Narrative, Media Art and Donald Duck

In which I go looking in Halloween USA for the pumpkin spice of contemporary media art, and find that interaction design is better done with personalities than push-buttons.

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I’m in Los Angeles. Touristing, but following the hunch that contemporary media art is best studied from leading commercial practitioners than any academic project. That is, if I want to observe the cutting edge, I’m better off at Disneyland than Carnegie Mellon.

A commercial entity has no excuses – it has to study, set and hit strongly defined goals. If an audience doesn’t respond to the work, it gets fixed or folded. There is constant war between companies to seize the state of the art. If one creates the leading experience, the others are in quick pursuit. But by itself technology is not the key to their success, and I am keen to understand the storytelling design that underlies the best work.

(There are of course ‘living museums’ – that understand the join between the two worlds. They are also inspiring sources).

I’ve no illusion that I can produce anything that compares, but I’d rather fall short of the target than the periphery. I’m keen to understand commercial ‘360 degree’ media design – experiences, movies, rides, and merchandise, so I’ve been studying the two most successful theme parks (by audience) operated by Disney and Universal.

The full essay would be much longer than you’d bother to read here, so let me just provide an executive summary and some points.

In the best case, the narrative rules for storytelling hold true for 360 experience – people care for, and identify with a hero or group of heroes, they prefer a narrative that conveys learning and morals. I believe that the centre of any interactive media is the character (rather than e.g. the mechanics of interaction). This is why e.g. it’s called Harry Potter’s Wizarding World – immersion involves identification with a person or persons, in a world that is formed to illustrate their personal journey.

The audience does not care for interaction without meaning – it must be in the context of the narrative and world. And this Interaction must involve the same cascading levels of jeopardy as set out in a linear narrative.

The Narrative Arc is across all outcomes

I always come back to the standard lead line: somebody, somewhere, wants something. They discover a gift, which then involves them in conflict. In overcoming an antagonist, win or lose, they gain insight and are uplifted beyond the power of the gift. This progression is obvious in movies – but it is found in roller coasters as well.

In all the cases I’ve seen in LA, the movie (incorporating book, play, TV series) is the first outcome but there are alternate cases such as the game Five Nights At Freddies. In creating the movie, the designers necessarily come up with the elements that serve all the other formats.

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Is this a hero? Or scenery?

There is a someone who wants something. The hero. What do they look like? What’s their past? What do they want? What instead do they need? Harry Potter is 11 years old, an orphan, treated like a slave – copied from Cinderella (which addresses the same teen yearnings) he will be given a gift – with consequences. When the battle starts, hubris may bring him down. The character is crafted with a back story, desires and motives, a physicality, emotional weakness and so on.

The Character is the store of narrative ‘reality’, and includes at least

  • motivations (goals, back story etc.)
  • limitations (lack of insight, point where their risk-taking tips into failure)
  • embodiment (colours, physical attributes, clothing, etc.)
  • totemic items (things that illustrate the gift)

By defining the motives and limits of the hero and villain, the plot will mostly write itself. A movie follows a segment of the inevitable action up to the moral outcome set in a third act, after which a sequel will hopefully be required. The experiences are endless, a perpetual storytelling.

Harry Potter land

Harry Potter land. Bring your haptic controller, pardon me, magic wand.

This action needs a somewhere, and I’d argue that it too is generated when the characters are properly defined. In film these are generally called worlds. The theme parks I’m visiting are divided into lands, each being a confined sub-area in which the features are strictly designed to appear part of a world. Examples include Disney’s Fantasyland, Pixar Pier, and Universal’s Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, and Springfield. Usually there is a gate to each land, or at least a bend in the road that obscures one land from others.

(It’s reminiscent of computer game design, with walled levels, NPC’s, collectable weapons etc., and tempting to think that RPG gaming inspired this physical immersion. But the theme parks are much older than gaming – Disney derived his park in the mid 1950’s from older European parks he saw on his own study tour. Instead parks and games have common requirements and have cross pollinated.)

(When Disney broke these rules in Disney California Adventure, they suffered badly. The changes made since that ill-fated opening illustrate the point being made here).

