Music Visualization, 1938, All in Paper: Oskar Fischinger’s Masterpiece “Optical Poem”

Oskar Fischinger – Optical Poem (1938) from Avant-Garde Cinema on Vimeo. Before digital animation, the early works of abstract pioneers constructed meticulous sequences of images that transformed music into synchronized visual for the first time. These works didn’t simply predict computer animation. They helped create it. The works we make now are heavily indebted to the ideas about abstraction and visualization that these works first established.

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Fun with Turntables: Liberating the Decks By Dancing, Loading Hacks as Records

Here’s a way to change the relationship of dancer and deck: instead of the record “triggering” dancers, the dancers move the record. In “Autistic Turntable,” movement from onlookers gradually moves the platter. The work debuted earlier this year in the Nósomosòn exhibition at Normal at the Universidade da Coruña, España. It’s just one experiment in turntable re-engineering from artist, open source advocate, and electronic composer Servando Barreiro. In BInaer Platten, he modifies the mechanical turntable to instead read binary-encoded records with other audiovisual media. Seen at this year’s Transmediale 12, Servando’s work was some of the most practical to respond …

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Like a Wheel Within a Wheel: Beautiful Optical Turntables Generate Spinning Rhythms

Music is deeply tied up with motion; seeing that in a machine is somehow satisfying. Soundmachines, from the enigmatically-titled Berlin studio TheProduct*, is an interactive physical installation made from optical turntables. By moving the “tone arm” – really in this case an optical sensor attached to an extended mount – you can change rhythms and sound sweeps. We’ve naturally seen many visualizations, tangible and digital, that make loops into wheels. But it’s worth noting the particular connection to a kinetic experiment by The Books’ Nick Zammuto from the film earlier this week. In fact, my one criticism of this piece …

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Kompal Make a Crazy Sound and Light Machine, Ask You to Hunt for Triangles; Music + Video

They are so totally invited to our platonic solid and regular polygon music festival. Let’s hold it on the island of Samos, okay? Who’s in? Photo courtesy the artists. Perhaps channeling ancient cults of Pythagoras, the producer duo Kompal, based in Austria, have not only made an insane noise machine powered by light, but also ask you to hunt for triangles. Yes, the shape. Instead of a remix contest or photo contest or “like our Facebook page” business, they want you to take pictures of polygons. First, about that sound-and-light-and-noise thing that will scare your friends. It is “a unique …

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Optical Music: Bibio's New Album, Videos, Inspired by Bokeh, Film, and Optical Effects

As film makes a resurgence as a medium, music, too, responds with optical, chemical halos. Bibio’s music, sounding acoustically as if wrapped in a layer of warm gauze, was already partially cinematic. His new album for Warp, “Mind Bokeh,” is more tuneful and poppy, but as the name implies, it also draws directly from visual inspiration. It’s so visual, in fact – and the optical creations so central – that I think it belongs more here than even on our sister site. For the new record, the multi-instrumentalist and producer, aka Stephen James Wilkinson, takes a photographic technique and spins …

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Optical Music: Bibio’s New Album, Videos, Inspired by Bokeh, Film, and Optical Effects

As film makes a resurgence as a medium, music, too, responds with optical, chemical halos. Bibio’s music, sounding acoustically as if wrapped in a layer of warm gauze, was already partially cinematic. His new album for Warp, “Mind Bokeh,” is more tuneful and poppy, but as the name implies, it also draws directly from visual inspiration. It’s so visual, in fact – and the optical creations so central – that I think it belongs more here than even on our sister site. For the new record, the multi-instrumentalist and producer, aka Stephen James Wilkinson, takes a photographic technique and spins …

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With Mobility Rising, MacBooks Looming, Don’t Assume Optical Discs for Distribution

Endangered species? Maybe. Worth double-checking you can do online distribution, if you haven’t already? Definitely. Photo (CC-BY) Adam Jackson. Memo to music software developers, artists and labels distributing music, and anyone else who uses optical drives: stop assuming they’ll always be there, because they won’t. Talking points: Netbooks and tablets already lack optical drives. With more mobile devices, they’re unlikely to be alone. Next up: laptops. Many laptops over the years have put optical drives in removable drive bays or shipped as external options to shed weight and bulk. HP Envy models recently came with external drives. And now, it’s …

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The Importance of Artifact, as Film is Found in the Snow

Already making the rounds on the Web (as well it must, if it is to accomplish its author’s aims), a YouTube video immortalizes roll of film found against all odds in a snow bank. Upright Citizens Brigade video producer Todd Bieber, who found the roll, has turned them into a charming narrative as he looks for the film’s owner. It’s a reminder of the importance of physical artifact in a digital age. Film by necessity has clear physical form in a single object; digital media has to exist physically somewhere, encoded in storage media, but it hardly has the same …

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Artist Jo Hamilton, Working with the Gestural AirPiano Digital Controller

Watching the bleeding edge of new musical instruments often means having to see new designs in tech demos, in proof-of-concept experiments as artists first try their hands on a new object. If you can use some imagination and see potential, that’s fine, but it’s a bit unfair to the instrument – you don’t get to see it really exploited musically. Here’s a case that’s different: Jo Hamilton, an acclaimed up-and-coming artist from the UK, is really integrating the new AirPiano into her performance. Nor is she waiting for production: she’s got the only prototype outside of Berlin. We saw the …

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Inspiration: Marcel Duchamp's Kinetic Optical Illusions

History, particularly when coupled with hero worship, can be a creative burden. But sometimes, pioneering work is doubly inspiring not only because of what it meant in its time, but for the possibilities it suggests in our time, for our technologies, for our own modes of personal expression. Marcel Duchamp’s work in kinetic, sculptural optical illusion seems ripe for revisiting by today’s visualists. You can get some idea of Duchamp’s work from pieces like 1926’s Anemic Cinema or the 1947 segment with John Cage for Hans Richter’s Dreams That Money Can Buy, below. These are landmarks of surrealist cinema, but …

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