untitled (readymade mashup) (2008) - Justin Kemp

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The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon

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The Benders

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Snaps and crackles and bleeps and bloops prevail at New York's annual circuit bending festival Bent, which kicked off last night and will continue through Saturday evening. Hosted by The Tank, the event brings together benders and homemade electronics aficionados for three days of workshops, demos, installations and concerts. If the promise of a Chiptune Marching Band or an army of miniRunglers isn't enough to peak your interest, perhaps the stellar lineup for Saturday's concert, which includes a performance by Lesley Flanigan using her signature feedback instrument the Speaker Synth as well as composer Tristan Perich's epic 15 channel work involving 18 modified television sets and 5 dancers Impulse Manifold will be enough to get you off your couch and over to Hell's Kitchen.

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Object Study

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Image: The score to Matmos’ Supreme Balloon, as seen on screens of PLOrk members

Last weekend the Kitchen hosted two night of performances by Matmos, So Percussion and PLOrk, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. In addition to playing the conventional array of instruments, So Percussion exploits the unnoticed sonic properties of everyday objects -- Friday’s program began with their Cactus Song, in which the ensemble’s members huddled around a miked squash, stuck it with resonant tines, and plucked it like a karimba. So Percussion’s pairing with PLOrk highlighted the latter’s treatment of computers as objects. Technology from the phonograph to the sampler and beyond has been used to disembody sound, but PLOrk is among the growing ranks of electronic musicians who adapt gadgets to fix sound production in its physical context. They make laptops behave less like mixing machines and more like percussive instruments.

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Image: Musicians rehearsing at The Kitchen. (Courtesy of PLOrk.)

PLOrk uses hemispherical speakers that localizes the sound rather than mixing all the input into a single system, to give each computer an individual voice, like instruments in a symphony. (They also look awesome.) The ensemble’s members write software that connect each action to a result in order to make playing the laptop more like hitting the keys of a piano, so they’re not just dragging a cursor to manipulate parameters in a window. Another favorite PLOrk device is hacking the Mac’s motion sensor and connecting it to a sampler, so that swinging the laptop creates the illusion that a musician is grabbing sonorities from the ether and throwing them across the stage. The orchestra made effective use of that technique in Supreme Balloon, a Matmos piece that began with drones and transitioned to a tuneful idyll as the accompanying video shifted ...

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Poeme Electronique (1958) - Edgard Varese, Iannis Xenakis and Le Corbusier

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«Poème électronique» is the first, electronic-spatial environment to combine architecture, film, light and music to a total experience made to functions in time and space. Under the direction of Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenaki's concept and geometry designed the World's Fair exhibition space adhering to mathematical functions. Edgard Varèse composed the both concrete and vocal music which enhanced dynamic, light and image projections conceived by Le Corbusier. Varèse's work had always sought the abstract and, in part, visually inspired concepts of form and spatial movements. Among other elements for «Poème électronique» he used machine noises, transported piano chords, filtered choir and solo voices, and synthetic tone colorings. With the help of the advanced technical means made available through the Philips Pavilion, the sounds of this composition for tape recorder could wander throughout the space on highly complex routes.

-- FROM MEDIA ART NET

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Maximal Art: The Origins and Aesthetics of West Coast Light Shows

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In 1965, multimedia artist Stan VanDerBeek wrote that "language and cultural-semantics are as explosive as nuclear energy. It is imperative that we (the world's artists) invent a new...non-verbal international picture-language"1. He foresaw that future “image-making” technologies would be needed to develop a new “picture-language” to communicate to all people the threat of global annihilation. I believe that psychedelic light shows originating on the U.S. West Coast in the 1950s were part of the beginnings of this rapidly developing world language that is now more evident with newer digital media technologies. Along with other counterculture activities such as taking hallucinogenic drugs, light shows evolved as a means of connecting people and helping raise individual and collective consciousness outside the mass media spaces of TV, cinema, and radio. They were among the first primitive attempts by artists to appropriate many of the “new” analogue communications media technologies - photography, film, audio - and add the images, beat and lyrics of popular culture and music to create an immersive mediated environment embracing both the performers and the audience in a transformative sensorial experience.

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A Color Box (1935) - Len Lye

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Studie nr. 6 (1930) - Oskar Fischinger

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Dots (1940) - Norman McLaren

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Arabesque (1975) - John Whitney

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CVM Library

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Image: Jordan Belson, Allures, 1961(Still)

We thought it would be fun, here at Rhizome HQ, to follow Marisa's write-up of the upcoming Visual Music Marathon with a few Visual Music-related posts. I thought I'd kick it off with a link to the Center for Visual Music's extensive Visual Music bibliography, otherwise known as the CVM Library. The Los Angeles-based non-profit film archive are the go-to source on the subject, so go-to-it.

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