VJs and visualists are often asked to just make something nice happen behind musicians. What if that relationship were more intense? And what if, instead of accompanying the music, the musicians accompanied the visualists (perhaps closer to a live cinema structure)?
That’s the question Daniel Hai and Joshue Ott ask in their series Soundtrack. It doesn’t mean the music is secondary – quite the opposite. Thursday night, we’ll be working live with some of the most talented improvisers I know. Robert Dick is the legendary flute player and composer who single-handedly revolutionized what the flute was, using avant-garde techniques that extend its sound to sound — well, anything like a flute. Morgan Packard, working with Jose Ayala, creates minimal, pulsing soundscapes that to me are the perfect sonic analog to some of the visual meditations.
I think it’s also significant that the visualists – myself, Joshue Ott, Daniel Hai, and Sabina Hahn – will be working with custom software we’ve built, allowing us to imagine the visuals as a performance instrument from the ground up. Daniel, for instance, has built the open-source VJ app OnyxVJ, created in Flash. Josh and I work in Processing and Java. Interestingly, Josh and I will each be going opposite directions – Josh is working with drawing illustrations in 3D on a tablet, whereas I’m deconstructing a library of photos, flattening things out more, until those textures become a kind of painterly medium.
I really hope that these kind of events start to prompt discussions about the relationship of music and visuals. Certainly, there’s already wonderful work happening, and wonderful collaboration. But getting people to actively engage these questions – particularly in the live visual-starved US – I think has a lot of potential. If nothing else, we’ll all be dining at Brooklyn’s MonkeyTown and having a chat or two over drinks afterward.
Those of you in the New York area, I hope you can make it. Those of you not, I should have documentation from this event and our appearance at mgfest in Cambridge (the one outside Boston) next weekend.
In the meantime, the photo here is Josh and Morgan at Mutek last year, and we have video from a recent jam-in-progress.