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My hunch is that the tale of Nemo requires an ocean in which to be lost, and Toad requires a shiny automobile. Or, more accurately, the attributes of the character, such as Toad’s vanity and privilege, demand a situation in which they can be presented as a morality play. Design questions are answered by asking ‘what can, and would the character do in this situation, given their motives and failings?’

Rides

The Incredicoaster is the latest part of DCA to be reformed from the disastrous ‘mock California’ launch. It now has a story line based around the physical abilities of the Incredibles characters, expressed as movements of the coaster through chapters, defined by figures placed in tunnels on the track. The ride is narrated by speakers built into each seat, presenting a moral about the family working together. Notably the ride itself is not made longer or faster than before – it has instead been improved with an arc.

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The scream tubes first enforced to reduce noise pollution were made even longer to add in the narrative elements.

Jeopardy points in the story-line become the (apparent) jeopardy in the adult rides. For example, in Universal’s The Mummy a tussle between good and evil is enacted by throwing of the riders into a dark abyss filled with scarabs by the god Imhotep, from which they are retrieved (backwards!). Splash Mountain, Forbidden Journey, even The Simpsons Ride – all are narratives where a machine shakes emotion into the story. Some of the small children rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventures are obviously also narrative, while the carousel doesn’t seem to suggest any at all.

I also couldn’t see the jeopardy expressed in most of the lands, where the audience is free to wander. Perhaps events like Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights are the start of something, which could be expanded outside of the horror genre.

The last point I can fit here, and one that still puzzles me, is about totems. The bears, mice, dogs and whatever-the-hell Goofy is supposed to be are all well within the long tradition of fables. Rabbits have been heroes all the way back to Africa, so that’s well documented. I wonder if the modern cartoon character – Minions for example – are the same psychological device and I think, yes, we have now adopted machines as we once did creatures.

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The second question is about totemic objects or ‘merch’ – the hats, t-shirts, lanyards, plushies etc. that bulge throughout every land. Are these simply souvenirs, or do they bring identification with the hero, or some more complex process? And what is their role when used inside the land, such as the wands used in Harry Potter than are actually haptic controllers for various ‘magical’ events?

Still a lot more to think about.

Things I will miss from giving up media teaching.

maxresdefaultTim Burton.

“My character idea is called Frank Skelly. He’s kind of like a character from a Tim Burton movie. So he lives in this graveyard and it’s spooky but at the same time kind of fun, because everything is cartoonish like a Tim Burton movie. So anyway he’s going to get married to girl but she’s a ghoul like in that Tim Burton movie and … hey wait, I’m only on slide one…”

Grandmothers.

“I’m really upset at the moment, my grandmother died, I just can’t get the essay finished. No, last year was my mother’s mother, before that was my dad’s mother, this is my second stepdad’s mother. No, the one in 2015 was my adopted mother’s ex husband’s mother. Well I don’t know why they all died in exam week you are being really insensitive.”

Mothers.

“Jimmy tells me he doesn’t like what he’s studying here. He says it doesn’t fit with his aspirations. Jimmy is a very bright child, aren’t you darling, yes. He was top of his school. He needs his ideas to be accepted and positive feedback. How do you expect he will thrive if you keep being negative? He is very sensitive. I’m sure he doesn’t need to come to classes when he’s already so clever at all of this. No, Jimmy let me finish. Furthermore…”

Lectures.

“You explained it in the lecture? How were we supposed to know that? I don’t have time on that day. If only it was recorded, oh it is? How were we supposed to know that?”

Cameras.

“What sort of camera should I buy? I was thinking of a really expensive one. Yeah but I like the look of the expensive one. Yeah but Tim Burton uses the really expensive one. I’m sure I’d do more work if I had the expensive one. Why don’t we have the most expensive one in the resource center? No, that’s last year’s.”

Context.

“Why do we have to learn about the history, ideas and culture of the practice in which we hope to build our future career? Can’t we just do more Photoshop? The other degree just has Photoshop. I’m going to transfer there.”

Music.

