We planned Europa not as an experiment in this sense but as a work of art. Yet The Eye and the Ear was done as a consciously designed experiment. Not every avant-garde dealt with experiments and not every experiment equalled avant-garde.'

The The Eye and the Ear closed the Themersons' film period. 'Do you remember,' Stefan Themerson wrote to Alexander Ford in 1945, 'our meeting in Paris a long time before the war? It was then that we parted with film for good. Although here, in London, more under the pressure of circumstances than a real, mad, frantic artistic need (the only one that counts), we returned to film making and made two short pieces... Yet, as we were working on them, we realized more acutely than before that the film fever had left us, probably for good.'"

Thanks to Marc Matter !

There's No Sound In My Head

Mark Applebaum’s Metaphysics of Notation

Via Lateral Films: "Composer Mark Applebaum's cryptic, painfully fastidious, wildly elaborate, and unreasonably behemoth pictographic score, The Metaphysics of Notation, consists of 70 linear feet of highly detailed, hand-drawn glyphs, two hanging mobiles, and absolutely no written or verbal instructions.
Installed for one year at the Cantor Arts Center Museum on the Stanford University campus it received 45 weekly performances from interpreters from around the world.
There's No Sound In My Head investigates the project and Applebaum's development as a composer. Through interviews with composers and musicologists, performance footage, and conversations with Applebaum as he draws in his studio, the film poses questions about the borders between music and visual art."

Also, check out Mark Applebaum's TED talk.

Thanks to Fabian Scharpf and Christian Schäfer!

Visual Music

by Brian Eno

The mayor I teach at the Institute For Music And Media just went mainstream:

Via Chronicle Books: "This comprehensive monograph celebrates the visual art of renowned musician Brian Eno. Spanning more than 40 years, Brian Eno: Visual Music weaves a dialogue between Eno’s museum and gallery installations and his musical endeavors."

Via The New York Times:
"NYT: Do you think of yourself as a synaesthete?
Brian Eno: I wouldn’t call myself a synaesthete in the sense that Nabokov was. But I’ll talk about a sound as being cold blue or dark brown. For descriptive purposes, yes, I often see colors when I’m listening to music and think, 'Oh, there’s not enough sort of yellowy stuff in here, or not enough white.'"

Also, check out my Visual Music Archive.


by Daniel Franke and Cedric Kiefer

Via Daniel Franke: "The basic idea of the project is built upon the consideration of creating a moving sculpture from the recorded motion data of a real person. For our work we asked a dancer to visualize a musical piece (Kreukeltape by Machinenfabriek) as closely as possible by movements of her body. She was recorded by three depth cameras (Kinect), in which the intersection of the images was later put together to a three-dimensional volume (3d point cloud), so we were able to use the collected data throughout the further process. The three-dimensional image allowed us a completely free handling of the digital camera, without limitations of the perspective. The camera also reacts to the sound and supports the physical imitation of the musical piece by the performer. She moves to a noise field, where a simple modification of the random seed can consistently create new versions of the video, each offering a different composition of the recorded performance. The multi-dimensionality of the sound sculpture is already contained in every movement of the dancer, as the camera footage allows any imaginable perspective."

Video to Sound and Back Again, and Music

Mixing Video Over an Audio Mixer

Via Create Digital Music: "PixiVisor is software for desktop (Mac, Windows, Linux) and mobile (iOS, Android) that transforms images to sound and back again. Producing sound from images is an idea in a variety of tools. But PixiVisor is unique in that it goes the other way, too: sound can be turned back into the originally imagery as a video. In the demo video here from developer Alexander Zolotov, a simple audio mixer can mix together multiple video sources (in beautiful low fidelity), and add effects. A DIY 4-pole plug connects the signal to the mobile gadget – iOS, in this case.
The video source (and recording format) is animated GIF files.
Alexander Zolotov is also the creator of SunVox, the powerful music making app."

Thanks to Peter Thoma!



An Interactive Fabric Surface by Aaron Sherwood


Via Colossal: "Firewall is a new interactive artwork by New York media artist Aaron Sherwood created in collaboration with Michael Allison. The presentation is relatively straightforward but still visually stunning: different modes of light are projected onto a taut membrane of spandex which then reacts kinetically in response to touch. Firewall was made using Processing, Max/MSP, Arduino and a Kinect that work in tandem to create the experience and will be used in an upcoming performance art piece involving dancer Kiori Kawai who will interact with the piece on stage."

Oskar Fischinger in Amsterdam

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967): Experiments in Cinematic Abstraction

Been invited by Cindy Keefer, director of the prestigious Center for Visual Music (CVM) in Los Angeles, to attend the pre-opening of the exhibition Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967): Experiments in Cinematic Abstraction on December 15th, 2012 in Amsterdam's great, new EYE film museum. Fischinger's daughter Barbara will be giving one of the ultra rare Lumigraph performances.
Also, look very much forward to meeting with the other attending members of the CVM.

