Visual Music 2 - Links to Resources - Some terms to identify works

Compiled September 2004

The focus in these notes is to illicit some key terms that are at work and can be at work in visual work / interart medium works that work with the language of visual and the language of music to create a unified art work. Many of the resources that are linked have video clips online to preview works.

These key terms are only one aspect of each work presented. The term and the example are to show the wide range of works that are created. They are meant to be thought provoking and yet at some level identify the ideas at work in visual music type art works and in particular the musical ideas at work in visual music type art works, and to provide one example of a path through looking at visual music work.

Key terms used by visual music - audio visual - inter-art work

Great Resources


all types of actions, artefacts, noises, images, and movement into the performance space

John Cage Variations V 1965


Light – musical film

B.Galeyev (1960s) Russia
"ETERNAL MOVEMENT" (wide-screen light-musical film, 1969, 35-mm)

The music is taken from "Electronic Poem" of E.Varese

offline 043.avi

Lots of clips for example

The small tryptich

Dance of vertical lines

ballad for bernet

Dance of Vertical Lines (05.avi)

Give expression to full range of human experience – space, composition, motion, sound, movement, light.

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy declared that only the synthesis of the theater's essential formal components  space, composition, motion, sound, movement, and light  into an organic whole could give expression to the full range of human experience.

Light Shadow Play

Light, Colours, Shapes – purely abstract or absolute film

 Walter Ruttmann Light-Play Opus 1
”Premiered in 1921, Ruttmann’s «Opus 1» is the first abstract or «absolute» work in film history. Instead of containing depictions of reality, it consists entirely of the colors and shapes already formulated in Ruttmann’s «Painting With Light» manifesto. In 1919, he writes that, after nearly a decade, he finally «masters the technical difficulties» struggled with as early as 1913 while executing his formulated idea. He also writes that one has to «work with film as though using a paintbrush and paint». Up to protecting his work by a patent in 1920, this artistically-motivated necessity born of new technical means leads to Ruttmann producing abstract and painterly image sequences in his films.

Following the neglected «Opus 1» come three other purely abstract films. These too, are painstakingly colored by hand. That each film has an original score composed especially for its production highlights another difference to the absolute films of Hans Richter or Oskar Fischinger, which transposed in images music that already existed.”


The second central motive for artistic work with audio-visual media lies in their aesthetic potential to create image and sound experiences that have never been seen or heard before, in other words art forms that go beyond all known genres. Thus in 1919

Walter Ruttmann designed «an art for the eye that differs from painting in that it is time-based (like music). … And so a type of artist will emerge who is quite new and previously only latently in existence, placed somewhere between painting and music.» And this new art «can definitely expect to reach a considerably wider audience than painting has.»[5] This idea takes on concrete form in the absolute films made in the 1920s by Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter and others. Kurt Weill produced an equivalent idea for «absolute radio art» in 1925, in which «an army of new, unheard sounds that the microphone could produce artificially» was to make possible something like «an absolute, soulful work of art, floating above the earth.»


Hans Richter

musical painting

Viking Eggeling Diagonal Symphonie 1925

b 1880 in Lund (SWE), died in 1925 in Berlin; since 1897 works as a book dealer in Germany, later as an independent artist in Paris; during World War I he teaches drawing and sports in Zurich (CH), where he is introduced to the circle of Dadaists and creates first sketches for image rolls and musical painting; 1920 first film experiments and collaboration with Hans Richter; moves to Berlin in 1921; 1925 premiere of the «Diagonal-Symphonie.»


Full Video on Neil O’ Connors Thesis DVD (2003)

Music rhythm composition

Oskar Fischinger Composition in Blue/Light Concerto no.1
Surfaces dominate in the abstract animated film «Komposition in Blau/ Lichtkonzert Nr.1» (Composition in Blue / Light Concert No. 1). Colorful geometric figures are set in rhythmic motion. The music from Nicolai’s «The Merry Women of Windsor» is impressively visualized through a blending of form and color. Fischinger created wooden cubes and cylinders as three-dimensional animated models, approximately as tall as a cigarette, some of them painted and others covered with fabric. «At first the set seems to reveal a room. But then the floor begins to reflect the geometric figures. Cubes perfectly-aligned in a row, forming a flat mosaic-like surface, tumble apart to form a stairway. In this perpetually changing universe, a cylinder pounds at the floor and sets off a series of waves, and a decorative, flat circle flies into the empty space. The beauty of the colored, geometric forms—a yellow rectangle descends gracefully into the frame—escalates to the frenzied magic of the impossible.»

