Posts Tagged ‘sound’
take out your anaglyph glasses to view this in its full stereoscopic glory!
I did the art and sound for the game Gravity Cubes, with Matt Morris and Jason Mathias. Ours is the eerie world of semi-transparent cubes in which the gravity switches on the player every 30s. The game was realized in Unity and is the result of experimenting with what constitutes a compelling 3D space – it turns out transparency and reflections are particularly evocative in stereo, as the viewer receives a rich impression of the multiple layers of objects positioned at different depths.
My Umbrella Music Box on display. When you open the umbrella, a windy, tinkling, chimey tune starts to play somewhere above the umbrella holder’s ears, only faintly discernible to others.
Materials used: hacked circuit of a Saw III audio-recording toy, a salvaged speaker, LED cocktail ice-cube, synthetic fur, taffeta, netting, nylon and a common umbrella. Special thanks to Jerry Serafin for his electronics expertise!
from Sianne Ngai’s “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde “To use an everyday, ready-at-hand object as an example of commercially produced cuteness, this small and compact knickknack, a frog-shaped bath sponge (figs. 1a and 1b), shows how much the aesthetic depends on a softness that invites physical touching—or, to use a more provocative verb, fondling. It also demonstrates the centrality of anthropomorphism to cuteness. Yet while the object has been given a face and exaggerated gaze, what is striking is how stylistically simplified and even unformed its face is, as if cuteness were a sort of primitivism in its own right. Realist verisimilitude and precision are excluded in the making of cute objects, which have simple contours and little or no ornamentation or detail. The smaller and less formally articulated or more bloblike the object, the cuter it becomes—in part because smallness and blobbishness suggest greater malleability and thus a greater capacity for being handled. The bath sponge makes this especially clear because its purpose is explicitly to be pressed against the body and squished.
From here it is only a short step to see how the formal properties associated with cuteness — smallness, compactness, softness, simplicity, and pliancy— call forth specific affects: helplessness, pitifulness, and even despondency. There is thus a sense in which the minor taste concept of cuteness might be said to get at the process by which all taste concepts are formed and thus at the aesthetic relation all of them capture. For in addition to being a minor aesthetic concept that is fundamentally about minorness (in a way that, for instance, the concept of the glamorous is not), it is crucial to cuteness that its diminutive object has some sort of imposed-upon aspect or mien—that is, that it bears the look of an object not only formed but all too easily de-formed under the pressure of the subject’s feeling or attitude towards it. Though a glamorous object must not have this mien at all (in fact, the meta-aspect of looking as if its aspect were subjectively imposed would immediately break the Schein of glamour), the subject’s awareness, as she gazes at her little object, that shemaybe willfully imposing its cuteness upon it, is more likely to augment rather than detract from the aesthetic illusion, calling attention to an unusual degree of synonymy between objectification and cutification
We can thus start to see how cuteness might provoke ugly or aggressive feelings, as well as the expected tender or maternal ones. For in its exaggerated passivity and vulnerability, the cute object is as often intended to excite a consumer’s sadistic desires for mastery and control as much as his or her desire to cuddle.
Working on the design for my next excursion into sound art and physical computing…
Torus is a bouncing castle, an inflatable tunnel, a crawl space to rest and socialize, and a novel. After enjoying the buoyant properties of the platform at the center of the structure, revelers enter the darkly glowing, semi-translucent tunnel that circles the ring. Comfortably wide, and yet not large enough to allow you to stand up straight, the tunnel is a tautological maze that amusingly, gently disorients. Its elastic, squeaky walls have the consistency of a balloon and make for interesting reclining, lounging, splaying and contortion of limbs. Strangers meet as they crawl or wiggle through the tunnel: talk, experimentally intertwine, explore the space together. A system of fans keeps the air of the labyrinth adequately fresh and oxygenated.
The secret of Torus is in the speakers embedded in its walls: the tunnel is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant broadcasts a section of a short novel narrated by the novel’s protagonist. Like in one of Borges’ fantastical stories, the novel has neither beginning nor end – it is literally a circle!