Generation Z

An ongoing project by Andrei Smirnov

Via Generation Z: "The late 1920s was also the period in which sound was being developed to accompany films and animations in Russia. In 1929 one of the leading experimental Soviet filmmakers, the painter, book illustrator and animator Mikhail Tsekhanovsky (1889-1965) was involved in the production of the first Soviet sound movie Piatiletka. The Plan of the Great Works. When in October of that year the first roll of film was developed, it was Tsekhanovsky who voiced the idea: 'What if we take some Egyptian or ancient Greek ornaments as a sound track? Perhaps we will hear some unknown archaic music?' He was referring to the shapes and outlines of vases and how these could be used as if wave forms to generate sound. It was at this precise moment that technology of synthesizing sound from light, called the Graphical Sound techniques were invented and, possibly the first electronic soundtracks ever created.

The group with whom he was working included the talented inventor and engineer Evgeny Sholpo (1891-1951) who was already working on new techniques of so-called performer-less music, but the most outstanding participant in the project was the aforementioned composer Arseny Avraamov. The next day they were already furiously at work on experiments in what they referred to variously as ornamental, drawn, paper, graphical, artificial or synthetic sound. It was Avraamov who completed the first artificial sound tracks in 1930 and by 1936 there were four main trends of Graphical Sound in Soviet Russia: hand-drawn Ornamental Sound (Avraamov, early Boris Yankovsky, 1905-1973); hand-made Paper Sound (Nikolai Voinov, 1900-1958); Variophone or automated Paper Sound (Evgeny Sholpo, Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov); and the spectral analysis, decomposition and re-synthesis technique (Boris Yankovsky). Yankovsky's idea was related to the separation of the spectral content of sound and its formants, resembling the popular recent computer music techniques of cross synthesis and the phase vocoder. It was certainly one of the most radical, paradigm-shifting propositions of the mid 1930s. Researchers involved in Graphical Sound had to overcome enormous technical and theoretical (as well as more mundane) difficulties during its short existence. The results of their work were surprising and unexpected, and ahead of the group's time by decades. However, collision with the state was fatal. In less than ten years, all of their work had ended and was almost instantly forgotten."

Thanks to Lena Willikens!

A Brief History Of Optical Synthesis

by Derek Holzer

Here is a great timeline of the technology of synthesizing sound.
Via UMATIC: "Optical sound technology was developed first solely for recording soundtracks for early speakies, and every one of the Russian innovators used their graphical sound techniques to provide music scores for the kino. But the connection with the Visual Music movement in cinema is also very close, with perhaps the works of Norman McLaren providing the strongest bridge. But the direct cinema techniques of many filmmakers from the 1920's and 1930's on through the 1960's and 1970's show more than a casual relationship with the techniques of direct optical sound synthesis. The works of Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, Stan Brakhage, John Whitney, Hy Hirsch, Harry Smith, Jordan Belson, Larry Cuba and many others all reflect an ongoing lineage of this visual music tradition. (...)
My hope is that this small survey sparks more interest in all of these inventors, composers and artists and their incredible works (...)"

Maura McDonnell's website gives an excellent synopsis and timeline as well.

Thanks to Marcus Schmickler!


Insanely Futuristic 3D Music Interface

Via Create Digital Music: "Now, I could say more, but perhaps it’s best to watch the videos. Normally, when you see a demo video with 10 or 11 minutes on the timeline, you might tune out. Here, I predict you’ll be too busy trying to get your jaw off the floor to skip ahead in the timeline.

At the same time, to me this kind of visualization of music opens a very, very wide door to new audiovisual exploration. Christian’s eye-popping work is the result of countless decisions – which visualization to use, which sound to use, which interaction to devise, which combination of interfaces, of instruments – and, most importantly, what kind of music. Any one of those decisions represents a branch that could lead elsewhere. If I’m right – and I dearly hope I am – we’re seeing the first future echoes of a vast, expanding audiovisual universe yet unseen."

Thanks to Peter Thoma!


by Iannis Xenakis

Via Wikipedia: "UPIC is a computerised musical composition tool, devised by the composer Iannis Xenakis. It was developed at the Centre d'Etudes de Mathématique et Automatique Musicales (CEMAMu) in Paris, and was completed in 1977. The name is an acronym of Unité Polyagogique Informatique du CEMAMu. Xenakis used it on his subsequent piece Mycènes Alpha (1978), and it has been used by composers such as Jean-Claude Risset (on Saxatile (1992)), Takehito Shimazu (Illusions in Desolate Fields (1994)), Aphex Twin, Mari King, and Curtis Roads.

Physically, the UPIC is a digitising tablet linked to a computer, which has a vector display. Its functionality is similar to that of the later Fairlight CMI, in that the user draws waveforms and volume envelopes on the tablet, which are rendered by the computer. Once the waveforms have been stored, the user can compose with them by drawing compositions on the tablet, with the X-axis representing time, and the Y-axis representing pitch. The compositions can be stretched in duration from a few seconds to an hour. They can also be transposed, reversed, inverted, and subject to a number of algorithmic transformations. The system allows for real time performance by moving the stylus across the tablet."