(Source: William Moritz: «Oskar Fischinger», in: Deutsches Filmmuseum Frankfurt am Main, Optische Poesie. Oskar Fischinger Leben und Werk, Kinematograph Nr. 9, 1993, p. 42)

sound ornaments

«Fischinger was born in Gelnhausen, on June 22, 1900. He studied organ buildung and then mechanical engineering in Frankfurt am Main and successfully completed his engineering studies in 1922. [...] In 1923 Fischinger went to Munich, where he worked with Louis Seel at the ‹Münchner Bilderbogen› and made several films of his own, all of which are now lost. He worked with Alecander Lászlo from 1925 to 1926 and designed the projections for his partner’s color piano. [...] In Berlin he worked for UFA and was sought out for his expertise in special effects for films such as Lang’s ‹Frau im Mond› (Woman in the Moon). [...] He worked intensively on sound experiments and production of synthetic sound and was the first ot use a three-color system (‹Gasparcolor,› an invention of the Hungarian Béla Gaspar) in avant-garde films. [...] He received sporadic assignments [after his emigration to the USA in 1936], but a contract with Welles came to nothing because the company went bankrupt. He took up painting and received very modest support for himself and his family through a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. ‹Motion Painting No. 1› led to a falling out with the foundation. Aside from a few commercials he did not make any films in the twenty-year period from 1947 until his death. [...] He died in Hollywood on January 31, 1967.»

(source: Goethe-Institut (ed.), The German Avant-Garde Film of the 1920’s, exhib. cat., München, 1989, p. 28f.)

movement, colour, space, time, flow, counterpoint

artist Jules Engels
Interesting statement he makes about movement, colour….

Visual Representations of music
Animated Motion, Spheres, Lines…Cameraless animation

Norman McLaren (1960s and 1970s) [THIS GUY IS WORTH FURTHER RESEARCH]
Stills from horizontal lines${norman}%20AND%20${mclaren}&sid=7e99de22f8f2c1e61068032d5aa49289&coll=onf&type=tout

Matthew Jarron said about McLaren on 22nd June 2001

“If you've been put off seeing these because they're 'only cartoons', think again. McLaren (a Scot working mainly in Canada) made some of the most daring uses of film ever recorded. In early works like Boogie Doodle he made visual representations of music by painting directly onto the film, and later created artificial soundtracks using a similar technique. In Synchromy he actually photographed the soundtrack itself. His films cover an incredible range from the hypnotic minimalism of Lines Horizontal (which is just that!) to the stunning power of Pas de Deux, a combination of live action and optical effects creating perhaps the most beautiful film ever made. Trust me, you don't know what cinema can do until you've seen Norman McLaren.”\

ONLINE CLIPS  in a museum website created by Canadian (nfb)  studions - animation showcase resource – select corridors near end of page (history section)
Note clips embedded in the content of corridors

Specific online clips

Begone Dull Care/Caprice en couleurs 1949 (Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambert

A lively interpretation in fluid lines and color, of Jazz music.  Painting directly on film ONLINE CLIP

A Chairy Tale (1957) A fairy tale in the modern manner.collaborated with Evelyn Lambart ONLINE CLIP

Pas de deux (1968)
ballet with cinematic effects, exposing the same frames as many as 10 times, norman creates a multiple image of the ballerina and her partner.

