American Magus (2002) is a documentary by Paolo Igliori about Harry Smith (1923-1991) – compiler of a famous three-part folk album, film-maker, painter, anthropologist, obsessive collector and thinker.

American Magus (2002)

Rare documentary about Harry Smith by Paola Igliori
Febuary 21st, 2021

Via MUBI: "A documentary about the brilliant and versatile cult figure Harry Smith (1923-1991) – compiler of a famous three-part folk album, film-maker, painter, anthropologist, obsessive collector and thinker."

Via Wikipedia: "Paola Igliori (born in Rome, Italy), is a poet, writer, photographer, essayist and publisher. She became a resident of New York City from the 1980s, when she first moved there, until 2003 when she returned to her home country. [...]

In 1996, she edited and published American Magus: A Modern Alchemist, a book about then largely unknown (though well known among artists, since the 1950s) American artist, painter, poet, film maker, essayist and collector Harry Everett Smith. Igliori had developed a strong personal relationship with Smith, who, by some accounts, died in 1992 in her arms "singing as he drifted away", at the Hotel Chelsea.[3] In 2001, she wrote and directed a documentary about Smith, titled American Magus."

Thanks to Cindy Keefer at Center for Visual Music!

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"Paper Sound" by Nikolai Voinov (1930), electronic music with animation, 4K restoration.

Paper Sound by Nikolai Voinov

1930s Soviet optical synthesis animation looks positively futuristic
January 18th, 2021

Via Create Digital Media: "It’s synthesis from paper – sounds crafted quite literally by hand, using drawn animation, then optically synthesized. But after this 4K restoration, it’s clear how much these 1930s inventors were ahead of their time.

I first saw this animation, like a lot of people, via Moscow-based historian Andrey Smirnov, who writes the following description of artist Voinov for Austria’s Institut für Medienarchäologie:

'Nikolai Voinov (1900-58) began his career as an animator in 1927. In 1930 he was involved in the production of the first drawn ornamental soundtracks at Avraamov’s Multzvuk laboratory. In 1931 he left and started his own research at the Cartoon Studio of the Moscow Film Factory as a developer of ‘Paper Sound’ techniques. These were based on the synthesis of sound waves by means of paper cutouts with the carefully calculated sizes and shapes produced by his newly invented tool, the Nivotone. (Andrey Smirnov)'.

You get a full roster of paper-optical synthesis. (It’s hard to even know what to call that – it’s essentially a hybrid of optical-analog synthesis machines and traditional cell animation or other hand-drawn techniques.)

That includes:
• Variophone – Evgeny Sholpo, 1930 Leningrad / Lenfilm (who also works with the legendary Georgy Rimsky‐Korsakov
• Working directly on optical track of the film – Arseny Avraamov (who also had his own 48-tone microtonal system) – he worked across the USSR and Germany
• Paper sound techniques – Nikolai Voinov (Nivotone)
• Anushen Ter-Ghevondyan – Armenian composer and audiovisual inventor based in Yerevan at the Soviet studio there (I have fairly sketchy notes, presumably worth a separate research), also worked with paper, animation, and optical synthesis [...]

The variophone itself was tragically lost in a missile attack in the Siege of Leningrad, meaning this is another thing to blame on Nazis this week – although futuristic electronic music sometimes had the Soviet bureaucracy as a foe, too. (So it is with those who advance culture, I’m afraid, generally.)"

Thanks to Phillip Schulze !

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Anne Collier at Galerie Neu. Images courtesy of the artist; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Galerie Neu, Berlin; and The Modern Institute/ Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow. Photos by Stefan Korte.

Overlooked No More: Lotte Reiniger

Animator Who Created Magic With Scissors and Paper
October 22nd, 2019

Via The New York Times: "A decade before Walt Disney Productions came into existence, making its name synonymous with animated films, there was another pioneer of the art form — Lotte Reiniger.

Reiniger’s filmmaking career spanned 60 years, during which she created more than 70 silhouette animation films, including versions of 'Cinderella,' *Puss in Boots' and 'Hansel and Gretel.' She’s perhaps best known for her 1926 silent film 'The Adventures of Prince Achmed,' a fantastical adaptation of 'The Arabian Nights' that was among the first full-length animated features ever made. [...]

Reiniger’s editing was meticulous. Starting with more than 250,000 frames, she and her crew used just over 100,000 in the film, which ran for an hour and 21 minutes, each second requiring 24 frames. It took three years to complete, and premiered in the Volksbühne, or People’s Theater, in Berlin, when Reiniger was 27. [...]

Beginning with 'Prince Achmed,' she also created an early version of the multiplane camera, which gave two-dimensional animation a hitherto unexplored depth, movement and complexity. She called her device a tricktisch, or trick table.

Reiniger described her process this way: 'Figures and backgrounds are laid out on a glass table. A strong light from underneath makes the wire hinges disappear and throws up the black figures in relief. The camera hangs above this table, looking down at the picture arranged below.'

After taking a photograph, Reiniger and her team moved the figures into their next position and photographed the scene again. 'The important thing,' she wrote, 'is to know how much to move the figures so that a lifelike effect may be obtained.' [...]

She died on June 19, 1981, in Dettenhausen, Germany. She was 82. Though The New York Times did not take note of her death at the time, the Times film critic A.O. Scott recalled her in a 2018 article about the unsung women who had advanced the art of filmmaking.

Praising Reiniger’s 'blend of whimsy and spookiness,' Mr. Scott wrote that her 'dreamy images that seem to tap right into the collective unconscious suggest both an antidote to Disney and a precursor to Tim Burton.' "

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DVD sleeve by Center for Visual Music, Los Angeles.

Oskar Fischinger: Visual Music

New DVD by the Center for Visual Music, Los Angeles
February 8th, 2018

The wonderful people at the Center for Visual Music released a new DVD with outstanding, classic and rare films by the Father of Visual Music and the great-grandfather of motion graphics.

Via the CVM: "Featuring Fischinger's famous Composition in BlueMuratti greift ein (the waltzing cigarette ad), Study no. 8Study no. 5 and Study no. 2 from his groundbreaking series of abstract animation synchronized to music in the 1930s, which screened in first run theatres worldwide. Plus the films Squares, An American March, Pierrette I, Coloratura, Swiss Trip (Rivers and Landscapes), newly restored animation tests from the 1920s, 30s and 40s (many never completed or released), and home movies from the 1920 and 1960s. Region free."

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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 that it was delivered in 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. Highly recommended.

[ Visual Music ]

Mary Ellen Bute (1906-1983), still from Synchromy No. 4: Escape, 1937-38

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."

Image courtesy Center for Visual Music.

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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 ]

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!

[ Visual Music ]

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."

[ Visual Music ]

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 Rekveld!

[ Visual Music ]