Time Piece

by Jim Hen­son (1936-1990)

Via IMDB: "Dis­lo­ca­ti­on in ti­me, ti­me si­gna­tu­res, ti­me as a phi­lo­so­phi­cal con­cept, and sla­very to ti­me are so­me of the the­mes tou­ched upon in this ni­ne-​mi­nu­te, ex­pe­ri­men­tal film, which was writ­ten, di­rec­ted, and pro­du­ced by Jim Hen­son – ​and star­red Jim Hen­son! Scree­ned for the first ti­me at the Mu­se­um of Mo­dern Art in May of 1965, Ti­me Pie­ce en­joy­ed an eigh­teen-​month run at one Man­hat­tan mo­vie thea­ter and was no­mi­na­ted for an Aca­de­my Award for out­stan­ding short sub­ject."

Realtime sound visualisation made with "Partitura"

by Abstract Birds and Quayola, sound by Telefon Tel Aviv

Via Vimeo: "Partitura is a custom software to generate realtime graphics aimed at visualising sound. The term Partitura (score) implies a connection with music, and this metaphor is the main focus of the project. Partitura aims to create a new system for translating sound into visual forms. Inspired by the studies of artists such as Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren, the images generated by Partitura are based on a precise and coherent system of relationships between various types of geometries. The main characteristic of this system is its horizontal linear structure, like that of a musical score. It is along this linear environment that the different classes of abstract elements are created and evolve over time according to the sound. Partitura creates endless ever-evolving abstract landscapes that can respond to musical structures, audio analysis and manual gestural inputs. It is an instrument that visualises sound with both the freedom of spontaneous personal interpretation/improvisation and at the same time maintaining the automations and triggers of mathematical precision."

Thanks to Christian Sander and Tobias Gallé!

Bumbum Box

Inter-dependent notation

Via Heart Chamber Orchestra: "The Heart Chamber Orchestra – HCO – is an audiovisual performance. The orchestra consists of 12 classical musicians and the artist duo TERMINALBEACH.
Using their heartbeats, the musicians control a computer composition and visualization environment. The musical score is generated in real time by the heartbeats of the musicians. They read and play this score from a computer screen placed in front of them.
HCO forms a structure where music literally comes from the heart.
The debut performance of HCO was in Trondheim/Norway in October 2006, during the festival for electronic arts and new technology, Trondheim Matchmaking. The orchestra was the Trondheim Sinfonietta."

Thanks to Georg Brüx!

What I Call a Sound

Anthony Braxton's Synaesthetic Ideal and Notations for Improvisers

Via Non Projects: "What he sees as trans-idiomatic and trans-global, cultural purists of all hues still decry as transgressive. The challenge for players, for listeners, is to move beyond what Braxton refers to as the traditional parameters, as they have been defined; to escape from the little boxes labelled jazz tradition or authentic blackness or European only and all the other markers of exclusivity. Against these petty fundamentalisms Braxton sets his synaesthetic ideal of unity and openness, with its many aesthetic-cum-political implications, from personal affirmation to global harmony. And if the power and the beauty of his music can persuade us that the ideal is both desirable and attainable (because it works in performance), then his unique auditory perception, his vision of what he calls a sound, may help to change the way we all hear music — and see the world."

Thanks to Phillip Schulze and Christian Schäfer!

Also, check out the online home of composer Anthony Braxton.

Expanded Cinema

A Bibliography by the Center for Visual Music

The Center for Visual Music is a wonderful, awe-inspiring and stunning resource. It is one-of-a-kind. Their director Cindy send me the link to their Expanded Cinema online bibliography. Go check it out and get lost.

Human Bodies

The Subject of Percussive Video Composition

Via Create Digital Motion: "Call it full-body percussion. Kasumi's soundboard short film centers on sliced footage of dancers, composed into an audiovisual rhythm. It's brief but nicely focused. I can almost feel the weight of the movement. More notes from the work's creator:

This piece is as much about the sound as is it the image. Using only the percussive sounds of the dancers' bodies hitting the floor and each other, I created the audio mix by layering the un-effected sounds in Ableton Live, while simultaneously cutting up the video. I am immensely grateful to Didier Feldmann, whose brilliant color-grading raised the aesthetic level of this work many, many notches. Thanks of course, to Christopher Bell and Da-Rell Townes, for their willingness to experiment.

It's worth checking out her other work on Vimeo and her own site; Kasumi has collaborated with the likes of DJ Spooky and Grandmaster Flash and the New York Phil and got the attention of the Vimeo remix awards."

Thanks to Christian Sander!

Synesthesia and Relayed Art Experience

by Daniel Shea

Via Ahorn Magazine: "Scientists have successfully shown that when babies are stimulated sonically or visually the corresponding neural sensory mode will not be the one firing. For example, a baby will hear a loud noise but neurons in her sight modality will fire. Simply put, a baby can hear sights, see noises, and touch smells, and does so frequently. As a result a baby lives in a disorienting cognitive stage in which sensual boundaries are still developing.

This condition is not unique to early childhood, as many adults have developed fixed cognitive functions that classify as synesthesia. The neurobiological mechanisms of synesthesia work as follows; stimuli in one sensory modality registers as a sensory experience in a different modality. The most popularly referenced synesthetic function is grapheme-colour synesthesia, in which graphemes (letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc.) illicit a strong color association from the synesthete. The Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky famously used his synesthetic condition to relay cross-faculty experience in artistic depiction. Kandinsky paintings arrange musical composition as it relates to his color and movement-based associations of them."