Pen Point Discussion (1951)

Norman McLaren explains how he makes synthetic sound on film. With an oscilloscope he first demonstrates what familiar sounds look like on the screen; how sound shapes up opn a film’s sound track, then what synthetic sounds look like when drawn directly on film.  This technique is demonstrated in Dots and Loops

Short and Suite (1959)

A pattern of colours and light Capturing the moods of music written for a jazz ensemble

Synchromy/Synchromie (1971) ******

 Here are pyrotechnics of the keyboard, but only with a camera to play the tune.  To make this film Norman employed novel optical techniques to compose the piano rhythms of the sound track. These he then moved in multicolour onto the picture area of the screen so that, in effect, you see what you hear. It is synchronization of image and sound in the truest sense of the word.



Around is around

Lines Vertical (1962) , Mosaic (1965)



Rene Jodaoin

Colloborator with Norman McLaren

Notes on a triangle 1966

The triangle is shown splitting into some three hundred transformations, dividing and subdividing with grace and symmetry to the music of a waltz

Gayle Thomas  Quilt Counterpointe (1996)

 Quilt motifs to music, an abstract animated film, using computer and experimental techniques in choreographing quilt motifs and designs to music. Music Norman Roger ONLINE CLIP AND STILLS

Pierre Hebert Around perception (1968)

An early experiment in employing computers to animate film.  The result is a dazzling vibration of geometric forms in vivid colour….Sound effects are created by registering sound shapes directly on the sound track of the film.

Light, movement, design, and duration - Elemental approach

Einstein on the Beach, Robert Wilson (filmmaker) and Philip Glass (composer)
Premiere: July 25, 1976
For Wilson, the work represented a move away from the complex mise en scene of his earliest plays towards the stripped-down geometry of his later work: a precise statement of light, movement, design, and duration.”
Information on how they went about creating this work at:

Conceptual and performative experimentation. Theoretical basis of sound and visual - Music Composition approach

Tony Conrad (1960s) US
Tony Conrad became active in performance and music composition during the 1960s, and was associated with the founding of both minimal music and underground film in New York City.$artistdetail?CONRADT
Cycles of 3's and 7's is a performance in which the harmonic intervals that would ordinarily be performed by a musical instrument are represented through the computation of their arithmetic relationships or frequency ratios. Conrad and the other members of hte Theater of Eternal Music-LaMonte Young, Marian Zazeela, John Cale, and Angus MacLise - composed and performed "dream music" in the early '60s. This seminal group was a major influence on what became known as minimalist music. Conrad's tape points to an important intersection of conceptual and performative experimentation in which the theoretical basis of sound and visual imagine tools were explored by musicians, filmmakers, videomakers, and electronic instrument designers.
Article: Early Minimalism and Beyond: Tony Conrad in Music, Film, and Video

Video creates audio

Peter Bode

In Music on Triggering Surfaces, (1978) Bode constructs an interface between audio and video systems. The luminance information (voltage) from the visual images traversed by the black dot is routed to an oscillator to produce the audio signal, which varies according to the changing luminance. The video image itself then triggers the audio. The shifting grey-scale of the image becomes a two-dimensional sound map or audio score. This tape was produced at the Experimental Television Center.

Remix – reuse (film and soundtrack)

Martin Arnold (19?s)
Martin Arnold is the guest of honour of this year's film programme. He is renowned for his inimitable style of transforming short, seemingly insignificant scenes from old Hollywood movies into hysterical mechanical ballets.

Arnold’s breakthrough film, piŹce touchée, is based on a single 18-second shot from The Human Jungle (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1954). Woman sitting in a chair. Man enters the room. Man and woman kiss. Exit man.
Diligently edited frame-by-frame over a period of 18 months with a home-made optical printer, the film is an ecstatically jerky and stuttering ”close-reading” of a commonplace mainstream movie scene. The entire soundtrack, too, which sounds like a mixture of looped hip hop beats and vintage Steve Reich, is collaged original material.