The torus itself is a geometrical object with fascinating psychological properties…sound travels elliptically through it, allowing visitors to experience the ambiance rather than the letter of the novel.
As a child, I spent hours with my Sega Genesis or (Sega Megadrive, as it was marketed in Europe) developing digital motor reflexes meant to ensure my survival in a colorful 8-bit world. Rolling up in a little ball to zoom through transparent tubes or accelerate and fall in not-quite-Earth-gravity parabolas became second nature. Sonic introduced me to the delights of a sacharine electronic soundtrack that made the hard primary colors of Sonic world’s shimmer and subliminally controlled my minute pushing and pulling of the tiny joystick. Sonic is a masterpiece in synesthetic design: visual, aural and kinetic mesh together to create a re-embodied experience, more akin to telepresence than manipulating an avatar.
Carnival Night Zone
Apparently, other fans who still have dreams of pinballing through Sonic levels and have developped an automatic jump and bounce response to hearing repetitive synth melodies have posted these walkthroughs of Sonic 1 and 2…a nostalgic flashback to an archaic utopia.
My newest track of low-tech music. Enjoy!
I define low-tech and low-fi as a practice of jittery iterations – algorithms recode the same melody to create long looping ambient tracks. Anyhow, my idosyncratic use of the program Reason is responsible for the theory…still deep in the learning process.
Peter Sarkisian, Extruded Video Engine n°=1. the impersonation of the arcade mentality! a new techno-animal emerges from this fizzing bleeping volumetric toy…
Fowler Museum presents ‘Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth,’ Jan 10–May 30, 2010
Exhibition features 35 of artist’s ‘Soundsuits,’ wearable mixed-media sculptures
By Stacey Ravel Abarbanel October 23, 2009
“Whether Nick Cave’s efforts qualify as fashion, body art or sculpture … they fall squarely under the heading of Must Be Seen to Be Believed.” —Roberta Smith, New York Times
“Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth,” on display at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from Jan. 10 through May 30, 2010, is the largest presentation of work by the Chicago-based artist, featuring 35 of his “Soundsuits” — multilayered, mixed-media sculptures named for the sounds made when the “suits” are performed.
Evocative of African, Caribbean and other ceremonial ensembles, as well as haute couture, Cave’s work explores issues of transformation, ritual, myth and identity through a layering of references and virtuosic construction, using materials as varied as yarn, beads, sequins, bottle caps, vintage toys, rusted iron sticks, twigs, leaves and hair.
Mad, humorous, visionary, glamorous and unexpected, the Soundsuits are created from scavenged, ordinary materials and objects from both nature and culture, which Cave recontextualizes into extraordinary works of art. The Fowler is the first Los Angeles–area museum to feature Cave’s work and the only Southern California venue for this traveling exhibition.
The Fowler presentation of this exhibition holds particular meaning for the artist and for Los Angeles because Cave’s first Soundsuit was sparked by the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1992 following the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating.
The Soundsuits almost always cover the whole body, erasing the identity of the wearer. Thus, the Soundsuits can be understood as coats of armor, shielding Cave from the day-to-day prejudice he encounters as an African American man and facilitating a transformation into an invented realm of vibrant associations and meanings.
For this exhibition, Cave also employs animal imagery in ways as complex and multilayered as the human-based suits. While conjuring the spiritual strength and power of animal totems used in ancient rituals from around the world, Cave’s Soundsuits also become vessels of transformation and seek to connect us to the Earth and the animals around us. Using wit, humor and a fanciful sensibility, Cave’s Soundsuits beg us to pay attention and to dream of a different future.
Nick Cave received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1982 and his M.F.A. from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1989. He studied fiber art but is committed to a broad spectrum of interests and disciplines. Cave is an associate professor and chairman of the fashion department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he teaches in the fiber arts program. He has led such workshops as “Extending the Body: Experiments in Clothing” and has designed, manufactured and marketed his own line of men’s and women’s clothing. He has received numerous awards, including a United States Artists Fellowship (2006) and a Joyce Award (2006), and his work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. and Europe.