Design for Music

Eye magazine's first-ever music design special

From Eye: "Over the years we have published many articles about design for music, but this is Eye's first-ever special issue on this dynamic and continually inspiring sector. Designers are in a privileged position to add visual drama to music; to make it more understandable and enjoyable; to communicate the intangible essence of vibrating air molecules into the worlds of words, images and moving graphics. Design can make music look good, but when they really work together you have magic."

Thanks to Christian Schäfer!

What makes music sound so sweet

(or not)

From EurekAlert: "Ever since ancient times, scholars have puzzled over the reasons that some musical note combinations sound so sweet while others are just downright dreadful. The Greeks believed that simple ratios in the string lengths of musical instruments were the key, maintaining that the precise mathematical relationships endowed certain chords with a special, even divine, quality. Twentieth-century composers, on the other hand, have leaned toward the notion that musical tastes are really all in what you are used to hearing. (...)

The researchers' results show that musical chords sound good or bad mostly depending on whether the notes being played produce frequencies that are harmonically related or not. Beating didn't turn out to be as important. Surprisingly, the preference for harmonic frequencies was stronger in people with experience playing musical instruments. In other words, learning plays a role — perhaps even a primary one, McDermott argues.

Whether you would get the same result in people from other parts of the world remains to be seen, McDermott says, but the effect of musical experience on the results suggests otherwise. 'It suggests that Westerners learn to like the sound of harmonic frequencies because of their importance in Western music. Listeners with different experience might well have different preferences.' The diversity of music from other cultures is consistent with this. 'Intervals and chords that are dissonant by Western standards are fairly common in some cultures,' he says. 'Diversity is the rule, not the exception.'"

Brain mechanisms

Like a summer with a thousand July's, you intoxicate my soul with your eyes

From ScienceBlogs: "Subjective experience poses a major problem for neuroscientists and philosophers alike, and the relationship between them and brain function is particularly puzzling. How can I know that my perception of the colour red is the same as yours, when my experience of the colour occupies a private mental world to which nobody else has access? How is the sensory information from an object transformed into an experience that enters conscious awareness? The neural mechanisms involved are like a black box, whose inner workings are a complete mystery.

In synaesthesia, the information entering one sensory system gives rise to sensations in another sensory modality. Letters can evoke colours, for example, and movements can evoke sounds. These extraordinary additional sensations therefore offer a unique opportunity to investigate how the subjective experiences of healthy people are related to brain function. Dutch psychologists now report that different types of synaesthetic experiences are associated with different brain mechanisms, providing a rare glimpse into the workings of the black box."

The Lambdoma Keyboard

by Barbara Hero

From Dangerous Minds: "The Lambdoma Matrix is attributed to the philosopher Pythagoras (500 bc) who spent over twenty years as an Egyptian initiate. The concept of the Lambdoma Matrix in the present age is relatively unknown, and is not cited in most dictionaries. On the surface, it appears to be nothing more than a mathematical multiplication and division table. On a closer look however, it bears a one-to-one relationship to musical intervals in a very specific harmonic series. Because of its numerical framework of ratios, it can be translated into frequencies of audible sound. The Lambdoma bears relationships to aromatics, chemistry, crystallography, cybernetics, art, music, geometry, all of which may be explored by those interested in the above disciplines. The Lambdoma bears mathematical relationships to Issac Newton, the Diophantine equations and the Farey series, as well as in the present century to Georg Cantor…"
Check out the video demonstration by Barbara Hero.

Harry Smith

American Magnus

From Dangerous Minds: "Artist, alchemical filmmaker, musical archeologist and avant garde shaman, Harry Smith's obsessive interests made him an influential, yet not widely known, figure of 20th century Beat culture and beyond. If Smith was only responsible for preserving the folk and blues musical traditions of early America in his Anthology of American Folk Music set from 1952, we would have him to thank for providing a way forward for a young Bob Dylan and the whole of the 60s/70s folk scene. But Smith was far more than that, he was a filmmaker of astonishing originality, making stop motion animations influenced by 19th advertising art and the elaborate Middle Ages alchemical paintings of Robert Fludd. (...) The restored version of Smith's celluloid tetraptych was a marvel to behold, with all of the four images now perfectly in time to one another, and looking like a great psychedelic kaleidoscope of imagery taken around New York City, in particular the Chelsea Hotel and its bohemian denizens. Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and the Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin all make cameo appearances. Seen, digitally restored and as Smith had intended, it was simply breath taking."
Also check out this interview with Harry Smith.

The Way He Always Wanted It II

A film by Stephen Prina

Saw this wonderful film on the Ford House by American architect Bruce Goff (1904-1982) tonight at the Kunstfilmbiennale in Cologne. Artist and musician Stephen Prina managed to beautifully combined very slow tracking shots of the breathtaking interior with fragments of Goff's music compositions.
The film "investigates the architect Bruce Goff's own multi-faceted approach to music, painting and architecture. Shot in Goff's Ford House, the film includes a score by Prina, performed in the house and written using excerpts from Goff's own compositions and correspondence." (from Tate Modern)
"Is this house a love song? Is the film? Certainly it indicates an intense affiliation between Goff's multifaceted practice and Prina's own genre-defying oeuvre. It points to a set of relationships that it does not gossip about. Its subject seems to be synthesis itself, like the model of film as a gesamtkunstwerk. Love is impenetrably private, unconfessable to our public gaze, a series of open circles that remain to us utterly closed. File under research, the way he always wanted (too)." (from ArtReview)
This would be simply the perfect habitat for me. And the pictures above come nowhere close to how it really looks like.

