Visual Music Classics #1 – Begone Dull Care 1949, Norman Mclaren

Begone Dull Care - Norman Mclaren

‘Begone Dull Care’, by Normal Mclaren, is one of the quintessential Visual Music films, it also happened to have been one of his favourites along with the well-known ‘Neighbours’. Educated at the Glasgow School of Art, Mclaren experimented with animation and film making techniques without the use of a camera. He painted onto the blank film stock directly, added dyes, and then scratched away at the surface, etching in glyphs and abstract lines. This method was used to create ‘Begone Dull Care’, in 1949, to produce an explosion of colours, lines and shapes syncopated to a bopping jazz tune composed by Oscar Peterson. Certain shapes, textures and colours correspond to different instrumental sections, almost as if Mclaren was attempting the human equivalent of FFT (computational frequency analysis). The complexity of the visual motifs increases proportionally with the intensity of the music – culminating in riotous finale of colours, lattices, patterns and animated hieroglyphics in perfect synchronicity.

5 Responses to “Visual Music Classics #1 – Begone Dull Care 1949, Norman Mclaren”

  1. defetto writes:

    yes norman was the man.
    amazing work, tnx for remindin paul…

  2. paul writes:

    its just so in sync, and expressive!

  3. peter writes:

    While in a way, he may have been partly doing ‘the human equivalent of FFT’, a key thing is that he’s not confined to working formally or deterministically to a fixed algorithm; so he can be very creative about which aspects of the audio he chooses to abstract and reflect at each given moment, adapting the grammar of his language fluidly. I reckon.

  4. paul writes:

    yes i agree, the FFT connection was just a way of pointing out that he had very specific ways of dealing with a particular tone or instrument. The expressions in Begone Dull Care are tonal as well as rythmic. The deterministic aspect of computational anylsis of sound to drive visuals can be a hinderance as well as an asset as you implicated. Some of the best works in the field are driven by a combination of analysis and hands on control of parameters in the live environment.

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. peter writes:

    Indeed, but it’s one thing to have hands on control of, say, a few continuous variables, and another to be able to qualitatively change the nature of how one chooses to abstract… which is also possible with computers (and ultimately, computers should be able to take us much further), but a challenge which still seems to demand some serious thought before it can be as direct and natural as work produced manually like this.

    Anyway, thanks for responding and many thanks for the blog.

Leave a Reply