Using Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities as virtual loci that gather individuals into a common cultural space,Susan Douglas (Listening In) reads radio in terms of its capacity, as a social practice, to uniquely constitute (American) subjectivity. Radio’s most obvious affordance is that it allows people separated in space to listen simultaneously, “to experience that very moment of (their) lives in exactly the same way” (p.24). Douglas argues the new medium gave rise to an unprecedented kind of intersubjective intimacy – a linking of inner worlds that occurred not through a meeting of the minds (radio listeners remain anonymous to each other) but by sharing a common (cultural, technological) platform for fantasy.
Radio listeners are bonded by a specific practice of self: as thousands tune in to the same Top 40 song, they cross over together and for a moment into a temporality different from their distracted, fragmented present and experience time as a (musical) signature, as an embodied flow. For the duration of a song, radio holds out the possibility to a fragmented collectivity to perceive themselves as a unique, flavorful being – the kind of communion achieved is not one that can gather a community (radio listeners are experiencing themselves, very closely, rather than experiencing others) but that produces similar and separated subjectivities. Radio-listening Americans live apart but dream together.
Here Douglas’ concept of “dimensional” listening, as radio’s purported affordance that encourages listeners to generate their own powerful imagery to compensate for the absence of a visual world, enters into play. If other media like cinema, where worlds are “given” to the audience for consumption, constitute a vault of imaginary material, then radio trains the subject in the practice of a specific type of imagination, setting up the scaffolding for an inner space that we can freely populate. To “develop an ear for radio” means to gain access to “a repertoire of listening styles and emotional responses”, to be attuned to different inner worlds that we can switch on or off (in this sense, prefiguring the advent of portable music players as mood-regulating devices). In the 20s before regular programming this might mean tuning in to imagine a ionospheric topology projected from the disparate stations the ham could reel in; in the 30s it could mean regularly conjuring the presence of an entire cast of fictional characters from a soap drama. Douglas argues that in exploring the “spaces” of sound – by promenading our consciousness through the rippling folds of rhythm or timbre in music, by stalking the unfolding story of a voice – we are really spelunking in our own depths.
The term “training” characterizes the kind of self-building radio enables in the sense that listeners (according to Douglas) become emotionally attached to broadcast material, especially if they hear it repeatedly: “the more we listen to certain kinds of music, the more we learn to like it.” (p. 32) – in a quite neurological way, Top 40 songs imprint themselves on our mind, giving shape to our subjectivity. This emotional sculpting modifies the listener’s sense of time in significant ways. Radio creates privileged temporal moments for the listener, a more intense experience of the present that accompanies the listener’s exploration of their inner space. Over the course of a life, these privileged moments call to and ricochet off one another – mental states or moods jump across one’s temporality, seeding the self with fragments of past incarnations, reliquary fantasies. Douglas emphasizes that radio almost from the beginning was marked by nostalgia, by the longing for a disappeared moment that a broadcast song could briefly bring back into the present. In this sense dimensional listening is not dissociable from another term Douglas uses, “associational” listening, or the forging of correspondences between the flow of our lives and the soundtrack that accompanies it, meaning that daily routines – e.g. doing laundry while listening to a jazz tune on the radio – are dyed with the color of a sound that can make an initially undifferentiated slice of everydayness remarkable. This quality in radio emerges from its difference from the gramophone as a listening practice – the fact that radio temporally mapped out a listener’s day (starting with regular programming) with scheduled sound. As manufactured sound and especially music became ambient (as consequence of ubiquity) they started exercising an unprecedented level of influence on people’s lives.