“I got the music off a website. I got the sounds off a website. I got the dialogue off a website. I got the idea off a website. I got my entire mental process off a website”.

A series of photographs.

“I know I said I was going to stage an opera with a holographic stage setting and data collection of the audience’s hopes, dreams and wishes in real time – but I’ve decided to just do a series of photographs. How many do I have to do to pass?”

Game Culture.

“I am really into game culture, and my friends are all into game culture and I hope to have a career in games. This Level 6 Dwarf is a really important part of a cut scene in the game I’ve being playing 12 hours every day I and I don’t see why it’s ‘an insufficient major project idea’.”

Fine Art.

“The red stripe means the courage I had in high school which is opposed by the little blue squares, there’s 5 of those because I had like 5 boy friends that didn’t understand my feelings which you can see here is a bird in flight, no, not that, that’s a mountain. Well the mountain is the weight that held down my personal freedom and it’s also breast shaped you see that’s my change of sexuality that comes from when the bird comes up from this brown area here. The brown is my last break up. I’m really expressing my feelings about the whole planet here. That? That’s a cow. I like cows.”

I have a computing problem, and I am stupid

I have the results of a survey. There are five questions, the replies are numbers between 1 and 7. So one response might be 11111, another 77777 and another 23361.

I need to find the closest response to an arbitrary number. So if I supply 44444, that might be 44445 or 41444. It might be 61777 for that matter.

Because I have to implement this in MaxMSP, I need to understand the process rather than an actual code snippet. MaxMSP can call up Javascript, but otherwise it’s done with ‘cables and boxes’ and is very slow.

I thank you for any suggestions.

Aristotle and Newton on Colour.

As I crawl my way through writing my thesis paper it’s a relief to talk about some of the ideas I cover, using words that are not quite as carefully chosen. There’s time when I’m sitting at my desk for quarter of an hour or more agonising over a single word; that one is too loose, this one implies I am claiming something that I can’t prove. Here I can write like Humpty Dumpty.

Go on ask me a question. Anything.

Go on ask me a question. Anything.

At first glance you wonder what the hell Aristotle’s on about when he says all colours are made from black and white. That seems unlikely to survive the first experiment, silly old Ancient.

For a start there’s a language issue here, black and white are better described as bright and dark, and these are better described as daylight which is yellow and bright, versus night which is blue and dark. That makes more sense, we can see how colours range over the course of a day, and Aristotle was always one for starting with the bleeding obvious, or with ideas he called endoxon, things you have to accept –  like black holes – because somebody smarter than you worked it out.

One of my sources wonders if he ever saw colours created by close proximity of black and white. Like this;

bridget_riley-scaled1000

That’s Bridget Riley BTW who is too cool for school.

bridget-riley

I actually think the ancients experienced the blinking of light and dark when sunlight spills through trees etc. Black and white blinking makes colours.

benhams_disk

duchamp

In this theory colours like red are made of lots of bright while greens are loaded with dark. But how do they look so different to their sources? How is it that they mix to make other colours? This is where I am most invested because I want to show that music serves as an endoxon. Aristotle says (being careful not to credit Pythagoras because that guy was a complete myth) well think of musical notes. You get a string and you twang it and you get a distinct pitch. You divide that string into exact ratios and you get other pitches. Musical notes are divisions of other musical notes, and it’s pretty damn likely that red is a certain ratio between blue and yellow. Of course if you can’t get red from mixing these two then you’re not doing it right.

Seemed like no one could get it right for 2000 years.

At least he tries to explain a plausible solution. Newton couldn’t be arsed. He does two things that would make Aristotle hit the bottle. He shines white light (Goethe starts screaming here It’s not bloody white you moron!) through a prism and gets a spectrum. Which he then draws as a circle. Divided into seven colours because hey, you can write a music scale around that and la la la la European philosophical tradition. It’s not mathematically valid he says, but it’ll do.

Dispersive_Prism

Breaking it wasn’t the hard bit. Putting it back together was the real experiment.

