10 december h 19.15, EYE – Play of Light, Leap over the Ocean.

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The explosion of colours and forms displayed above in the photos will overwhelm us even more on Tuesday 10 December, h 19.15, in EYE, during the film program Play of Light, Leap over the Ocean. Play of Light because that evening we will experience the fantasy of visual music with abstract forms and choreographies impressed on film. To achieve this, we will Leap over the Ocean to discover the works of intellectuals who fled to the USA in the 1930s to escape the European political situation.

The program is presented by Joost Rekveld, experimental filmmaker, curator and teacher, and will be accompanied by performances by improvisation musician Oscar Jan Hoogland (gramophone) and Caroline Ruijgrok (voice), and the Paper Ensemble (Jochem van Tol and Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti), which will present #9, an exploration of the relationship between space, human scale and paper.

The program will consist of the following titles and performances:

Lichtspiel Schwarz-Weiss-Grau, László Moholy-Nagy, 1930, Germany, silent, B/W. (A play of shadow patterns created by Nagy´s Light-Space Modulator)
Disque 957, Germaine Dulac, 1928, France, sound, B/W. (An experiment with a gramophone, inspired by the music of Frederic Chopin)
Music performance
Studie 3, Oskar Fischinger, 1930, Germany, sound, B/W. (Originally accompanied by sound on a record played by a gramophone)
Kreise, Oskar Fischinger, 1933, Germany. (The first color film of O. Fischinger)
Allures, Jordan Belson, 1961, USA, sound, color. (Conceived as a feeling of moving into the void)
Arabesque, John Whitney, 1975, USA, color. (A psychedelic blooming of colored forms achieved by computer means)
Yantra, James Whitney, 1950, USA, color. (Ment to create states of spiritual ecstasy)
Paper ensemble performance

Some notes about visual music in art.

Source: Essay Visual Music by Maura McDonnell, 2007, visualmusic.blogspot.com.

A visual music piece uses a visual art medium (painting, sculpture, film, graphics, etc.) in a way that is more analogous to that of music composition or performance. Thus visual elements (via craft, artistic intention, mechanical means or software) are composed and presented with aesthetic strategies and procedures similar to those employed in the composing or performance of music.
Each visual musicist has an idea and approach to working with his or her chosen visual material. Their visual material is pliable and formless; it can be taken from many sources, just as contemporary music takes its sound material from many sources and shapes it in many different ways.

The medium of film has been since the 1920s very welcome by the visual music artists because it is a temporal artwork that exists in time and whose constituent elements evolve over time, just as music elements evolve and exist over time. The film can perfectly evoke musical qualities, even if it is silent. The animation of the visual elements of line, figure and shape can produce rhythmic sequences and a sense of dynamics in the progression of these rhythmic figures. Visual “instruments” could now evolve, transform and progress in visual rhythmic sequences. These parameters of “instruments,” rhythm, dynamics, figures and shape are analogous to the parameters of rhythm, pitch, phrasing and timbre available to music composition. In abstract animation, the now hard-to-define artist could compose his or her animations like musical compositions, orchestrating the visual elements, creating motifs and repetitive elements, transforming a visual element’s shape over time, and creating a sense of harmony and symmetry in the use of screen space and screen time. All the nonrepresentational strategies for composing music were now available to the abstract filmmaker.

The most outstanding visual music filmmakers, operating from the 1920s on, were: Walter Ruttmann, Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, Jordan Belson, Norman McLaren, Mary Ellen Bute, Harry Smith, Hy Hirsh, John and James Whitney. To this list we should add some contemporary artists, filmmakers, VJs and performers. Indeed, the grammar of visual music continues to develop today as more artist, filmmakers and composers work with the complementarity of music and image and develop their methods for seeking out that complementarity.

Finally it is good to keep in mind that visual music can take two strands in its approach to the craft and presentation of itself as an art medium. It can focus on the craft of composition—working with mobile visual elements over time to be realized in time as a fixed-media video or film projection.

Here an exemple of Mary Ellen Bute, Synchromy No. 4: Escape (1938)

Alternatively, visual music can focus more on the performance aspect, an improvisational approach or both, and hence focus more on the realization of mobile visuals elements via mechanical or generative means into a non-fixed media that exists mainly in its performance; the craft in this case often involves considerable technical skill in building a system or item that can realize a visual music in a real-time setting.

Here an example of a laser performance during the Sonic Acts (2012, Amsterdam):

one of the rare executions of the Lumigraph of Oscar Fischinger:

and one of the Kinetic light sculptures of Paul Friedlander (www.paulfriedlander.com):

three kinetic waveforms by Paul Friedlander

Please consult this website for great and exhaustive information regarding the correlation between colour and music and the visual music experimentations achieved in different media through the history:


Hand Out Play of Light

Text and image compilation: Anna Dabrowska.


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