Sound and Image in Electronic Harmony

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Image: Semiconductor: Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, 200 Nanowebbers, 2005

On Saturday, April 11th, New York's School of Visual Arts will co-present the 2009 Visual Music Marathon with the New York Digital Salon and Northeastern University. Promising genre-bending work from fifteen countries, the lineup crams 120 works by new media artists and digital composers into 12 hours. If it's true, as is often said, that MTV killed the attention spans of Generations X and Y, this six-minute-per-piece average ought to suit most festivalgoers' minds, and the resultant shuffling on and off stage will surely be a spectacle in its own rite. In all seriousness, this annual event is a highlight of New York's already thriving electronic music scene and promises many a treat for your eyes and ears. The illustrious organizers behind the marathon know their visual music history and want to remind readers that, "The roots of the genre date back more than two hundred years to the ocular harpsichords and color-music scales of the 18th century," and "the current art form came to fruition following the emergence of film and video in the 20th century." The remarkable ten dozen artists participating in this one-day event will bring us work incorporating such diverse materials as hand-processed film, algorithmically-generated video, visual interpretations of music, and some good old fashioned music-music. From luminaries like Oskar Fischinger, Hans Richter, and Steina Vasulka to emerging artists Joe Tekippe and Chiaki Watanabe, the program will be another star on the map that claims NYC as fertile territory for sonic exploration. - Marisa Olson

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YouTube Records (2009) - JODI

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General MIDI Demo (2006) - Travis Hallenbeck

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short, monotimbral demonstrations (using only NoteOn and NoteOff) of each General MIDI music instrument with accompanying small, monochromatic bitmap representation - unfinished

-- FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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ItSpace (2007) - Peter Traub

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ItSpace creates a network of pages within the social networking site MySpace. Instead of featuring people, the pages feature everyday household objects. Each page has a photo of the object, a description, and most importantly, a 1-minute piece of music composed of recordings of the object being struck and resonated in various ways. All the pages, or objects, are 'friends' with each other, so that visitors who discover one object may jump to the others by clicking on the 'friends' pictures at the bottom of each page.

-- EXCERPT FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

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New Me, music video for Jamie Lidell (2006) - Aleksandra Domanovic

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Bicycle Built for Two Thousand (2009) - Aaron Koblin and Daniel Massey

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Bicycle Built For 2,000 is comprised of 2,088 voice recordings collected via Amazon's Mechanical Turk web service. Workers were prompted to listen to a short sound clip, then record themselves imitating what they heard.

-- FROM ARTIST'S DESCRIPTION

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Delta 1 - Ron Hays

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The New Television Workshop at WGBH supported the creation and broadcast of experimental works by artists. One of their projects was the Music Image Workshop, which was primarily a project of Ron Hays, who used the Paik-Abe videosynthesizer to create elaborate visual scores set to music. It was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts from 1972 through 1974. Hays worked closely with WGBH producer and director, David Atwood, to create both live broadcasts and finished works. Additionally, works by other artists were presented under the auspices of the Music Image Workshop.

-- FROM YOUTUBE USER CRYSTALSCULPTURE

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Chapters 1-12 of R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet Synced and Played Simultaneously (2006) - Michael Bell-Smith

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Chapters 1-12 of R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet Synced and Played Simultaneously (2006) by Michael Bell-Smith. Courtesy EAI. from Why + Wherefore on Vimeo.

Work originally posted to Why + Wherefore's Vimeo playlist for "This One Goes Up to 11" curated by Hanne Mugaas

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Curating Contemplation

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The current exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989" is in many ways a bold take on the "group show" genre. Not focused on a particular era, style or group of artists, Senior Curator for Asian Art Alexandra Munroe has instead created a sweeping show of over 110 artists around an idea as ethereal and subjective as cultural "contemplation." The show's thesis, that "vanguard artists consistently looked toward 'the East' to forge an independent artistic identity that would define the modern age -- and the modern mind -- through a new understanding of existence, nature, and consciousness" certainly seems timely in this era of rampant globalization, but it simultaneously opens the door to a host of debatable issues around cultural appropriation.

The broad scope and variety of art forms covered under this broad thematic umbrella, from paintings of James McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt through multimedia works of Tehching Hsieh and Laurie Anderson, creates a compelling alternate to the usually mono-cultural narrative of Art History. For those of us interested particularly in time-based media, it also provides a compelling context through which to view issues such as duration, notation, communication systems, and networking that are so prevalent in time-based forms.

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The Prometheus Institute and the Work of Bulat Galeyev

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Image: Light Composition Using Prometei-3

It's hard to sum up the interests and achievements of Bulat Galeyev, who died in Kazan, Russia, on January 5 at the age of 68. He was a teacher of physics and aesthetics. As a scholar, he published scientific research on synesthesia, and as an artist he staged his own theatrical performances that synthesized visuals and music. He studied and championed the work of Lev Termen, even when the theremin's inventor was nearly forgotten in his native country. Inspired by the ideas of early-twentieth century composer Alexander Scriabin, whose orchestral works are usually performed without the colored-light shows that he choreographed for them, Galeyev devoted his life to a multi-faceted study of art and sensory perception. The radical, interdisciplinary nature of his career is even more impressive when you consider that it evolved in the conservative, often stifling intellectual atmosphere of the Soviet Union.

Galeyev's base of operations was the Prometheus Institute in Kazan, a city about 450 miles east of Moscow. To gain official support and funding, Prometheus attached itself to an aviation engineering research institute, and its unique position in relationship to industry was not dissimilar from the experimental initiatives hosted by Bell Labs and Siemens in the West. Galeyev's line of inquiry was certainly not a priority for Soviet science. But when he founded Prometheus in 1962, the country was still euphoric from launching the first human into space a year earlier. The light-music concerts that Galeyev organized at Prometheus blended in with the widespread vogue for science fiction and futurism.

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Image: Debussy's Fireworks Played on Kristall

Thanks to Prometheus' close connections to an official research laboratory, its employees had access to equipment that ordinary citizens could never dream of. Galeyev and his team took advantage of ...

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