Archives for the Month of April, 2008

Talea – Alessandro Capozzo

Alessandro Capozzo - Talea

Talea is a musical pattern generator utilising a radial graphical system whose process engine is a simple evolving Cellular Automaton. According to its author, Alessandro Capozzo, the title of the work concerns the isorythmic composition practice in renaissance music and so this points to a fascinating confluence of techne both very old and very new. ‘Isorhythm (from the Greek for “the same rhythm”) is a musical technique that arranges a fixed pattern of pitches with a repeating rhythmic pattern’

On listening to the audio extract of a real-time performance of Talea its possible to hear echoes of the Systems Music aesthetic, a minimalist ‘note to note’ procedural composition technique defined numerically and permutationally. Talea, however, seems to rely more specifically on an emergent growth structure, possibly due to its use of Cellular Automata governing rule sets rather than a fixed system.

Talea uses Tactu5, an alpha version processing library made for the purpose of creating algorithmic music. Rather than incorporating a synthesis system of its own, it is designed to be used with existing sound synthesis programs such as Csound, Puredata and SuperCollider via network communication. The download page contains examples and ‘work in progress’ tutorials and online references.

Much algorithmic music often forsakes aesthetics for process resulting in fairly unlistenable music. The success of algorithmic procedures really depends on the mapping system employed by the composer to translate the non-musical information into a musical syntax. From this point of view, Talea seems to be a successful step in the right direction for producing computationally driven compositions that have feeling and are ‘musical’.

Fourier-Tanzformation I+II : Mikomikona

Fourier-Tanzformation I+II - Mikomikona

The possibility of transducing sounds purely from visual interference configurations & Moiré patterns is something to get excited about. Mikomikona’s “Fourier-Tanzformation I+II” consists of two operated overhead projectors showing black and white optical interference effects and dot progressions similar to Op-Art works. These black and white projections are filmed in real-time with small video cameras and the subsequent video signal is transformed into sound via a bespoke hardware device. This ‘opto-electronic synthesizer’ provides a synaesthetic process confirming a novel approach to the ‘dynamic transformability of sound into image and image into sound.’

Check out the PDF booklet for an in depth description of the process and philosophy behind this piece.

“Fourier-Tanzformation I+II” was spotted at Golan Levin’s ‘Informal Catalogue of New-Media Performances Using Overhead Projectors’

Ghosts – Eric Natzke

A Slice through time: Slit–scan Art

The recently added Flickr video capability is throwing up many excellent examples of digital motion graphics, generative artworks and documentation of real-time performances.

Responding to a call for videos for a NIN competition, Eric Natzke has recently uploaded his own contributions, Ghosts II & III. The videos, like much of his recent work, appear as abstract paintings building up over time, where natural colours seem to bleed and blend into one another like real paint. The ribbon-like lines look like they have been derived from human-gestures resulting in quasi-computational brushstrokes. Segments of combinations occasionally slide in the XY plane simulating a 3 dimensional space and temporal building of abstract expressionist colour space.

Eric is, of course, a god in the world of Flash having made a name for himself many years ago with his online sketchbook of Actionscripted artworks and typographical experiments. His online presence has since metamorphosized into a work blog.

A Slice through time: Slit–scan Art

A Slice through time: Slit–scan Art
Watching the sky – Mitchell Whitelaw

While at Node08, Joreg, one of the brains behind VVVV, demonstrated a nice patch to simulate the photographic and filmmaking process of slit scanning. It was pleasing to see the holy grey V4 teapot become stretched and contorted through a synthetic space-time continuum. The patch he demonstrated (Timewarp) is available on his user page.

The technique, which has been widely used by artists, involves taking small photographic slices (slits) of an image and then stitching the strips together to provide a time based image – a record of whole series of events, rather than a single snapshot. It turns out that Golan Levin has provided us with excellent overview of the technique with a large list of artworks that have employed this process including ones utilising digital media techniques. He also provides us with Processing and Flash source files that utilise slit-scan simulations to process images via web cams.

Probably one of the most memorable moving image slit-scan moments is the Stargate sequence in the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey. The making of the sequence is often attributed to Douglas Trumball, although research seems to suggest that there was much larger team involved in reality (including Tom Howard, Con Pederson, and Wally Veevers). The plot thickens a little more as it appears from essays by William Moritz, a respected expert in the field of Visual Music, that it was none other that John Whitney (see previous post) who originally approached Kubrick with the idea of using slit-scan special effects in the movie. He was turned down. Whitney seems to have discovered a version of the slit-scan technique via the malfunctioning of one of his own custom built mechanical computers. He used the technique his film Catalogue, made in 1961.

Radial positioning of image slits into circular forms provides a nice way of presenting a days worth of event information in a way analogous to the circularity of clock or cycle of the sun relative to the earth. Mtchl’s ‘Watching the sky’ Flickr set contains images where ‘Segments of the datasets are visualised, compressing time and revealing spatial and temporal patterns in the environment’.

