The MFA Computer Art Department at School of Visual Arts, the New York Digital Salon and the Department of Music and Multimedia Studies at Northeastern University present the New York premiere of the Visual Music Marathon , a 12-hour festival showcasing 120 works by contemporary digital artists and composers from around the world. The event offers an encyclopedic look into the burgeoning practice of visual music, which combines animation and musical composition.
The roots of the genre date back more than two hundred years to the ocular harpsichords and color-music scales of the 18th century; the current art form came to fruition following the emergence of film and video in the 20th century.
The Visual Music Marathon presents a remarkable array of artistic strategies and sensibilities. Some of the selected works consist of abstract visual interpretations of pieces of music, while others apply structural concepts of music to create moving images, or explore the overlap between visual and musical languages.
The artists make use of a range of media and technologies, including found footage, hand-drawn animation, stop-motion photography, digitally processed video, computer-generated imagery, and paintings made directly on film. Works include audio tracks ranging from computer-generated scores, to sampled sounds from nature, to both classical and contemporary musical compositions.
Visual Music, a Gesamtkunstwerk combination of visual art and music , has been in existence in various forms for three centuries. In 1704, Isaac Newton noted in his Opticks (1704) similar proportions between prismatic light waves and string lengths to generate musical notes. This prompted widespread interest in a medium called Color-Music, and later, nineteenth-century inventors Bainbridge Bishop and Alexander Wallace Rimington developed the Colour Organ.
Twentieth-century Thomas Wildred explored light alone as an art form through his “lumia,” compositions of light and color, made with lenses, prisms, and gels which unfold slowly over time, and he performed these in recitals in 1924-25. Early pioneers also included Oskar Fischinger, who added the physical act of painting to the medium, and John and James Whitney, who brought Visual Music into the computer age. (This information is taken from the catalog essay for the Visual Music Marathon by Maura McDonnell, found at www.soundingvisual.com/visualmusic/VisualMusicEssay.pdf ).
As production-quality software becomes as affordable as brushes and paint, the bohemians and trained artists join ranks with professional animators to enter the arena of Visual Music. Advances and affordability of audiovisual technology and the proliferation of media on the Internet are causing the field to expand dramatically, laying the creative foundation for a contemporary exhibit as broad in scope and geography as this Visual Music Marathon.
Visual Music is a medium incorporating film, dance, music, fine art, and animation. Many established artists in this medium exhibit simultaneously in art museums, in dance clubs, and see their work used in popular music videos and video games. In order to comprehend, experience, and evaluate this swiftly developing medium, one may gaze at Visual Music through the known lenses of theory, history, and terminology of established mediums and disciplines such as music (all styles), visual fine art, dance, and film.