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Conversation between Alex and Stephen (prev top next)


Dear Alex, you wrote

... the only music visualisation I find is of the abstract type.

I know what you mean, but I don't know whether I'd call it "abstract."  I think of it as "largely unrelated to the music."  If you turn off the sound, you're left with ... maybe something pretty, maybe not ... but not something that tells you much about the music.  With a bar-graph score, you can recognize the structure of the piece, but the dynamic element is missing.  Ideally, the sounds and the images would be on equal footing ... not equivalent (I don't think they can be), but equally compelling ... and for related (though not identical) reasons.

Admittedly, the type of visualisation I create is essentially still hand crafted and takes a lot of time which might discourage many digital artists. It took me around 17 months to complete this work (from writing the music, recording it etc, to the final imagery), although had I been able to work on it full time and not have to engage in other activities to pay the mortgage etc, it probably would have taken about 5-6 months.

I would like to understand every detail of the process.

When I first explored your site a few years ago I remember thinking, oh my god! this guy has already done it all, and with much more investigative rigour. I felt as if I had little to offer.

Oh, pshaw.

I was disappointed to find you had taken a job and suddenly your work in music visualisation seemed to end.

Actually, I had a job before.  The new one is more demanding, though, so in a way you're right.  However, the work on music visualization has no way ended.  I feel that at the idea level, I'm working as hard as ever.  Only the output has dwindled ... sigh.

I felt that if only you had the CGI animation tools available today back in the 80's, you would have easily  surpassed what I have only now achieved.

Maybe yes, maybe no.  It's easy to get side-tracked ... I feel like what I did do was largely a result of having nothing better to do ... and "better" doesn't necessarily mean better in some ideal sense, just more attractive to me, a path of less resistance.  If I'd been a better musician, for example, I might have been distracted by composing, performing, teaching.  I resisted the temptation of CGI because I felt that I wanted to spend my time exploring the ideas, not the realization of them.  However, I now believe there was a middle ground that I should've explored.

I guess however it meant that my own journey into visualisation was given more impetus.

Good.  If I thought that what I do discouraged other people from trying, I'd quit in a second.

All the issues you were investigating years ago are exactly the same things I am exploring now.

I'm delighted to hear you say that.

It still seems rather bizarre (although rationally, completely understandable) that this contact has now been made. Perhaps then you can advise me if there are still people actually engaged in this same approach to music visualisation.

It really depends what you mean by "this same."  If you decompose what you're doing into its elements, you can certainly find people who are exploring each element.  But putting it all together in the way you have ... I don't know whether there's anybody doing that.  But I don't get out much.

This doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of people to learn from.  You've seen Fischinger's films, yes?  Maybe you should tell me which animators you've been inspired by, and which you haven't, so that I can get a better sense of the context of your esthetic (and perhaps recommend people you've missed).

I certainly feel as if I am either on my own, or just looking in completely the wrong places.

If you put your stuff out there (which, now, thanks to video on the internet, is actually feasible), they will find you.

I have discovered the animusic people, and what they do is impressive, but still very much grounded in the traditional music video genre, where you watch the instruments being played (wether by a human or a virtual machine seems irrelevant to me).

I agree completely.  However, there is an aspect of what they do that's important to you: their process is, in part at least, automated.  Music is never going to be a quick endeavor --- creativity takes time --- but there are things which can be optimized.  E.g. I used to be a music copyist.  Now, I use notation software, and the process is much quicker and the output (except for the font) is much better.  The same principle should inform what you're doing.  Your piece took seventeen months; you say that if you could have worked on it full-time, it would have been five or six months.  I'm guessing that with the right tools, it would have taken a few weeks ... maybe not all in a block (since creativity doesn't work that way), but total.  If you spend some time on tools, you'll speed up your own work and make it easier to bring other people into it.

Although initially my interest was purely an artistic one, I am also exploring this style of visualisation as a didactic tool and have developed an interactive DVD rom which aims to explore aspects of harmony, structure and acoustics through the context of the animation (I was also loathe to distribute my work without offering people the opportunity to understand what informed much of the detail if they couldn't work it out for themselves).

I saw that on your site, but I didn't see the order form.  Can I have one?  If so, send it to me here

        Stephen Malinowski
        Audience, Inc.
        1330 Villa Street
        Mountain View, CA  94041  USA

and tell me where to send copies my DVDs, and how many.

So of course I am keen to explore any opportunity to make contact with artists, music educators and universities to see if I can negotiate more support to develop this further, and not feel as if I am operating in a vacuum. I confess that Canberra is not exactly a cultural powerhouse bursting with creative energy ...

That might be better for you ... consider Nancarrow ...


P. S. What's your day job?

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