Do you see a circle? I don’t see a circle. I sure don’t see that the colour at one end of the spectrum joins up with the one on the right using some bogus violet bullshit. OK, so he’s describing why mixing red and green makes yellow, which you can see in the rainbow, but also why blue and red make purple which seems hard as they’re either side of the seating arrangement. He really means that once you have multiple sources of coloured light then they intersect to create other colours, but that diagram just caused no end of trouble because it implied that the circle was a description of a physical structure related to music. And that confusion is the first step in the journey that I’m studying.

Newtons colour wheel

This is how hippies were invented. And why D is a truly bogus note.

Arting

You are no doubt enjoying the quiet. Sorry this won’t take long.

I am arting quite a bit, exceedingly arting right now and this alongside the tedious administration at work, leaves not much time to run the newspaper. (I do tweet but it’s not very satisfying, like when you microwave something because there’s no time to cook a real meal.)

Anyway, what’s going on:

clavilux

This is Mr. Paul Greedy who is seen tickling my tablet, connected to our (mostly his) nearly finished Clavilux. This fine mechanical contraption is about to go off to Campbelltown Art Centre to be part of an exhibition called Catching Light. Paul took care of the physical side and I took care of the spiritual in the form of software to paint the colours according to Theosophical thought forms.

images-3

Ralph Balson similar to the one that I did the video to the soundtrack to painting. Book rights still available.

Apparently the NOISE exhibit is going on the road, including my video of my soundtrack of a Balson painting. At least I have to get over to Penrith to make a speech about something arty. Actually I got a bunch of speeches coming up. Cask wine, I am ready for you.

saturn_rubens

My main worry is a commission to create an animation to accompany a live orchestra that’s banging out Holst’s The Planets in August. I was given Saturn although of course I went for Uranus. Saturn goes for about 9 minutes. That’s only 13,500 frames. Of course I am not panicked. After all, only 1000+ people worked on Fantasia.

I’ve decided to make something roughly like my The Ant Can See Legs video, except with the particle system forming an old man rather than a young woman. After all, that was  about 4 minutes, so it seems doable. Thing is we have a motion capture system at work and so I can probably get somebody to act out the role of Saturn for me, maybe even eating some children. Then it’s just computers. Lots of computers.

 

How Now?

It’s Easter! According to plan the ABC will soon bump out the game and the snot video to make way for others, and rightly so. The Australian Screen and Sound Archive will then archive it all, as well as sevcom.com – which I find I little disturbing as it makes the same sound as a coffin lid being nailed shut. From the inside.

I don’t know how that will work, it’s not like archive.org which does a small snapshot – they will acquire the whole thing, as it stands, and are unlikely to revisit it. This might be for the best as it forces an end point. I do like to improve and tinker 🙁

2-Wilfred-clavilux

Then Paul Greedy and myself are working on a new model of Clavilux. This device belongs to Thomas Wilfred, and full credit to him. There is however scope to build some new bits into it – we intend to keep everything that is better analogue and revise everything that is best done by computer. I am very aware that Wilfred was a Theosophist and the machine will follow the visual music as set out by his religious beliefs. The device will be on display as part of ISEA.

I’m personally amused the initial brief was for the ‘old artist’ (me) to guide the ‘young artist’ (Paul) in ye olde art techniques. As it is, Paul is much better at analogue design and I am more interested in the software. To the extent that I’m building a software version as well (or at least trying). It also (thank the gods) aligns with my much neglected doctorate.

Coming up soon an exhibition of music paintings – I have made a Ralph Balson as music, and a video to go with it. Can’t show you that until the show is run. If you are in Penrith then:

Noise_invitation

Visual artists love the word NOISE for some reason. I guess they fear the fighting that goes with MUSIC.

Maybe after these are done I can get a bit of a break. The day job is howling for attention.

But actually, well, I’ve been thinking about HH. You see, I’m not disappointed but I have to admit that the alternative worlds presented by that game were a bit too geometrical. A game built in 3D software has rigidity, it stands up and makes sense. You can render absurdity, but (at least I) can’t quite manage that in real time modelling. When trying to get HH made one theory was to use panoramic photography, and I think that is still the best way to create a more exotic realm, with music.

