2022 – Kinetic Relationships in Visual Music Composition

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Today, visual music is generally a creative expression poised at the confluence of temporally based visual art and music. Essentially, it is comprised of oscillating amalgams of light and air. Here the blending of two mediums forms a third, which includes aspects of each and yet is unique in comparison to either in isolation. When occupying a mutual space/time without the intention of direct interrelationship on the part of the composer, these atomic constituents nonetheless create higher-level formations. Human tendencies toward apophenia, instinctively perceiving and creating relationships where none might exist, act as cognitive influences. However, for composers intending to exert creative influence toward such molecular formations, a wealth of potential exists. Here we will investigate several possibilities in an attempt to apprehend them knowing that, ultimately, they will dissolve into a singular expression in which they are indistinguishably inherent.

Two key and elemental structural factors in the composition of visual music reside in areas of kinetic and transitional relationships. It is posited here that mastery of these components engenders formal progressions that establish and maintain compositional cohesion. Further, their judicious and deliberate implementation provides opportunities toward the unification of these otherwise unrelated compositional elements. It is within this framework that further investigation into these relationships is exposed as fundamental to the composition of visual music. In this writing we will delve into the kinetic relationships leaving the study of transitions to another time.

The term kinesis refers to movement. Movement equals change over time, which is intrinsic in temporally-based art. Thomas Wilfred and Oscar Fischinger, generally considered the fathers of visual music, approached kinetic relationships in varied manners. Wilfred was primarilyinterested in relational movement between visual objects. His work normally did not include an audio element (Orgeman, et al). Oscar Fischinger primarily explored kinetic relationships between visual and musical objects with an emphasis on the former (Keefer and Guldemond). Fischinger’s approach is the subject of this writing, however perspectives described are equally pertinent considering Wilfred’s.

Kinesis, as witnessed in visual objects, is relatively straightforward. Objects seen as traversing the field of view from coordinates (x, y, z) to coordinates (x1, y1, z1) are naturally ascribed characteristics of movement. However, in reference to musical expression, the notion of kinesis may not be readily apparent. To begin, sounds move in terms of waves of air emanating from a source outward, in varying degrees, in multifarious directions. Sound is the vibration (movement) of air. Further, considering that movement equals change over time, it is obvious that a musical composition changes over the course of its duration. Finally, and perhaps more directly, working with two or more channels of audio diffusion, the perception of the location of sound events can be established and may traverse the listening space to other locations via varying paths.

In this study, 11 forms of kinetic relationships between audio and visual elements are explored. Though they may often overlap or may be intermingled, here they are teased apart and investigated in isolation in order to apprehend individuated approaches. Below is a list of the relationships that will be considered. It is not intended as an exhaustive list but instead as a point of departure into the reader’s own investigation.

• Disparity
• Unity
• Rhythmic
• Timbre
• Harmonic
• Contrapuntal
• Spatial
• Energetic
• Momentum
• Speed
• Opposition

In addition to a written description of each example cited in the text, included in each section is a link to relevant audio/visual clips. This approach is derived from the practice-based perspective owing that direct experience, beyond often being an effective learning aid, is a powerful communicator of ideas. The examples utilized are derived from my own compositions. This is in part due to an intimate familiarity with the work and further to ensure there are no intellectual property issues involved. It can be realized that when experiencing the examples, they might be considered subjectively derived. Certainly, as human beings, we often experience quite different phenomena even when subjected to the same stimuli. It is therefore requested that if you do not see that which is being described immediately, take time to consider it. There will be a gain of apprehension if the extra effort is extended as necessary.

One last consideration before proceeding is that precursors to the advent of visual music, such as the work of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, were attempts to make static visual art attain musical and temporal characteristics. This approach to visual art translated through into the beginnings of experimental cinema, in which static visual art could be temporally focused (Abbado). Therefore, it is not surprising that here we will consider and compare several attributes of the visual movement from a theoretically based musical perspective.

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