Watch the Clavilux, an ethereal light organ from 100 years ago

Long before trippy visualizers and computer animation, before liquid light shows or laser parties, Thomas Wilfred was building organs for visuals. He called the art they produced Lumia, and the instrument Clavilux – a keyboard for light. That first instrument was built all the way back in 1919. But unlike a lot of the spectacles of the era, this one is still hypnotic today, even after all the advances of cinema and computing. Drawing on a tradition that included displays of fire and fireworks, and the ability to place sound “at the command of a skilled player at a piano,” …


Teaser: The Joy of Music with Light, From Russia and Beyond

::vtol:: “luminescence” workshop from ::vtol:: on Vimeo. Artists are, in endless cycles, rediscovering techniques that might otherwise have been discarded. And that includes performance concepts in the audiovisual realm. I’m this week in Moscow as a guest of the Polytechnic Museum (specifically their Polytech.Science.Art program. There is, I think, no more historically apt place on Earth to explore the connection between sound and image than the land of Scriabin, Kandinsky, Ballets Russes, and constructivist art, this epicenter of the audiovisual revolution. What you probably don’t know so well is audiovisual experimentation from the later Soviet period, and that was partly …


ANS – Amazing, Eerie Russian Optical Synth – Now on Every OS [Megaguide to ANS Old and New]

Few early instruments from the last century can still sound futuristic today. But the photoelectronic ANS synthesizer is an enormous vintage hardware device that can already stand toe to toe with today’s most bleeding-edge software. It’s a natural for an iOS conversion, and an incredible amount of fun to use in software form – but also makes this a good time to revisit just how forward-thinking the original was. Before electronics grew in wide use in musical instruments, sound designers took a cue from soundtracks for film. That is, before digital, before analog, there was optical. Sound artists, including a …


Holding Geometry in Your Hand: Matthew Shlian, 3D in Paper, for Ghostly International

Ghostly International presents Matthew Shlian from Ghostly International on Vimeo. Computers, those devices Steve Jobs once described as “bicycles for the mind,” have transformed our minds and imaginations. Many of us now embrace geometry and three dimensions and generative form thanks to our wonderful machines. But, sometimes, it’s worth stepping away from the screen. It lets us understand with our hands working away at a problem using something more than a mouse, to “see” with our fingers and not just our mind and eyes. Matthew Shlian, in a new collaboration with US label Ghostly International, potently describes that feeling. He …


In a Swirl of Particles, luanna Uses Gestures to Touch Samples [iPad]

luanna is a beautiful new application out of Tokyo-based visual/sound collective Phontwerp_. Amidst a wave of audiovisual iPad toys, luanna is notable for its elegance, connecting swirling flurries of particles with gestures for manipulation. I imagine I’m not alone when I say I have various sample manipulation patches lying around, many in Pd, lacking visualization, and wonder what I might use in place of a knob or fader to manipulate them. In the case of luanna, these developers find one way of “touching” the sound. As the developers put it:


Visual Music: A Waveform Made of Vinyl Records, Benga Single, Inspired by Seeing Sound

Benga’s latest video was released early last month and made the blog rounds, but it’s worth considering as we continue our ongoing thread on visual music and how sound can go from invisible to tangible. A stunning video whets fans appetite for the upcoming Benga full-length Chapter 2, constructing a wave shape in physical form as a series of vinyl records. Using some 960 hand-cut vinyl records, the track’s waveform materializes in stop motion-filmed animation. Physical as it may be, the inspiration, say the creative team, was SoundCloud. UK-based creative team Us, consisting of Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor, explain:


Visual Music: SketchSynth Lets You Draw an Interface with Marker and Paper, A Brief Drawn-Music History

Today, I’m in London doing a hands-on workshop on visual metaphors for music, and covering various topics filed under “synesthesia” at Music Tech Fest. It seems appropriate, with the subject matter on the brain, to revisit the topic of visuals and music in a series of posts. When you make hardware, with knobs and faders, you’re constrained by physical space – the amount of room on a circuit board, the radius of a knob cap, the size of your fingers. But before you get there, the first step is to sketch an idea. Imagine if you could do that with …


Animate Everything: Musical Beeple Film IV.10 is Like if Drugs Were a Video Game

Finding something intelligent to say after watching Beeple is like trying to compose a work email after sex. You just want to sit in the afterglow. Beeple’s tenth instrumental film is full of three-dimensional goodness, a joy ride through a fantastic, videogame world. It’s also eminently musical. As fanciful characters pop out of a rotating globe in some dream combination of Shigeru Miyamoto and George Dunning, you get a sense of popping, Alice-like, into the world of the music. Animator Beeple, aka Mike Winkelmann, created music and visuals alike for real audiovisual instrumental art. It’s Merrie Melodies for the digital …


Music Band, Animated: Wondrous Projection Mapping Makes Instruments Canvas

Beyond the immediate, and fleeting, novelty of seeing images fitted perfectly to three-dimensional objects, you need something to actually watch. Here, new work from Melbourne-based artist Chris Staring is splendidly fanciful: a band of assembled musical instruments is immersed in animation, a bit like walking into Toontown in Roger Rabbit. In fact, speaking of Disney, the abstract musical animations that erupt are reminiscent of the jazzy modern concoctions of mid-Century animators, imagining for the first time how you might put music into motion. One reason the results look so good: these are instruments constructed to be a canvas, each built …


Visual Music: Send Audio, MIDI to Live Visuals with GrandVJ 1.5, VST

On Create Digital Motion today, I write about the 1.5 release of ArKaos GrandVJ, the latest version of the popular Mac and Windows VJ tool. The big innovation: insert a VST plug-in into software like Ableton Live, and you can pipe MIDI and audio to your live visuals for easy synchronization and collaboration. You can even, as the video demonstrates, run an Ethernet cable between two machines. (This works on both Mac and Windows, despite the appearance of only Apple laptops in the video.) GrandVJ is doubly interesting for readers on the music site, as it’s long featured a music-centric …