Douglas also investigates the fascinating history of the beginnings of radio and the social significance accorded the new technology at its inception, particularly around the relationship between radio and a collective desire for the existence of a tangible spiritual dimension, a longing for the unchartered and unknown that characterized both radio’s marketing as a mechanical “medium” (a notion that interestingly recontextualizes media in terms of spiritism) and the practice of DXing. Radio uncannily symbolized, more than the phonograph which was an inscription device, the utopian possibilities of technology as interface between different ontological realms, as a transducer that could allow for communication between what was previously considered incommensurable: the living and the dead, humanity and the extraterrestrial, invisible world of the airwaves, two individuals separated by vast distances. Douglas points out that in endowing radio with this mystique Americans were engaging in a search for meaningful connection, a sense of existential and communal belonging that, at least in the collective Western imaginary, had been lost in the turn to mechanized, serialized, fragmented modern life. DXers, poetically dubbed “distance fiends”, developed a form of radio practice that engaged the technology not only as a commodity fetish but also as, literally, a medium, a means of accessing different possibilities of signification through the exploratory use of the technology’s affordances. Before the more commoditized modes of dimensional and associational listening, tuning in to the radio was also a game played across the virtual landscape of the airwaves as DXers would fish for the disembodied voices that stood in for real-world localities.
Douglas’ discussion of DXing as a poetic practice weaves into her general investigation of radio not only as a locus for a cultural imaginary but as a technology that crucially enables imagination – which raises questions as to how other sound technologies have been and might be imaginatively used. If the commodity-use of the record, the tape, the MP3 player have trained us to meaningfully experience sound in certain ways that have constituted our subjectivities according to certain common cultural (capitalist) patterns, then what other cultures (and other subjectivities) with potential to challenge or re-organize capitalism emerge as a result of exploratory, imaginative use? Radio leads us into a consideration of contemporary countercultural (but also massively embraced!) practices around sound technology, namely DJ and remix culture…
Texts: Theodor Adorno, On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening
“Vulgarization and enchantment, hostile sisters, dwell together in the arrangements which have colonized large areas of music”.
Adorno deftly analyses Marx to argue that our contemporary experience of music is irrevocably degraded by the fact that we consume music as a thing whose “exchange value” – the market hype that brands something as desirable or not – becomes fetishized to the point of obscuring its “use value”. And here Adorno’s dialectic use of “use-value” as the value that something possesses before comodification, as the thing’s intrinsic social good, becomes problematic. “Exchange value” constitutes a paradoxical kind of worth because it has no substance (built upon an entrenched system of cultural hearsay / advertisement that consumers buy into in order to be “in the loop”), but we are left with the question of what kind of “substantial” worth can be attributed to the pre-comodified social good.
In the case of music, Adorno claims that its mass production has destroyed the “promise of happiness” it once held, the possibility of true enjoyment that can only happen when the experience is unique / individualized (“The liquidation of the individual is the real signature of the new musical situation”).The shallow immediacy of the consumer’s enjoyment of his fetishized object (his record, a song on the radio, the idea of “classical music”) cannot compare to this lost form of deep joy experienced by the 19th century music-listener during a one-time concert by Schubert or Beethoven. And although there is little doubt that the fetishization of cultural goods is a kind of behavior only properly defined by industrialized capitalist society, Attali’s argument in Noise justly points out that music (like any other cultural product) has always been inextricably indexed to and defined by the hierarchies and ideologies that reinforce and articulate a society’s economic organization at any given time – the type of “higher” enjoyment that Adorno speaks of is the product of specifically bourgeois and Enlightenment modes of experiencing art, a distinct behavior already being hyped up (if not yet properly “branded”) as the apogee of all aspirations towards gentrification and refinement ( i.e. social ascension).
Adorno’s distinction between past and present cultural attitudes towards music, if not a completely successful denunciation of consumption in its totality, does, however, usefully put the notion of enjoyment as the forefront of our investigation of sound. Enjoyment is a kind of behavior/experience that is both culturally conditioned and highly individual, generating meaning that is both unique to the enjoyer and communicable and understandable by her peers. To inquire into different modalities of enjoyment is simultaneously to carry on a critique of the material conditions of social life (means of production, distribution networks, technological contexts) and to map out a phenomenology of sound.