The music is attached to the photographs and so it’s not mobile or interactive unless I find a way to combine photography and 3D. That is the current research screwing around which I will henceforth call H3. Yep, another game. In the meantime an update on HH is underway.

Reclusive and Colourful

Part 1: Colour.

Having complained about the lack of colour sense in most synthetic video I’m doing the required reading. Colour is a rabbit hole, deep and treacherous. I know Johannes Itten, grew up with his Art of Colour in my parents house like the family bible.

He has blue, yellow and red sitting there looking as if they mean business. I don’t know how Itten could run this fallacy so long when yellow’ and ‘blue’ don’t actually make ‘green’. Not using pigments and not in any printing process I’ve used, where yellow, cyan and black are required (and a spot colour more likely). I haven’t yet found where the idea started. I’m halfway through Gage’s Colour And Meaning and he’s not yet decided. He has however dug into an issue that concerns me by blaming Newton solidly for wrapping the rainbow into a circle simply because it recapitulated the octave. And there it is in Itten’s colour wheel, neatly broken into 12 ‘notes’. Newton is looking the cause of centuries of bullshit by that one conceit.

Gage is thankfully free of most philosophical musings although he does jump back and forwards in time to make a point. He turns out to be have been a visitor at my work, but died this year. (Worse still, there was a showing of Ralph Balson’s paintings at my work in the first year I was there and because I am a dumbfuck musician I didn’t know who it was about).

Working at an art college is damn fine for big glossy books about colour theory. But the best book so far turns out to be a very simple and practical one by Hilary Page. She takes you from diagrams of the retinal cells to mixing watercolours in an economy of pages and touches on everything you need to know about the psychology of colour and how to tweak it. This is the text I would force any video artist to read before they start wobbling their rectangles.

Actually it makes me think about interfaces that can get away from Red, Green and Blue faders. Something like Kuler should be the front panel.

Part 2: Reclusive.

A … funny? sobering event – distant family in the USA needed to contact us urgently. Apparently that was difficult and annoying because I’m visible but not easily contactable. By current norms I’m not ‘social’ enough. A recluse.

Vimeo and YouTube and GMail and Windows Live and Linked In (which ended up being the venue) 7 email addresses and a whole host of specialist sites isn’t enough. Being ‘social’ is as programmatic as the days of presenting your visiting card in the drawing room. In lieu of FaceBook I have invites showing up at Linked In that are obviously not about locating next year’s employment damnit.

Look, you spend 20 years with some kind of net address (OK so some of that was fidonet but it still counts) and then you’re not social enough. Screw it. DO I HAVE TO BE ON FACEBOOK?? ADVICE? (If you are one of my creepy stalkers don’t answer that thanks).

Saloon and Sales

This is interesting: http://www.salon.com/2012/06/20/steal_this_album_what_happens_if_no_one_pays_for_music/singleton/

Mostly because it’s being debated with a little more intelligence than the usual ‘all musicians are lazy and rich therefore FYGM’. Salon is a funny website. Sometimes you feel so damn relieved to be reading above the usual YouTube moron level. But sometimes the USA Progressive rhetoric is clumsy and shallow. I love the old socialist banter that went with the 70’s post punk bands, but I’m well aware that it didn’t get far past the first record contract. It seems that many of the Salon writers have yet to see it in practice and still have high abstract hopes. Bless them for wanting good for all, that’s a rare thing.

Back to paid music: Curiously the switch from CD to DRM-free download has gone well for me. Sevcom shop has almost reached the point where BandCamp will take a lesser cut, and this on material that has been out and about for years. But the audience are generally sticking with what they know.

It’s good to have statistics, actually it’s disillusioning – both negative and positive meanings of that combined. Biggest seller is City Slab Horror. Biggest download is Return To Barbara Island, although it had already done over 1,000 downloads from MediaFire in the old store. Free stuff will always win. But it emboldens me to make a another new thing and give it away. I have about 9000 free downloads banked up.

In the last two months looks like I’ve had a lot of new customers show up. Again, City Slab Horror, Bigot … one thing is that not everyone buys the entire Adenoids set. True, most of the tracks are in the first package. I just thought they’d be completists.