Eyes Can Hear

by Jared Ficklin

From DesignMind: "Making sound visible is a hobby of mine. After years pursuing real-time sound visualization, I became intrigued by the idea of eliminating time and allowing listeners to take in an entire song as a single visual impression. The result reveals an unseen beauty. (...)
There is a pretty unique aesthetic to different songs rendered with the same algorithm. I enjoy the notion of someone buying a song because they like the way it looks, or because it looks like a song they know they like. With the right system in hand, would members of the deaf community be interested in creating visualization-based musical performances? What would the music sound like? I also wonder if it is time to update the Closed Captioning system to include visual impressions of the music and sound effects that normally go by unseen in a movie or television show.
(Jared Ficklin is a principal designer at frog design. Jared creates Flash animations of all types, including sound visualizations.)"

Red Mondays and Gemstone Jalapeños: The Synesthetic World

A documentary directed by Jonathan Fowler

From boingboing: "Synesthesia was once thought of as a disease or disorder, but many who experience this alternate form of perception think of their anomaly as an advantage -- or, for them, simply what is normal. In this piece, Dr. David Eagleman of the Baylor College of Medicine explains this condition, and four synesthetes explain how they perceive the world. The full-length version of this film was produced with support from The Research Channel, and is available for viewing on their website."

Geometry of Circles

by Philip Glass (*1937)

From Muppet Wiki: "The shorts consist of the movement of six circles (each with a different color of the rainbow) that are formed by and split up into various geometric patterns. Glass's music underscores the animation in a style that closely resembles the 'Dance' numbers and the North Star vignettes written during the same time period as his Einstein on the Beach opera."

Star gate

Animation by Douglas Trumbull, Music by György Ligeti

Every time I watch "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Stanley Kubrick I can not believe it was delivered 1968. Set to the mind blowing sounds of "Requiem", "Atmospheres" and "Adventures" by György Ligeti the Star Gate sequence by Douglas Trumbull remains a challenge.
Rob Ager offers some ideas how to read this movie, even on the meaning of the monolith. Check it out.

Making sound visible through cymatics

TED Talk by Evan Grant

From TED: "Evan Grant demonstrates the science and art of cymatics, a process for making soundwaves visible. Useful for analyzing complex sounds (like dolphin calls), it also makes complex and beautiful designs." (Thanks to Tobias Gallé!)
Also check out this tremendously helpful spreadsheet of every TED talk as of 9/2/2009 (via boingboing). 

77 Million Paintings

by Brian Eno

From Dangerous Minds: "Using sophisticated computer software and audio boom boxes, 77 Million Paintings features constantly changing images and musical compositions, which challenge the notion that the artist must be in control.  Eno's input simply sets the trajectory for the work to evolve into patterns that have the potential for surprising him as well as the audience."


by Lillian F. Schwartz, Music by Jean-Claude Risset

From Olsen website: "Lillian Schwartz is an early pioneer in the use of the computer in the Arts and was a consultant at the AT&T Bell Laboratories. Mutations is based on computer images, laser beams diffracted in plastics, and crystal growth in polarized light. The film features a stunning soundtrack by Jean-Claude Risset."
(Thanks to Marcus Schmickler!)

Let yourself feel

by Esteban Diácono

From Esteban Diácono's website: "let yourself feel is a project that was inspired by the beautiful music of icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds. i made this trying to do something different, sensitive and of course, good looking =). after i finished it and put it up to, things went crazy."


I'll be gone

From Motionographer: "Taking the simple premise of using a cardiograph (Four of them to be precise) to represent different audio lines within the track, Rimantas manages to create something truly mesmerising. It's one of those, I don't quite know why I like this so much, but I do pieces of work. I guess there's something special about the piece being utterly devoid of visual clutter, and that so much currency is made from the right camera pans and cuts. It's a ballsy move to stay with such a simple set-up throughout the whole promo and Rimantas succeeds in holding the attention without needing to introduce any further imagery. Hats off to him…". Check out more works from Lithuania based direction, design & animation agency Korb.
(Thanks to Tobias Gallé!)

Bang Out

by Berlin's Transforma

Simon Krahl came to my talk in Berlin. Today I had the chance to check out his work. Do yourself a favor and watch some of their brilliant clips, e.g. Bang Out. From their website: "Berlin video artist collective Transforma combine the momentum of improvisation with the power of highly composed imagery and narrative. Transforma started producing experimental video art in 2001 and have been taking their imageworld and production processes to higher levels of absurdity ever since."