How can we elaborate on Adorno’s dissection of musical consumption as fetishization of a musical object? How have we diverted ourselves from that moment and what new species of enjoyment are being invented/discovered today?
immigration, race, gender, the phonograph, the telephone, Tin Pan Alley, factory of dreams, jazz and Halloween: is catchy a crime? it all comes to the fore in this famous Fleischer cartoon for Cab Calloway’s ear-popping “Minnie the Moocher”.
Noise II: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”.
Peter Bailey in Breaking the Sound barrier quotes Robert Musil on the ‘sonic shrapnel’ produced by the motor car: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”. Two synesthetic attributes stand out in this remarkable description. First, there are haptic qualities to the noise, translated in terms of texture: how the sound would feel (“wiry”) if you could probe / test it with your fingers, in effect uncovering an auditory topology by using the body as contact surface with the sound (“sharp edges running along it”). Then, Musil recognizes the noise’s kinetic attributes: the sound is in a continuous process of shattering, “flying and scattering”, throwing its components into the world (into the ear) like so many projectiles.
As Bailey notes, sound is vibration (“palpable”) – a series of minute but tangible displacements of matter. Unlike light with its strictly scopic / analytic affordances, the flow of sound modifies physical reality, rearranges the world. As such, the haptic domain – texture – already contains the possibility of sound; noise starts to exist when it can extend itself kinetically, across a spatial and temporal axis, when it becomes a conductor for change and entropy. Musil’s rapprochement between hearing and touch alerts us to the fact that sound unfolds in space concomitantly with its unfolding in time: it travels, working on the body as much as on consciousness.
Consequently, Noise (meaning sound in its raw form, an amalgamation and meshing of vibrations not synched into discrete units of order) seems to have an intimate relationship with affect that expresses itself in the body, namely (Bailey argues) laughter and terror / the instinct to flee-fight. Both of these proto-emotions (or simply motions) are brought together to powerful effect in the tradition Bailey calls “rough music”: “rough music was excessive, repetitive and sustained noise, combining high spirits with a sadistic edge”. Participating equally in a Bakhtinian culture of carnival and a history of institutionalized insanity (Bailey disarticulates the etymology of “bedlam” as the hubbub of the Bedlam inmates), rough music is produced for social purposes of ritual or regulation. Interestingly, Attali links music to the sacrifice of noise and its appendage of violence on the altar of (social, scientific) order. From there, one realizes that to listen to “rough music” is to witness noise coagulating into music or inversely, music decaying into noise – an exhilarating experience of liminality, teetering between forgetfulness (chaos) and culture.
Rough music has many splendid contemporary descendants (Noise, the more distorted forms of techno), thanks to the industrial revolution and the musical avant-garde that sought to rehabilitate or take control over the kind of sonic environment produced by the accelerated motion/collisions of more bodies and machines. The “future sound” that John Cage celebrates highlights the same attributes that Robert Musil discovered in sounds of technology: texture and kinetic force. Cage discusses these as “overtone structure” and “percussion music”, respectively.
“The special function of electrical instruments will be to provide complete control of the overtone structure of tones and to make these tones available in any frequency, amplitude and duration”: overtones are what gives each instrument its particular timbre i.e. the sonic texture that differentiates a violin from a piano; certainly electronic and digital music take advantage of the fact that they can give voice to an infinity of imaginary instruments, in effect to an uncategorizable cacophony of overtones. Allied to the emphasis on “percussion” (“a contemporary transition from keyboard-influenced music to the all-sound music of the future”), Cage’s future sound heralds key components of contemporary rough music in this evocation of tonal din and “repetitive noise” (repetition being primarily structured by beats/percussion). Compared to its 18th century manifestation, Noise engages the confused ear in the gears of a machine in order to better manufacture its violent/euphoric interface with the body.
