Jun 13

what you see is what you !!THUMP!!

FT3 comments • 437 views

As a kid I had a couple of picture books which visualised sound — natural and orchestral — as lines and brightly coloured abstract shapes and star-bursts. I loved them (and should look them out and scan some pages) but of course you couldn’t actually hear the sounds being visualised, and the images were still. Animation that illustrates music isn’t a new idea, either, but I do actually love the overlap between graphic scores, score-composition and realisation considered as a programming software, and interwoven sound and vision unfolding in real time.* Here’s someone doing it with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

The Adoration of the Earth:

The Exalted Sacrifice:

Sourcing link via Mike Atkinson on Twitter: the write-up maybe makes a bit too much play of the so-called riot at the first performance (which was afterward somewhat amped up by all concerned). Stravinsky later said the hubbub was more to do with lewd gestures Nijinsky was making than the sounds or concept: Nijinsky had sadly by that time been driven insane by the war and never got to answer back.

*(The musical score is an incredibly robust system of organised sound delivery, of course, but there are several aspects of it that make it a bit rebarbative as a way to understand and analyse structure and such, unless you’re a superb reader of music. When the arrangement gets busy, a score becomes a mazy cloud of flyspeck detail, two seconds to each page of a score (while in less busy sections, a page can contain many minutes of music). So something unfolding evenly and in real time — with actual colours for tone colour and so on — unveil patterns to newbies that the sheer scale (heh) of a big work will mask.)


  1. 1
    thefatgit on 5 Jun 2013 #

    I maybe heard “The Rites Of Spring” around my early teens. Compared to less complex pieces I had grown up with (Holst’s Planets Suite, Mahler’s 5th, Prokofiev’s Peter And The Wolf, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet), this was incredibly complex, but nonetheless compelling. The visual cues of the clips work incredibly well for those of us who can’t read music. Translate it into a series of coloured blocks and things start to happen. I found myself looking for the thematic patterns within the piece. I started to recognise what was about to happen before it happened. And I know I hadn’t heard this piece in over 20 years. It’s quite a weird but wonderful experience, I can tell you.

  2. 2
    swanstep on 6 Jun 2013 #

    The visualization is interesting, but it’s not optimal, rather what you want is shots of storm-troopers galloping around the Death Star for the steady chugging bits, shots of the shark chase in Jaws for the chugging bits that crescendo, cutaway two-shots of our heroes for the plaintive woodwind passages that alternate with the chugging, and so on.

    My experience is that The Rite felt much more forbidding and alien when I was a teen than it does these days, and I don’t think that that’s ‘just me’, as it were. Rather the kind of ‘pop-Stravinsky visualized’ that the Jaws and Star Wars scores represent and that has been completely absorbed by now effectively reduces the ‘problem’ that The Rite tended to pose for audiences to its most jazzy or most chaotic bits. (Earlier use of The Rite in Fantasia helps too but, for my money it doesn’t have the kind of editing to parallel action that Jaws/Star Wars do that makes complete visual sense of Stravinsky’s sudden jumps and alternations.)

    Something similar is true for Pendereski’s Polymorphia – it’s *so* much easier to listen to it with the kind of The Shining/The Exorcist visualization that many of us carry around in our heads. I’d always recommend that orchestras provide visual aids of these sorts for these kinds of pieces. The Rite of course originally accompanied dance – as a lot of Stravinky’s most influential stuff did – and that too is a great way to hear it.

    Naked orchestral performance of a lot of the big 20C classical monuments – i.e., the sort of thing I ernestly forced myself through in college – is a big mistake I feel, and in peak cases like The Rite most of us now come to it so equipped with visualization that most of us *can’t* hear it ‘naked’ any more.

  3. 3
    xyzzzz__ on 9 Jun 2013 #

    Wonder if there is any relationship between that and psychedelic type visuals. This is one I found for Holliger’s brill piece (I’ve made an “Oboe from Mars” comp, gathering many great compositions for the instrument as a result. Not available in any shops sadly)


    And then in film that scene in Kubrick’s ’2001′ bore-fest.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page