The exploration of a triadic model of contest-complementation-conformance over innovative musical and visual forms of expression
AbstractThe relationship between music, moving images and colour is one that has long
exerted a fascination over artists, practitioners and theorists. It is a compelling topic
now because this question very directly illuminates ideas in the area of digital music
and performance as laptop performance gives opportunities for real time work with
visuals and sound.
In this project I explored this rich field by creating six works (including two
compositions and four experimentations), closely related to each other, which
dramatised tensions between the natural and industrialized world through different
audio, visual and musical treatments, but always beginning with the same source
My processes were informed by the insights of three theorists, and finding ways of
applying and interpreting them in performance contexts. The three theorists whose
ideas most concerned me were Michel Chion (France, 1947), Raymond Murray
Schafer (Canada, 1933) and Nicholas Cook (Greece, 1950).
To explain the relationship between music and visuals in my project, I utilized
Nicholas Cook’s triadic model of contest, conformance and complementation, as
described in his book Analysing Musical Multimedia (Oxford University Press, 2000).
The works created for this project displayed at least one strongly differentiated
musical component in each of the pieces. For the visuals I decided to use (1) my own
footage from natural landscapes and (2) footage from cityscapes to create a sharp
visual juxtaposition. For the processing of the natural images, I made reference to
Stan Brakhage’s experimental film ‘The Dead’ (1960 – 11 minutes, 16 millimeters).
It’s a deathly, evocative walk through a cemetery through the non-attached, deviating
camera of Brakhage, accompanied with a wide range of film effects such as
superimpositions, solarized film fragments and overexposures (loss of highlight
detail). In “The Dead”, the images are tightly crossfaded (layered), a technique which
prevents the viewer from focusing on a specific image yet still being in context of the
film content. In addition, material objects can be located in The Dead. Statues are
dominant in it, and Brakhage’s sloping angles, solarization, and superimpositions with
the noble mausoleums illustrate them as evil spirits that haunt these large tombs rather
than supervising them in protection.
What I have learned from Brakhage’s work is that experimenting with film techniques
such as image superimposition, color inversion, and overexposures over a series of
visuals which are related to each other thematologically, and applying these
techniques on the film in an appropriate way, leads to a more poetic representation of
the visuals where the film’s context is not a result of the primitive visual material but
of the way the visual techniques are applied. In other words, the meaning of the film
is not defined by its primitive content but by the techniques applied. This eases the
filmmaker to focus on different aspects of the film. For instance Brakhage in his film
“The Dead” made use of the techniques mentioned above (image superimposition,
color inversion, and overexposures) to depict the world from the viewpoint of a spirit.
In addition, he combined these techniques with camera swerving so as to imitate the
movement of the spirit itself.
Learning from this, I crossfaded water images with color-inverted mountain images in
the natural video sections, creating a similar effect that Brakhage creates in “The
Dead” with the use of his layering techniques. Thus, I indicated my artistic decision of
the presence of harmony in nature with the use of color inversion, color correction and image superimposition versus the intense footage from urban centers where I kept
the imagery unprocessed and in black and white.
Any stretched sound used in this project was created with “Hypermammuth
Paulstretch”; a software applying time-stretching algorithm on any .wav, .ogg or .mp3
Paulstretch is freeware software that I got from the website:
Paul Nasca was the developer of this software. His webpage is:
As it is clearly described in his website: http://www.paulnasca.com/open-sourceprojects#
TOC-Paul-s-Extreme-Sound-Stretch, this program produces high quality
sounds without the presence of any ‘artefacts’ even if the original source sound
undergoes extreme stretching. This is the reason why I decided to use this software.
The output stretched sound is very clear and depending on the original source, the
processed sound either retains some characteristics of the original or it has a
completely different texture. This can lead to the production of a wide variety of
processed sound effects that I was very interested in exploring in my project