“The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.” (The Art of Noises, Luigi Russolo)
Remembering what it felt like dancing to drum n’ bass at club last week, I found it useful to consider the mental “attitude” at work in the activity of dancing to as opposed to listening to music, and, in the context of x’ “Music as Technology of Self”, to wonder what kind of mood-modifying agency is at work on the subject’s part in the act of dance, where the body seems to spontaneously achieve an intimacy and immediacy of communication with the mind’s capacity to recognize and organize aural patterns. In the specific case of electronic music, dancing seems to involve an enactment of the music, a physical tracing of the contours of the different elements at work in a sonic landscape: an inverted act of ventriloquism, where rather than giving voice to a (inanimate) body, a body is given to the voice. Drum n’ bass, with its rapid-fire snare drums and broken beats, subwoofers meowing like torpid, hungry cats, creates a kind of atmosphere that lends itself, if not to the spiritual, then to a form of spiritism – the dancers mechanically jumping from beat to beat are automata controlled by the poltergeist haunting the PAs.
Here the particular “aura” of machine-music, as envisioned by Futurists such as Russolo in The Art of Noises, is articulated: the distinction between euphony and disharmony breaks down in the face of the possibility of infinite variations in timbre (different species of noise) and the futility of any form of sonic taxonomy (and therefore, arguably, of categorical judgments about value or taste in music, but this opens up another can of worms). The programmability of the rhythm – bringing to us the hard fact that all digital music is the product of an algorithmic process – creates a backbone, a tensile, resilient structure that supports the volatility of tone and timbre, which is then free to open up a space of mobility, of play to which the body responds. One of the exciting things about electronic music is not that it always produces an arena for free play (most of its forms are subject to the same sort of cultural patterns embedded in other forms of popular music) but that, as a technology, its particular affordance is to produce experiments in procedurality / procedural forms of experimentation. Dancing to drum n’bass feels nothing so much like solving a problem, a result of harnessing the self to a technological framework which momentarily brings the dancer to a higher form of phenomenological enactment – solving the problem of time / temporal existence via body, allowing the body to function as an uncanny inscription device / Ouiji board.
“Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.
…The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination. “
From website “Create Digital Music”
Brainpipe is a psychedellic journey down the neural pathways, a long, strange trip into the minds of an unusual band of independent game designers. And while some games demand muscular graphics cards or brilliant flat panels, this is one that requires playing with headphones. The immersive sense of the descent down this brain’s pathway is entirely dependent on its sound. While even big development houses often license sound engines, the band of hard-core designers at Digital Eel also rolled their own interactive audio code to make the sounds fully seamless…..
Peter: Let’s talk about the game mechanic. Some of it feels familiar – this descent through a cylindrical pipe – but there’s something quirky and unique about your take on it. How did you settle on the interaction mechanic?
Iikka: This was quite literally the first thing I programmed for Brainpipe. We were trying to come up with a new “short” game after putting another larger project on the back burner because we didn’t have enough free time to work on it. Within a few hours I had the basic control scheme and the moving pipe running on the screen. This is similar to how some of our other short games (Plasmaworm, Dr. Blob’s Organism) got started; the first prototype is something you can play with. After that there were tweaks of course, but the feel stayed much the same…
We were talking about music right away and how the sound, the intensity of the patterns and colors on the pipe walls, and the speed of traveling through the pipe should all work together. [We wanted] a kind of triple whammy to suck the player in deeper and deeper — a strong, cumulative effect…
Making sure each obstacle has a sustained sound so you can hear it coming in the distance in front of you and then hear it pass by and recede with Doppler shift certainly adds to the audio illusion.
I think the kicker is the way the intensity ramps in the game. It’s sort of like a rising sawtooth waveform-shaped thing. During each level, the intensity, the speed increases, Then, between each level, the intensity drops to give you a breather before the next level begins. Each time the intensity drops, it is still at a higher intensity level than during the previous level break, and all of this ramps upward.
The sensation of synesthesia is something a handful of game designers have tried to achieve. What are some of the games that have inspired you? Are there games you feel have reached that fusion of sound and visuals?
Iikka: My personal influence is the “demoscene” that I was a part of when I was younger; it’s a subculture of programmers and artists using computers to create non-interactive but real time audio-visual experiences.