See This Sound: Promises in Sound and Vision

Exhibition at Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz, Austria

From Lentos' website: "The exhibition See this Sound aims to make several important aspects of this manifold and diverse relationship between image and sound accessible in an interdisciplinary way. The exhibition also conjoins exemplary artistic works and cultural-historical perspectives. (...) The exhibition thus presents not only technical, perceptional and media-reflexive aspects of the coupling of image and sound from the beginning up to the present, but also poetic conceptual aspects that are important to contemporary visual artists today. These are intended to mutually contour one another and illustrate differentiations." The exhibition runs from 28 August 2009 until 10 January 2010. (Thanks to Tristan Thönnissen!)


Short film

From Motionographer: "The latest short film from Directing-duo, Terri Timely (Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey), is a portrait of two brother's and their surreal experiences as they explore their Synesthesia. Synesthesia (the ability associate sounds with tastes, colors, letters, numbers or even people) is a phenomenon that easily sets the stage for a visually rich piece. However, it's Terri's refined storytelling abilities and aesthetic that really made this piece stand out for me." (Thanks to Hans Schultheiß!)

Particles and Bloom

Wüstenarchitekten and Brian Eno

IMM student Christian Sander sent me two interesting links: A particle simulation in TouchDesigner to Pan Sonic's Askel from their Album A by Toronto based Wüstenarchitekten. And a YouTube video on how to use Bloom, which is a generative music application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Takeshi Murata

Synaesthetic experiments

The Bielefelder Kunstverein shows Takeshi Murata's Monster Video from May 29th until June 16th 2009. From Electronic Arts Intermix: "Takeshi Murata produces extraordinary digital works that refigure the experience of animation. Creating Rorschach-like fields of seething color, form and motion, Murata pushes the boundaries of digitally manipulated psychedelia. With a powerfully sensual force that is expressed in videos, loops, installations, and electronic music, Murata's synaesthetic experiments in hypnotic perception appear at once seductively organic and totally digital." Also check out his video Silver (2006). (Thanks to Marcus Schmickler!)

Anne Harild's animations

In collaboration with Edmund Finnis and Orlando Higginbottom

From Eye blog: "Danish artist Anne Harild is nominally an illustrator (who studied at the University of the Arts London and at the Royal College of Art), yet her work challenges many interpretations of the term. (...) Harild's short animations, in collaboration with contemporary composers Edmund Finnis and Orlando Higginbottom, seem like short, animated dispatches from an unknown future, not so much Monsters vs Aliens as 'objects versus spaces'."


Animated short by filmmaker Bob Jaroc for the band Plaid

From "They were real starlings, not digitally-generated. They were filmed over a few winters here in Brighton. I was lucky enough to have access to the then-abandoned and now destroyed West Pier, and got them down on tape as they were coming in to roost. I then extracted them from the background and edited them to the track, often going back and trying to capture a certain motion to go with a certain bit of audio."

Got goggles?

David O'Reilly for M.I.A.

From David O'Reilly's website: "Here are some stage visuals I recently did for M.I.A.. The deadline for this was extremely tight, everything was done in a few days in preparation for her Coachella gig last weekend. (...) You can view this with red/cyan glasses, the gun's distortion is in true 3d space."
(Thanks to Roland Matusek!)

Audio.Visual - On Visual Music and Related Media

Edited by Cornelia Lund and Holger Lund

The book is a wonderful inspiration for my own research and a new project that is in the pipeline. Cornelia Lund and Holger Lund are moving their gallery fluctuating images to Berlin and I hope to meet with them soon.
From the books editorial: "The multifaceted nature of visual music was already evident in its early historical incarnations. These ranged from live performances with the ocular harpsichord through oscilloscope techniques to animated films. And the scope for variety has now been further extended by the new possibilities offered by advances in media technology, and by the ever-expanding array of digital visual and acoustic formats and techniques. Thus, we really prefer not to discuss 'visual music' - and this is a basic theme underlying this book - as if it were a clearly defined genre. Nonetheless, the term can be useful as a description for audiovisual productions pursuing the basic objective of evenly balanced or equilibrated interplay between visual and acoustic components. These productions can involve cinematic images and music, or lights projections and acoustic patterns, or even digital live drawing and field recordings - huge variations in technique and style are possible. Thus, it would seem that visual music is found in different places, and in very diverse contexts and formats. But there are also contexts and formats that particularly favor audiovisual interaction in the form of visual music: abstract visualization of music in animated film, for example, or live exchanges between musicians and visual artists."

Brilliant Noise

by Semiconductor

Haven't checked on Semiconductor for quite a while. Meanwhile UK artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt have done some exciting new work. Their 2006 piece Brilliant Noise for example is absolutely worth checking out. From their website: "Brilliant Noise takes us into the data vaults of solar astronomy. After sifting through hundreds of thousands of computer files, made accessible via open access archives, Semiconductor have brought together some of the sun's finest unseen moments. These images have been kept in their most raw form, revealing the energetic particles and solar wind as a rain of white noise. This grainy black and white quality is routinely cleaned up by NASA, hiding the processes and mechanics in action behind the capturing procedure. Most of the imagery has been collected as single snapshots containing additional information, by satellites orbiting the Earth. They are then reorganised into their spectral groups to create time-lapse sequences. The soundtrack highlights the hidden forces at play upon the solar surface, by directly translating areas of intensity within the image brightness into layers of audio manipulation and radio frequencies." Thanks, Marcus Schmickler!