Now, where do they come from? About half direct dial BandCamp, which shows the virtue of this site. A fifth went to sevcom.com first; would be better if I was more active there. A tenth came from FaceBook; I have no presence there. ALMOST NO SALES COME FROM YOUTUBE. Having people post my music on YouTube does not assist me in any statistically valid way. So fuck that argument. Let’s have the image…

Love it.

BandCamp allows me to download everyone’s email addresses as a spreadsheet. If I was a good marketer I’d use that to push info at people, but I think I am a better friend to people by not doing that kind of thing. At some point I’ll just send them all a present.

What about iTunes? Well I don’t get too deep into those statistics but it’s basically about a thousand bucks of Dead Eyes Opened every time I get a payment. Yay… zzzzzzzzzz. iTunes is like when you buy a greasy kebab on the way home from the pub… being Dead Eyes.

This week I have to pop down to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. to talk hosting of [H.H]. I don’t think they’ll notice the hit but sensible men want to check bandwidth. I guess if you had a couple of hundred people bashing away at it on opening night and they all tried the same tape recorder it could be nasty, but shit, it’s the ABC.

Not much development on Cavalcade so far. Looks like we don’t have the Mandala systems we thought we did. Anyone got an old Amiga Live card lying around?

For Capra, I’m trying to 3D render a night time city flyover. All those little bright windows are causing the worst Moire pattern, wasted days on that.

As for Opmitter, don’t ask. I just switched over from Jitter to Derivative TouchDesigner. The desperate move of a drowning man!

{opmitter}– lost battle / winning the war?

This week I started to wind back the doctorate. People tell me there is no shame in going part time, in fact the research office were very supportive about not trying to work 70+ hours a week. December 2011 was utterly miserable (it included Death, Taxes and a healthy helping of Walls) and I can’t face that level of insanity again. Brutalist U willing, I am back to 16 hours a week on top of my day job.

When visiting the FASS research office I spied two familiar cases sitting on the shelf: my “album of albums”. I think the FASSRO were quite happy to get their shelf space back and I was happy to see that one of the cases was still intact! Nice to have it back again after these years.

Anyway, I’m at a point where shit gets real, So far I’ve talked about still images and that’s not enough. A video work is a moving image and you can’t assign it a single point on a graph. It would rather be a kind of tube extended through the five dimensions. I’ve decided to call that a Twistie, because I can. In my review one of the panel noted that I hadn’t really described how a sequence of abstract scenes would form the equivalent of a story arc. At the time I said that the system couldn’t decide on the relationship between sample points – it takes a human operator to discern a Twistie and drive the replay through it. I still think that’s correct.

However the Twisties don’t have hard edges. When there’s two videos near to the sample point, each is represented proportionally in the result, just as when you tune a radio you can hear two adjacent stations. If you were to lay two videos near each other they can and will overlap and intersect. Very pretty but not quite a ‘retrieval’ as advertised on the tin. That needs to be made clear.

Another big problem presents as I have been asked to create material for demonstrating the device. It needs to be abstract and be able to be performed according to OCEAN. So I need Anxious and Neurotic and so on expressed as videography – which I started to make by using the same colour and form decisions as have been made since the beginning of motion pictures. But my argument has been that these weren’t reliable measures. Am I just disproving myself and maybe elements like hue and brightness really do hold the key? If you are willing to self critique then it can be depressing to spend weeks finding fault in your argument instead of the pleasure of moving along a learning path. I suspected that I’d got myself in a tangle but instinct told me that part of it was sheer bloody tiredness and that the blockage would pass.

Since I started to write this entry something wonderful happened.

I had to give a lecture about game sound, in which I always include a quick rundown of FMOD. In a demo of the new FMOD Studio the demonstrator sets up a whole array of sound cues that are connected to game states – then he creates a ‘fear’ controller. He raises a slider on the MIDI controller and says quite calmly ‘so we can create automation based on fear and…’ my mind did an atomic explosion. YOU WONDERFUL BASTARD YOU JUST SHOWED ME A PARADIGM. I am not going nowhere, there is a light visible ahead of me…

How long has this been sitting in front of me? I’m a fucking idiot. The intention of FMOD is to parallel a branching visual narrative. Because a game is a state machine, the multi-track in FMOD doesn’t represent a single fixed time line. Rather it uses the x axis to hold individual durations that overlap depending on the values called up by the game engine. For example, given the intensity of a battle sequence, mix the sounds in a given way at a given point along x.