Rich: For me, LucasArts’ adventure game, The Dig, with its seamless looping of various Wagner themes and so on. The music would morph as scenes changed. It was an amazing piece of work.
The music from Star Control II innovated with music and visuals, and it directly inspired the music for Strange Adventures in Infinite Space and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. The idea that each alien race should have their own theme music came from there (though this kind of thing is less unusual now than it was when SC2 was originally released), as did the idea to attach separate and distinctly different music to each thing, category of thing, item, window, pop up announcement –every action in the game and every flick of the interface … like a toddler’s “busy box” of sound.
Back to Brainpipe, other areas of music outside of games inspired us as well. Aleatoric, musique concrete, avant garde — stuff Bill just naturally creates and stuff I’ve always loved since I was a kid. [I checked] out the LP’s at the library by Stockhausen, Varese, Morton Subotnick, Ussachevsky, all these wonderful pre-synthsizer electronic sound and found sound composers. And the records were awesome because they were always in pristine condition — relatively few others ever checked them out.
Old Skool – mid 90s
new iteration of happy
J-Pop: happy and breakbeats
Over the past six months I’ve been listening about 3 hours a day to happy hardcore, a sub-genre of “rave”, “techno”, “electronic” music considered a spin-off from early 90s U.K. hardcore techno (which also evolved into other kinds of hyper-fast specimens such as gabber/speedcore, like happy hardcore distinguished by its four to the floor beat but without the synthy melodies and jungle/drum n’ bass, whose syncopated fury is driven by breakbeats). Happy Hardcore is a product of rave culture, which approaches music from a decidedly anti-aesthetic point of view: this is not music meant to be listened to /considered/tasted (nothing is more contrary to the notion of taste than the dirty, praxis-based logic of musical fodder, meant to be digested by your dancing), but to kick you like a soccer ball into a parabolic trajectory, with usually a 7-hour interval between the going up and the coming down. Your body suffers through the DJ set of happy hardcore – crushing waves of relentless beats pound a machine rhythm into your feet while the perpetually shifting, morphing timbres of the synthesizer travel up and down your spine, stretch out your skull from the inside, creating a space (grimy and vast, like a warehouse) for the free play of endless sonic variations. Happy Hardcore is brutal in the sense that it locks you into a logic of acceleration – like driving a car with your foot spastically pressing down on the gas pedal – and that, at least within the context of a DJ set, it never stops. Not delivered in discrete packets of consumable “songs” but turned on like a tap – for a given period of time you swim in it, fight with it, ride with it, drown in it; it becomes your medium, a total texture for a parallel reality, a cognitive landscape apart. When they turn the music off and the night is over, it’s as if the air had gone out of the room – your ears, surreptitiously, have metaphorically started to function as lungs, allowing sound to bond to your bloodstream.
Why happy hardcore? If you look up happy hardcore on youtube, you’re likely to find tracks played to a still image that looks like a smiley face with angry eyebrows and a ferocious, toothy, grin – and that is exactly what it feels like. It can only be described as a mean joy, an apocalyptic celebration – the kind of happiness you would feel if you were being catapulted over a chasm, your feet treading air.
Alvarez's film is rare, but bombing footage is not...
Santiago Alvarez’s 79 Springtimes of Ho Chi Min opens with a flower slowly blooming, followed by a shot taken from a plane overflying Vietnam. Just as slowly as the flower opened, two bombs drop to earth, becoming invisible until – we knew this would happen, but were subconsciously hoping it wouldn’t – the earth erupts into flames. The camera zooms into a photograph of Ho Chi Min as a young man until we see only his eyes. Then, through a series of photographs (Barthes: the poignancy of the photograph is that it is evidence of the certainty of death – a death that already occurred or a death to be), we see those eyes grow older, until we finally zoom out again – Ho Chi Min is an old man, his face and figure freeze into a negative. Here Alvarez brilliantly evokes the passage and passing of a life – a life that (according to the filmmaker) unfolded with beautiful purpose, the process of aging signifying the fulfillment, the blooming of the young man’s promise, rather than a descent or decay. Alvarez simultaneously ties the meaning of this life irrevocably to a place, Vietnam, an event, the Vietnam war and a mission, the struggle against the destruction of Vietnam, a struggle for life (- again, the flower, the earth). Ho Chi Min is embalmed in the negative flash, pharaonically preserved in celluloid to continue to inspire this purpose, ascending to some super-human plane where he is transfigured into ideality – resurrected as a symbol via the film.
