My first experience with a Jordan Belson film forever shaped my own direction as an artist. From the cool, dark theater arose the rumble of ambient sound coupled with intense mixtures of color. Such depth, such motion. His ‘story’ was one of experience and emotion– one with a transcendent quality that allowed the viewer to be an active part of a journey instead of a passive participant. What struck me most with that this was all accomplished through subtle compositions of color, movement, texture, and form alone with no iconic imagery. It was truly a visual music, which when composed with sound formed something experiential.
Cinematic language is just that– a language. As members of humanity we develop language and share it; through that process we learn new words and we shorthand them.
This evolution is apparent in our daily lives: as we encounter increasing amounts of visual data through our computers, phones, television, billboards and buildings, our ability to decipher a visual message is more sophisticated than ever. We have evolved into a predominantly visual culture.
So where does sound come in? Marshal McLuhan describes the concept of “acoustic space” in reference to pre-literate tribal man. This space lends itself to a “radically different concept of time-space relationships” as “organic and integral, perceived through the simultaneous interplay of all the senses; whereas ‘rational’ or pictorial space is uniform, sequential and continuous, [creating] a closed world.” This acoustic space is what I believe we experience through visual music. It is not meant to be analytical and linear, but rather to engage our senses at a more primitive and intuitive level– a level we perhaps lost with our increased reliance on the visual.
As our visual language evolves so does our understanding of the world. It is my belief that visual music, the genre shaped by artists like Belson, is the foundation for the next step of that evolution. This next phase is one with incredible potential, specifically, I believe, in the exploration of data visualization. To me, the next question we must ask is, “How can we use the senses to heighten the cognitive experience?” Through use of visual and auditory combinations in an immersive space, we can provide the expanded concept of time and space necessary to comprehend multi-layered systems based on complex sets of data. I believe when we can activate all our senses for learning and interpretation, increasingly complex concepts and systems can be communicated.
I want to conclude this post with a few visual music examples I find inspiring, as well as an excerpt from Eugene Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema (1970) that I feel sums up this post:
“The limits of our language mean the limits of our world. A new meaning is equivalent to a new word. A new word is the beginning of a new language. A new language is the seed of a new world. We are making a new world by making new language.
We make new language to express our inarticulate conscious…. There is only one real world: that of the individual. There are as many different worlds as there are men. Only through technology is the individual free enough to know himself and thus know his own reality. The process of art is the process of learning how to think. When man is free from the needs of marginal survival, he will remember what he was thinking before he had to prove his right to live.” (419)
Off Book: Generative Art – Computers, Data and Humanity
In the first part of this video Luke Dubois talks about his piece ‘Hard Data’, a 6 movement string quartet based on the Iraq War. Bringing to our attention that this was is the first in which we have more data than personal knowledge, he explores 8 years of this data in 8 minutes with one day being a measure of music. Through this piece one can hear the movements of the war.
The Weight of Data
This is a conversation that I believe holds a lot of power for where we are headed as a society, how we will develop a new understanding of our world and an opportunity to expand the realms of communication. It’s only through making things more human and more emotional that we are able to connect it to our own personal experiences in life. It’s this empathy that builds relationships and is really what we are all trying to convey our entire lives. Understanding. A connection. To get someone else to really ‘hear’ us. Many times the things we don’t understand are the ones we can not relate to personally.
‘Years’ by Bartholomäus Traubeck
“Years” is a modified record player that analyzes the growth rings on a cross section of a tree and translates the information into ghostly piano music, inherently translating the trees life into music.
Antfood Crazy Show Reel
Images are thrown at us incredibly fast and we have learned how to read that information quickly and easily. Can the same experiment work for audio? Will this someday be our audial language?
Diana Reichenbach is a multimedia artist living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She studied Animation at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, receiving her MFA in 2010. Additionally she has a BA in Anthropology and a BS in Telecommunications Production from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. She is a recipient of the Annenberg Communications Research Fellowship and focuses her films and research on animation and multimedia communications as a modern language. Her films have screened in festivals all over the world; including Spain, France, Greece, Poland, Scotland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Japan and the United States. She has a strong interest in travel and has taught animation courses in Los Angeles as well as Florence Italy and Saudi Arabia. She is currently the Art Director at StandardVision in Los Angeles, a company specializing in LED lighting design and content for large scale media facades.