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!

[ Visual Music ]

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."

[ Visual Music ]

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!

[ Visual Music ]

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!

[ Visual Music ]

Reflection On Norman McLaren, George Balanchine And Absolute Ballet

by Aimee Mollaghan

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!

[ 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!

[ Visual Music ]

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!

[ Visual Music ]

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 !

[ Visual Music ]

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 ]

Visual Music

by Brian Eno

The major concentration 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.

[ Visual Music ]