Later, more footage of violence in Vietnam is cut with a woman singing in lyrical anguish, ecstatically, until, as she draws out a high note, she disappears, replaced by the explosion of another bomb. The dialectic between vibrant life and sudden anihilation is didactically picked up again, but this is didacticism of a purely emotional, even physiological order. This sequence increases (at least my) heart rate, makes me breathe more heavily, until the world, life, my heart beat is stopped by the arrival of the bomb hitting the singer’s high note.
To cite Jane Gaines’ article Political Mimesis: the spectator “bodies back” to the images on the screen, reacting to the projected world as if she were witnessing reality, something happening right now that calls for an immediate reaction – wherefore the adrenalin. Alvarez’ method is more Eisenstein than Workers’ League newsreel, however – we are not encouraged towards mimesis of the action on screen (no waves of bodies, no protesters arouse this response) but provoked to imbibe the political message being laid out in front of us, namely, that the destruction of life (as it shines forth in the face and voice of the singer, in the liquid harmonics of the synthesizer soundtrack, in the ravaged faces of napalm victims, in the eyes of the old Ho Chi Min) calls absolutely for counter-attack, a commitment of the whole body, a kinetic force of feeling directed against the destroyers. Ho Chi Min is at the center of the footage: he appears as the eye in the storm, the rallying point for everything that stands against the anonymous machinery of death.
more remains of Ho Chi Minh...
After his funeral, the world falls apart – first in the faces of his supporters, unmade by tears (again, a physical manifestation) and then on the arena of the war itself: the filmmaker mangles footage of gun machine fighting at close quarters so that the soldiers’ violence finds some physically authentic correlate in the violence done to the celluloid, causing epileptic flashes to periodically slice the action unfolding on screen. The lasting impression is one of sensually exprienced chaos, as if the sign – what is represented – had savagely leaped out of its ontological cage to manhandle the spectator, directly triggering the spectator’s self-defense reflexes. As a result, the war footage, the attack on Vietnam starts to feel intimately personal – the bombs dropping on Vietnam seem to be aimed at me.
Like Man with the Movie Camera, I found 79 Springtimes of Ho Chi Min galvanizing, in its etymological sense of muscular stimulation by electric shock. As in Vertov’s film, we are lifted into a universe constructed by the Kino-eye – one where the juxtaposition of actuality coalesces into a higher meaning, a fullness of experience / life. This beautiful vision is then put under attack by the war footage – footage that, although posessing the aesthetic qualities that characterize the entire film, releases all its potential for shock value when considered side by side with the faces and bodies of children, masses, protesters and the compact figure of the deified Ho Chi Min. That the power of cinematic representation can be used so effectively to short-circuit the spectator’s critical capacities to plug in directly to her emotional core and stimulate a physical response (the catalyst for action) is, according to Gaines, the dream of the politically engaged documentarian. But the question of the political content being conveyed cannot be gotten around. The cinematic apparatus remains amoral.
the parallel evolution/convergence of experimental animation and avant-garde film_from early attempts to visualize music (i.e. time) to full-fledged redefinition of time as the dimensional extension, population and processing of space…
Of note on Snow’s and Anderson’s piece_both seem to extend a strategy for freezing time or for triggering the present into a loop, through either the quasi elimination of bodies from space (displacing the human body onto the “body” of an empty room) or the annexation of space by a surfeit of body. Both absence and omnipresence fill time to the brim of the frame.
Hans Richter: Rhytmus 21, 1921
Disney: Fantasia, 1940
Michael Snow: Wavelength, 1968
Thom Anderson: Edward Muybridge, Zoopraxographer, 1974