Computer Music Journal

On Visual Music

If you are interested in Visual Music the Computer Music Journal Volume 29, Number 4, Winter 2005 published by The MIT Press is an essential reading. From their website: "Established in 1977 as the definitive journal of its field, Computer Music Journal (CMJ) covers a wide range of topics such as digital audio signal processing, electroacoustic composition, new musical controllers, and music information retrieval. With cutting-edge scholarship accompanied by interviews with leading composers and informative reviews of products and publications, CMJ is an indispensable resource for composers, performers, scientists, engineers, and computer enthusiasts interested in computer-generated sound and music."
And on the Visual Music issue: "The articles in this issue are all devoted to the topic of 'visual music': audiovisual creations in which the artist strives to endow the video component with formal and abstract qualities that mimic those of musical composition."

Father of computer animation

John Whitney

Currently I am doing some more research on the grandfathers of Visual Music. Unfortunately there is no DVD with John Whitney's work yet. But there is YouTube... And there is William Moritz, who profiled the career of John Whitney and his significant contribution to computer animation in his article Digital Harmony: The Life of John Whitney, Computer Animation Pioneer. From this text: "In the later 1980s, Whitney concentrated on developing a computerized instrument on which one could compose visual and musical output simultaneously in real time. His first piece on this new instrumentation, which was improved and updated constantly, appeared as Spirals in 1987."

Optical Poetry

The life and work of Oskar Fischinger

Oskar Fischinger's biography by William Moritz not only gives inside on the production of the 50-something films and around 800 paintings by the godfather of Visual Music, the book also tells the story of the immigrants during WW2 in Los Angeles. If you are interested in Bildmusik of any kind this book is a must-read.
One coincidence that I really enjoy: Fischinger's accountant, booking agent and secretary back in Berlin shared my last name (see page 46). We might be relatives of some sort...

Audiovisual concerts

by Ryoji Ikeda

From Ryoji Ikeda's website: "Japan's leading electronic composer Ryoji Ikeda focuses on the minutiae of ultrasonics, frequencies and the essential characteristics of sound itself. His work exploits sound's physical property, its causality with human perception and mathematical dianoia as music, time and space."
Bought this DVD a while ago and would still highly recommend it. It "is the first complete monograph about the seminal work of Ryoji Ikeda. With superb attention to detail and layout, the publication documents the artist's latest projects and includes brand-new artwork especially produced for the book. At the same time, formula covers Ikeda's landmark concerts and installations." (from Touch Shop)

Visual Music Award 2009

Call for submissions

The Visual Music Award is an international competition for creative young talents in the field of new media art, film and animation looking for visionary artistic visualisations of music. Submission deadline: August 17th, 2009.
This year they will have a Visual Music live contest too. Submission deadline: May 4th, 2009.

The Augmented Sculpture Project

by Pablo Valbuena

From Artintelligence: "Pablo Valbuena's Augmented Sculpture v. 1.2 is a remarkable synthesis of modernist-minimalist sculpture and video projection. One of the interesting features of Augmented Sculpture is that it possesses an elegant simplicity that belies considerable technical skill. One wonders how he managed to exactly coordinate the lines and shapes projected in the two dimensional video onto his three-dimensional geometrical sculptural 'screen'. It is a masterpiece of perspective." Thanks to Elsa Wormeck!

Touch the Sound

with Evelyn Glennie

From the Touch the Sound website: "Award-winning Director and Cinematographer, Thomas Riedelsheimer, takes us on a journey through a universe of sound with percussionist Evelyn Glennie. They map a world of the senses - images and sounds. Hearing images, seeing sound. With Evelyn, we experience sound as palpable and rhythm as the basis of everything that is." Thanks to Georg Brüx.

Visualization of Music

Call for papers

Dr. Stephan Baumann, Head of Competence Center Computational Culture at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, informed me that the 2009 Sound & Music Computing Conference will have a special session on very inspirational ideas about the Visualization of Music. The deadline for a 1-pager is around June, 8th. More details here.

Advanced Beauty

Everything / Everyone

It is a privilege to simply lean back and watch jigsaw pieces fall into the right place. Had the pleasure to enjoy a good meal and an inspiring conversation with Stefan Scheer tonight. A gleam of hope in the German advertising business. He talked about Matt Pyke and I later discovered that Pyke's network includes quite some people and projects that I have become interested in recently, like Maxim Zhestkov, the DVD compilation Advanced Beauty or the George Michael Stadium Visuals.