use video techniques in an essentially musical structure

Ed Emshwiller Crossings and Meetings (1974)
Crossings and Meetings explores the image and sound of a
walking man, expanding a simple image into increasingly complex permutations and arriving at what Emshwiller calls a "visual fugue" in time and space. Emshwiller uses various techniques to develop his images: fast-forward, rewind, multiple keying, audio modulations, etc. With its rhythmic repetition of images and concatenation of sound, this tape represents the fusion of audio, video, and dance explored by many artists during hte period. According to Emshwiller, this tape was an attempt to use video techniques in an essentially musical structure
ONLINE CLIP$misc?clips/

synthesising human perception

Stephen Beck Video Weavings (1976)
Inspired by the analogy between weaving (vertical warp threads traversed by horizontal weft threads) and the construction of the television image (vertical and horizontal scans of an electron gun), Stephen Beck built the Video Weaver in 1974, and produced Video Weavings in 1976. The patterns in this tape are based on sequences of colors in dynamic mathematical progressions, inspired by non-representational Islamic art. Beck was also intrigued with the problem of synthesizing aspects of human perception. Arriving at video through music,…$tapedetail?VIDEOWEAVI

Stephen created the direct video synthesizer

exploring the intertextuality of image, sound, speech, and language

Gary Hill Soundings (1979)
“Soundings is a meditation on the phenomenology of sound, the translation of image into sound and sound into image through a series of experiments on an audio speaker. The speaker delivers sound, both audibly and visibly, with the camera revealing the minute vibrations of the speaker's cone. Referring to the cloth covering of the speaker as a "skin," Hill intones, "This is the skin of space where I voice from." The materialized voice is clearly an extension of the artist's intention. Hill proceeds to bury, puncture, burn, and drown the audio speaker in an effort to physically alter or overwhelm the sound coming out of it, the sound of his own voice. Each carefully constructed experment explores the convluence of sound, image, and text, suggesting a kind of concretized poetry or "electronic linguistics”
ONLINE CLIP (and source of above)$tapedetail?SOUNDINGS

audiovisual impact

Gabriel Corchero Marea Negra [Black Tide] - multimedia interactive exhibit. (2000)

’A collection of interactive poems and sound landscapes, with video projections, CD-ROM and Internet, Black Tide creates an atmosphere of immersion with a great audiovisual impact: a symbolic space of lights and shadows in which the artist evokes a unique architecture of the uncertain, made up of dislocated words and viscous silences.’

‘The piece is conceived as a poetic space inviting reflective thought. It alludes to the black tide, taken to be a metaphor of an altered state, marked by ambiguity, disorientation and altered parameters of time and space. At the same time it establishes relationships between the ecosystem and the info-system. In this sense, it recognizes one field of analogies and resonance between the pollution of our natural environment and the environment of media…

The superimposing of visual, audio and olfactory impressions produces disconcerting effects. It provokes a state of alert and suggests a critical reflection that puts the senses in question. Once again it shows that in the end it is the brain that perceives and conceives of the realities of our natural and media environments.’

music movement led visual/video/film/image form

concrete cinema
’Between 1960 and 1975, Pierre Schaeffer, the famous French inventor of 'musique concrete', presided over the Research Service of French TV & Radio (ORTF). Under his direction, this Service de la recherché produced countless experimental films and videos; largely animations & abstract works, but also documentaries and live-action films. How many exactly is difficult to say - the scholarship is threadbare, even in French. ..

Several Directors who made their early works upon Schaeffer's commission would become darlings of the European art cinema - Chris Marker, Jan Lenica, & Walerian Borowczyk among them. Many others remain unaccountably ignored, and are still awaiting the recognition their extraordinary works should have long ago mandated them.’

transferring sensory impressions from one medium to another

Granular Synthesis POL (1998)

In contrast to more or less analytic observations in the visual media, artists like Jan Peter E. R. Sonntag in his installation «modern minimal disco» (since 1995) or Granular Synthesis in their performance «POL» (1998) exert direct influence on the physical perception of the spectator and produce synaesthetic experiences. By transferring sensory impressions from one medium to another, as with the transformation of sound to vibration, the usual link of their mode of representation to certain media is broken through and extended into other areas. In installations or performances, they make sounds physically felt and add an additional sensory element to acoustic perception.

Mixing live with the aid of software they developed themselves, the two artists sample, shift, loop and amplify tiny synthetic units of image and sound – which they call 'grains' – of the singer Diamanda Galas to produce a condensed, invasive stimulation of the senses.


electronic music

Dennis Miller Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts is an original 3D animation with original electronic music. This author created both the images and the sound.

