03 March 2010


I picked up a few DVDs that I thought would highlight some of the ways that other people have interpreted sound visually. One was Addictive TV's Audiovisualize. The write-up on the project sounded promising enough:

"Although working in an area with a rich but relatively little-known history, today's audiovisual artists perhaps owe as much to the VJs and music producers who've emerged from 90's electronic music culture, as some of the most influential 20th Century experimental film makers like Norman McClaren, Len Lye, Jordan Belson and notably Oskar Fischinger, who began laying the foundations of this fusion genre, based on a synthesis of motion, colour and sound, over half a century ago.

Now, using contemporary techniques such as sampling, remixing and digital manipulation alongside traditional film, video and music production methods, modern audiovisualizers are able to push creative boundaries ever further. Music and image play an equal, complimentary and indeed synergistic role in this arena with modern software allowing a much closer and more specific integration than was ever possible previously.

Whether it's finding new ways of visualizing music, or expressing images sonically, the goal is the same now as it ever was; to produce something that can be watched in much the same way as we listen to music. Again and again."

Unfortunately the 2004 release already seems very tired. The opening project - a video put togther for a track called 'Snake Worship Island' by Eclectic Method - is particularly uninspiring. An edited selection of old kung fu movies accompanies a soundtrack that might have appeared at least a little cutting edge had it been released before Depth Charge's early 1990's output and there appears to be some prevailing, naive approach of 'if it moves, filter it'.

More successful is a second video under the title 'Corp. Inc' which utilises archives of science-based imagery and some text overlays that share some similarities with Rob Chiu's 'The Time Has Come' video. But there is no getting away from the fact that the relationships involved in "visualizing music" throughout the DVD are tenuous at best. It barely touches on the synergy that the project aspires to create.

Maybe I'm being overtly critical, but I just don't believe that matching up the tempo of a piece of music to random imagery, however pretty, really adds anything of massive value. Personally, I'd expect more of a considered undertaking where even the most abstract of imagery has an agreed relationship with particular sounds. Like the Kate Moross videos (posted earlier) where the kick drum is represented via one element and a narrative becomes defined by the audio. Audiovisualize instead lacks the attention span and conviction to present something close to a schematic system for addressing sound in a visual form. I'm guessing that in many cases the music was felt to be too repetitive for the artists to create something that rigidly represented specific sections/sound elements and still hold the interest of the viewer. But, sadly, the end result - laregly a series of ever-shifting fractal-like eye candies - just proves to be meaningless.

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