Oli Laurelles ‘Travelling Around’ project captures images during train journeys and then squeezes the pictures into a series of 1 pixel wide snapshots. When stitched together radially they represent abstract visualisations of passages through time. They further give a clear indication not only of location but also the speed of the train at any particular moment in the journey.

Visual Music Classics #3-4 Permutations & Arabesque – John Whitney

Permutations and Arabesque- John Whitney
Permutations & Arabesque – John Whitney

No survey of visual music would be complete without a mention of John Whitney, inventor, animator and early computer art pioneer. His two most celebrated works are Permutations – 1966 and Arabesque – 1975, made after his stint as artist in residence at IBM. It was there that he used an IBM 360 mainframe system with Fortran to write his own animation programs. One of the key aspects of Whitney’s films is in the use of what he referred to as ‘Computational Periodics’. A means to achieving ‘harmonic events in audio-visual presentation’ where a simulation of musical progression could be achieved with rhythmic overlays of multiple objects to create symmetries and counterpoints analogous to notes and rhythms within music.

‘In PERMUTATIONS, each point moves at a different speed and moves in a direction independent according to natural laws’ quite as valid as those of Pythagoras, while moving in their circular field. Their action produces a phenomenon more or less equivalent to the musical harmonies. When the points reach certain relationships (harmonic) numerical to other parameters of the equation, they form elementary figures.”

In Arabesque, Whitney used a combination of computer and oscillograph to create a series of transforming sine waves and parabolic curves that compliment Manoochelher Sadeghi’s exotic Persian Santur soundtrack. It’s notable the Whitney was influenced by patterns in Islamic architecture, their symmetry and modulation being analogous to temporal patterns in complex musical motifs.

Whitney’s book, ‘Digital Harmony – On the complementarity of Music and Visual Art’ is an advanced treatise on the harmonic relationship between music and computer graphics. It’s a beautifully illustrated work containing explicit examples of computer code and connected philosophical ideas.

NODE08 – A reVVVVelation…


With lectures, workshops, patcher kutcha’s, exhibitions and installations concerning the visual programming video toolkit VVVV, NODE08 really was an inspirational event. The Lectures were dense and diverse, stepping aside too much emphasis on the software itself and opening up dialogues on a range of provocative subjects such biotech art, the archaeology of generative art and parametric architectural procedures.

I gave a survey of visual music, the sonification of form, recursive systems and software simulated video feedback as generative process.

The Patcher Kutcha presentations were amazing, with works that stretched the preconceived ideas of what VVVV can achieve with jaw dropping examples of artistic as well as commercial projects. The workshops, for beginners and experts alike, were highly subscribed too and buzzing. Topics such as typographic treatment, XML content generation, tracking solutions, shader programming, feedback patching, Arduino tinkering and so forth can give some idea of the bandwidth of topics covered. The event culminated in the Vvvvabulous Vvvvinissage where some top Vvvvisualists utilised a multi-screen projection to generate some beautiful high-end real-time graphical environments. Besides the fixed programme, there were projections and working spaces for all Node08 attendees and it was possible to spontaneously show patches, and create exhibits on the fly.

Here is my growing Flickr set of the Node08 event.

Expect a more thorough survey of many of the projects/ideas presented at Node08 in the coming weeks/months.

Thanks to the organisers for inviting me to Frankfurt and a very special thanks to Patrick Raddatz for his great hospitality and help during my stay.

Event Horizon: Evolution 2008

Lumen’s annual programme of film, sound, and visual art returns for a seventh year in May, across various venues in Leeds, UK. Evolution 2008 appears to be exceptionally diverse with lectures, installations, screening of short experimental films and live performances by the likes of Murcof/XX+XY & Loud Objects. The latter ensemble patch together a circuit bent collection of components in real-time to produce a low-resolution symphony of electronic noise – the operations can also be viewed on an overhead projector. Murcof/XX+XY is act definitely not to miss – XX+YY’s visual chasms and oscillographic landscapes provide the perfect live visual counterpart to Fernando Corona’s haunting spacious classico-electronica.

Flickr Fruits 14

flickr fruits 14
Scaffold (work in progress) – Tom Lauerman

Daniele de Nigris sets contain geometric works in the spirit of Op-art, radiant gradients in natural hues combine with aspects of symmetry, modulation and repetition to produce some succulent results.

For those with a penchant for scaffolding, and that’s me included, take a look at Tom Lauerman’s work in progress, Scaffold from 2004-2007 – a delicate multiform miniature exoskeleton complete with plank walkways. Be sure to peruse other varied works in the *publish* set, including the wonderful porcelain Cumulus Fractus clouds.

Selflesh’s works may well have been featured at dataisnature before, but we are going back. The Small Works set contains some new treats including the embroidered gouache paintings. ‘Seaside with green thread’ is a place where minimal aesthetics merge with a playful title that might have been dreamt up by Paul Klee. Also, if you haven’t met the Map Collages before, now is the time to say hello!

Inspired by the work of Witold Riedel (featured here before) and no less interesting are Jonathon A Mills works done in pen and ink. Decorative cloud-like patterns procedurally space fill the surface implying the kind of patterns found on a Ming vase.