Michal Levy

One and Giant Steps

Michal Levy, now resident in Philadelphia, US, comes from Tel Aviv, Israel: "I think once designers understand the basic tools they work with, they can better invent their own style. I always compare it to jazz. As a jazz musician I know that you learn and practise, for example, scales and harmony. That's your basic tools. Then you transcribe all the timeless solos till you know them by heart and understand the language and style other people developed before you. Only then can you find your own unique phrasing that will define who you are and what you sound like." (from Eye blog).
Make sure to watch Michal Levy's work full screen and at better quality: Go to the animation page of her website. Wonderful, and in the tradition of Visual Music godfather Oskar Fischinger

Pioneers of Visual Music

Len Lye and Norman McLaren

The early practitioner of experimental film Hans Richter, Walther Ruttmann and Viking Eggeling were also the grandfathers of Visual Music. They inspired the next generation who gained international reputation: amongst others Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, John Whitney and Norman McLaren. Besides the actual film experiments on DVD and also on YouTube (almost all the early experiments are online now), there are two wonderful books I'd like to recommend: The Film Work of Norman McLaren by Terence Dobson and Len Lye: A Biography by Roger Horrocks.


by Norman McLaren

The wonderful documentary "Creative Process: Norman McLaren" (1990) includes one of my favourite experimental videos in the context of Visual Music - that is "Spheres" (1969). Parts of it, alongside with a charming conversation between McLaren and Glenn Gould, who provided the music, can be watched here. Although the films wasn't shot with the concept of Bach's music in mind, Glenn Gould couldn't believe that music and images didn't grow out of one initial idea
Thinking about McLaren another beautiful concept that McLaren used came to my mind: The tesseract, which is to the cube, as the cube is to the square. This mathematical construct allows us e.g. to understand the difference between three and four dimensions. Would love to have one of his tesseract sculptures in the house...

Center for Visual Music

A wonderful source

The "Center for Visual Music is a nonprofit film archive dedicated to visual music, experimental animation and avant-garde media. CVM is commited to preservation, curation, education, scholarship, and dissemination of the film, performances and other media of this tradition, together with related historical documentation and other material." This is were I buy my DVDs. Go check it out!

Sebastian Oschatz

Sound and visuals

If you are interested in Visual Music you will without any doubt at one point hear the name of Sebastian OschatzWhiz kid and genius. "Sebastian Oschatz is a German media artist and educator with a background in Computer Science. At one point he was a third of the experimental music ensemble Oval, famous for their uncompromising systems-based approach to the creation of sound. (...) Oschatz is one of the founders of the Frankfurt-based media company Meso, established in 1997 to work with experimental media interfaces and interactive installations. (...) Meso is also the developer of the visual programming tool VVVV, created originally to run Meso's own projects. (...) In general it is an excellent tool for sound-responsive visual performance." (from Generator.x

Visual Music call

SIGGRAPH is soliciting works in the Visual Music genre

Here is a heads-up for a new competition in Visual Music: "SIGGRAPH is now soliciting works specifically in the Visual Music genre as part of its headlining Computer Animation Festival." All information about the call is here. Thank you, Maura! Your work is essential for my students and me!

Robert Hodgin

The hero of Flight 404

Quote from "Robert Hodgin claims not to experience synaesthesia, but his interest in the phenomenon of seeing sound as vision goes back to a fateful evening (1 November 1991) when he dropped four tabs of acid and put a Cocteau Twins boxed set on the autochanger. (This was in the days of Vaughan Oliver’s elaborate packaging design and actual vinyl clonking down on the turntable). This, as he titled his lecture, resulted in The Best 8 to 12 Hours of my Life. The next day, Hodgin applied to art school. He eventually studied at RISD, and a glittering career (plus lots of banner ads) ensued. And he hasn’t taken any illegal substances since."
Here are two wonderful Visual Music clips by Robert Hodgin: His visualisation of Trentemøller's sublime Miss You and another example of his work, responding to a track by Tosca.

Karl Kliem

Visual Music at its best

Had the great pleasure to work with Karl Kliem back in 2002 for the VIVA PLUS launch. I constantly show Karl's work as excellent examples for Visual Music productions to my students. His label and website Dienststelle is a wonderful resource and always an inspiration. From his site: "Karl Kliem is a founding member of Frankfurt based media lab MESO. He is developing realtime audio and video systems. Diverse works in the area of multimedia, webdesign, TV-design, music- and soundproduction for films and interactive installations. He is also a member of Involving Systems and founder of the label Dienststelle. Since 2007 he has a lectureship at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Offenbach within the faculty of Electronic Media."

Visual Music blog

by Maura McDonnell

For a massive load of information and links on Visual Music, check out the blog by Maura McDonnell. A wonderful collection to get started on the subject - and, make sure to dive deep into her archives. Totally recommended!

Visual Music

A definition

Quote from "Visual music, sometimes called colour music, refers to the use of musical structures in visual imagery, which can also include silent films or silent Lumia work. It also refers to methods or devices which can translate sounds or music into a related visual presentation. An expanded definition may include the translation of music to painting. Visual music also refers to systems which convert music or sound directly into visual forms, such as film, video or computer graphics, by means of a mechanical instrument, an artist's interpretation, or a computer. The reverse is applicable also, literally converting images to sound by drawn objects and figures on a film's soundtrack. Filmmakers working in this latter tradition include Oskar Fischinger (Ornament Sound Experiments), Norman McLaren, and many contemporary artists. Visual music overlaps to some degree with the history of abstract film, though not all Visual music is abstract. There are a variety of definitions of visual music, particularly as the field continues to expand. In some recent writing, usually in the fine art world, Visual Music is often confused with or defined as synaesthesia, though historically this has never been a definition of Visual Music."