First garbled thoughts: untie this from a story arc and limit the controllers to the OCEAN psychological grid that I’m proposing. Replace the sound flows with video clips. The operator places the clips on the multi-track, having previously assigned weights to key frames within them. Automation lines are splines that flow through the control points we’ve identified = maths is relatively easy. Now as we change the OCEAN levels, the clips are replayed in an appropriate mix at states along the multi-track.

Even if that reads clear as mud, it’s something achievable, something that is a relative of a procedure that is already ‘standard practice’ and yet an incremental advance. As I am trying to facilitate an art form that’s the exact place to be. I feel like Baird and his hat box.

At the heart of Visual Music is…

Thanks to people for the sympathy for the olds. But they passed on a month or so ago (obits take time to write) and I think they were unhappy waiting for the inevitable. So, better to have moved on. Unfortunately the “Rosabelle believe” signal that was to be sent back has failed to appear, possibly as they are otherwise engaged.

I am now at the end of stage one of the doctorate, and trying to cram paper writing inbetween the job and the other job and preparing for the next shows. I have to admit I’m a bit behind, not too badly considering I’m doing three careers at once. But today I had to admit I didn’t see what was coming. I knew there was something pretty slippery inside the entire notion of visual music, but lord help me I didn’t expect

Annie Besant. You can Google it if you like, won’t take long.

It’s like a onion. You start peeling away, finding little bearded men and their light organs, futurist films and all the usual early 20th century modernist rigmarole. You note that Kandinsky mentions Theosophy. So does Shoenberg. Mondrian. Thomas Wilfred, creator of the Clavilux turns out have started work in a Theosophical think tank. You try find the connections – here is Goethe and his ideas on light – there is white and black that add up to blue or yellow, depending on which way you tilt the prism. How does this idea get to Kandinsky? Well it’s Goethe after all but, now you find frickken Rudolf  Steiner as the middle man, peddling mystical interpretations of Goethe’s higher levels. We haven’t even gone near the lunatic fringe and we’re already deeply embedded in yogis and astral claptrap.

Which is rather bewildering.

Because what I thought I was doing was using a psychological tool to categorise video, simply as a means to performance. No great claims to universal truth here – simply the need for something that puts on a good show. Disclaimers apply. No attempt to make aesthetics into a metric any more than 24 frames a second is the UrSprache.

But it is quite possible that what I am doing is part of an occult history which I think anyone would agree IS COMPLETELY ROCK N ROLL. In the early 20th century they believed in colours. Now here I am, believing in psychometrics. Paging Mr. Foucault, white courtesy telephone. Following my own ‘World’s Fair’ rule (50 percent scholar 50 percent drunken maniac) I really should take this thing and run it as far as I can get away with it.

I wouldn’t have to change a thing. All I do is change the way I speak about it. Chuck a bit of Jung in there. Oops.

Actually Jung is the best guide here. He’d pop out of the coffin and say “look, you’re at the right age for the big one. The big kapow. This is the moment in life where you put together everything you have so far learned, push the red button on the blender and come out with a nervous breakdown and a theory of everything that will leave them guessing for years to come. You’re already a closet Freudian, come over the dark side.”

He’d then pull out a bunch of photographs that I recently scanned that my old man took on a lake near Zurich. That lake. Synchronicity.

I think what I’ll do is hold it on the right side of sanity until I get the floppy hat. Then go apeshit. Over the last few years the siren call to occultism has been growing, and there are few pleasures left to the older man. I will drown in cymatics and entrainment, colours and thought broadcasts, ghosts and video synthesisers. There will be FUN.

No, not THAT far.

(Actually having read back over this entire post I think I might need some sleep.)