Beautiful 3D textures


Electroacoustic music

For live musicians, performers, tape and video

JunkBox Fraud Music By Donnacha Dennehy, Video by Gerry O Brien and Hugh Reynolds


Art Movements Context

Futurists F.T. Marinetti | Futurist Cinema <1916>

            Painting of Sounds, Noises and Smells by Carlo Carrą


Dada (1920s)

Viking Eggeling Diagonal-Symphonie, 1923 
Man Ray«Return to Reason»

More a work in experimental Dadaism than a film, «Le Retour ą la raison» was the first film to be made by the celebrated surrealist artist, Man Ray.

Bauhaus Movement Lazlo Moholy-Nagy (1920s)

Collaborative Performances and non-traditional performances (1940s and 1950s)

John Cage Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns

Fluxus Movement (1960s)
Dick Higgins calls for intermedia

Happenings, electronic theater, performance art, and interactive installations (1960s).

Concrete Cinama (1960s and 1970s)

Between 1960 and 1975, Pierre Schaeffer, the famous French inventor of 'musique concrete', presided over the Research Service of French TV & Radio (ORTF). Under his direction, this Service de la recherché produced countless experimental films and videos; largely animations & abstract works, but also documentaries and live-action films. How many exactly is difficult to say - the scholarship is threadbare, even in French.
Essay: Concrete Cinema

[This topic could be studied under montage also]

Image Properties



The manipulated image

Interesting article on line about The Manipulated image by keith Griffiths, good to read for anyone who maybe interested in the context of the manipulated image.

Music Styles Context

Orchestral Music

Electroacoustic Music

Electronic Music

Inter Art / Intermedia

 “Twentieth century artists have continued the effort to heighten the viewer's experience of art by integrating traditionally separate disciplines into single works. Modern experience, many of these artists believed, could only be evoked through an art that contained within itself the complete range of perception. "Old-fashioned" forms limited to words on a page, paint on a canvas, or music from an instrument, were considered inadequate for capturing the speed, energy and contradictions of contemporary life. In their 1916 manifesto "The Futurist Cinema," F.T. Marinetti and his revolutionary cohorts declared film to be the supreme art because it embraced all other art forms through the use of (then) new media technology. Only cinema, they claimed, had a "totalizing" effect on human consciousness. “

….”"And so the arts are encroaching one upon another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental." – Wassily Kandinsky”


Overviews of the area – comprehensive sites with video links, excellent context for any research or getting to know the area more


Surveying the First Decade: Volume 1 and Volume 2 Anthology

This comprehensive package on the history of experimental and independent video…online info and video clips.

Volume 1

  1. Explorations of Presence, Performance and Audience
  2. Investigations of the Phenomenal World – Space, Sound, and Light
  3. Approaching Narrative – “There are problems to be solved”
  4. Gendered Confrontations

Volume 2

  1. Performance of Video-Imaging Tools
  2. Decentralised Communication Projects
  3. Critiques of Art and Media as Commodity and Spectacle


Artmuseum Net

“Broad themes that underscore an "untold" story behind the evolution of multimedia: its precedents, unsung heroes, and the extraordinary creative work and visionary thinking of artists and scientists.”

Broad Themes

Birth of a New Medium

Integration of the Arts

Through the looking glass



Great Historical Resource on Norman McLaren

Canadian (nfb) animation showcase resource – select corridors (history section)


Find a video
Teaching Tools
Web Projects

Good animation resource linked to canadas nfb animation/documentary/experimental film

Clips and stills and info




Index of themes in overview of media art

Forerunners of media art in the first half of the twentieth century by Dieter Daniels
print version

Audio Art

Golo Föllmer

Technological Constructions of Space-Time - Aspects of Perception by Heike Helfert

Virtual Narrations

From the crisis of storytelling to new narration as mental potentiality

Söke Dinkla


CLIPS online organised into categories

Eg experimental film, animation


Research by Maura McDonnell for music and image course, masters mmt 2004 – 2005