Musique Concrete

Pierre Schaeffer is credited with being the first to conceptualize musique concrete, publishing the first musique concrete work, Étude aux chemins de fer, in 1948. Musique concrete is characterized by the careful composition of raw recorded sounds into an aesthetic work. Schaeffer, wanting to break away from the traditions of music, conceptualizes recorded sound as its own objet sonore (sound object). This aims to remove the performative visualization of sound from its audible counterpart, presenting different sounds as independent aesthetic objects. Conceptualization of objet sonore is key to understanding the purpose of musique concrete, as this “music” lacks straightforward meaning and traditional musical structures. With the advancement of recording technology sound has found itself with new capabilities as it becomes a captured object rather than a byproduct of the physical world.

Subjectively, I do no believe musique concrete can be compared to contemporary music. While music today certainly exists in a realm of prerecorded superficiality, traditional music comes with its own set of preconceptions and structure that is separate from the experimental nature of musique concrete. Schaeffer himself was an untrained composer and actively sought to reach into the void of aesthetic sound, to experiment with compositions at random hoping to stumble upon something worthwhile. This completely differs from commercialized music, which focuses on a central mood or emotional theme conveyed using a set of widely-accepted musical tools. Musique concrete is indeed valuable as soundwork; creating an audible concept is a feat of its own, and to do it using indiscriminate means outside of musical tradition is exceptional. If an individual finds meaning in creative representation than I believe it to be valuable, though I do not know if musique concrete is valuable as music. Overall, musique concrete is a peculiar form of art that pushes against the contemporary boundary of aesthetics, altering our preconceptions of sounds. Without experimentation such as this, the art world remains stagnant.

Project: Concepts

Event Video

For my event piece I will be focusing on the window as a kinetic image. The window itself will be the plane on which this video takes place. I want the frame to focus on a window as hands appear from outside, invading the visual surface of the window. I intend for the limbs moving on the window to close the space between it and the viewer, pushing the flat surface out to the viewer. I am attempting to capture imagery that intrudes a thought deep into the psyche, forcing the viewer to attempt to understand something that cannot be understood. Something that invades our view yet isn’t threatening: Something that makes us squeamish yet keeps its distance. The conceptual basis for this idea revolves around my own fear of seeing dark figures outside my window; though for this video I am going to become the irrational figure. However, rather than threatening I intend for the figure to invoke curiosity, seeking to be understood or rationalized. There is no rational explanation for me to represent this idea in this manner, I only had a deep, instinctive urge to do this; much like a chimpanzee wanting to throw its own shit at a tree.

Narrative Video

My narrative piece involves me laying on the ground with pieces of paper strewn everywhere, performing a narrative of self introspection. The frame will mostly be angled down towards my lying body, capturing a moment of physical introspection and vulnerability. The reigning concept of this video is identity: a narration of exposing an individual’s bare emotions and thoughts, physically expelling them from the mind in the process. As I “expose” myself through the action of stabbing my chest, I exhaust all of my negative emotions. The action of the video is intended to be violent and illicit a shocked response, not intending to represent anything ideal or beautiful. My idea to do this was conceived by society’s need to masquerade happiness, especially in the era we live in. Rather than fake happiness, we must accept the sadness within ourselves and others. The act of stabbing myself and performing this sort of ritual is meant to normalize unhappiness. In doing this I am confronting the notion that nobody is happy all the time, that we only hurt ourselves by suppressing these emotions.

Project: Documented Event Shotlist

For the documentation piece I will be using a window as the stage for my event. As the viewer looks on, limbs will begin to obscure the view of the window.

The event will focus on the separation of space created by the window; the boundary overtaking the eye. The visuals will be bizarre and chaotic, the movement lethargic. I want the action of the video to invoke some sort of curiosity within the viewer.

Project: Event and Narrative Ideas

For my next project I will be producing two videos; one video documenting an event and one video portraying a narrative. Below I’ve listed two ideas for each.

My first event idea focuses on a window. The window itself will be the plane on which this video takes place. The view will focus on a window as hands appear from outside, smearing paint around to slowly obscure the view of the window. More hands and limbs will press against the glass as the video progresses, starting slow then moving into chaotic. Conceptual boundary.

My second event idea is a continuous shot of food being eaten. A person will be shown sitting in a chair reading, enjoying this food. Each time a bite is taken and the food is set down, a new person appears in the same spot. The video will focus only on the single item of food as it is eaten, the setting changing drastically around it.

My first narrative idea consists of a piece of fruit sitting on a table. At first nothing will happen, then a group of people will approach the table. The people will “abuse” the fruit; escalating from taunting to verbal abuse, from poking it to absolute destruction. The voices and actions of the group will be robotic, void of emotion. Concept on society.

My second narrative idea centers on someone laying on the ground with pieces of paper strewn everywhere. The person will begin to say self-doubting words as they rip their “chest” open, smearing “blood” everywhere on themselves. Still speaking, the person will then smear hateful words onto the paper with “blood”. Concept on identity.

Appreciating Early Video Art

Illuminatin’ Sweeney by Skip Sweeney

One type of early video art I want to look back on is video feedback, specifically Skip Sweeney’s Illuminatin’ Sweeney (1973).

This type of imagery is created by pointing a camera at the screen to which it’s connected to, producing a loop of organic pattern. This method seems simple enough, yet the pulsating visual effects create abstraction as beautiful and as free as Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings. Line and color bounce off of each other in a fluid motion, just long enough to be perceived before the pattern changes again. The movement itself appears dance-like in performance, a rhythmic aesthetic maintained throughout the feedback. These aspects give life to an abstract image, the aesthetic focus on change and movement as a cohesive sequence.

By far the most interesting aspect of Illuminatin’ Sweeney is its method of production; the use of live video feedback to create a randomized, organic composition. Emerging from the turn of the technological era, this video successfully explores the use of video in art and the manipulative freedom of such tools. Had this imagery been artificially reconstructed, it would not have nearly the same complexity and success.

Stop-Motion: REMINISCENT

After completing my first stop motion video and stepping back a bit, I’ve seen how much this project has evolved. I originally had no concept or mood in mind when thinking about the imagery I wanted represent, yet this quickly changed when editing. I did not produce this video to invoke aesthetic pleasantries, but to elicit an instinctive, emotional response from the viewer.

I would have to consider this to be the best still frame from Reminiscent. It is only at the end of the video where two opposing forms meld into the same form, drawing the focus of movement towards the center. Apparent contrast between the two colors works with the textured background to emphasize this focus further. The forms almost seem to invade the viewer’s space and interact with each other; the forms imitate sentient life, though far removed from the viewer’s physical dimension. The objectivity of the space is further emphasized by the perspective beyond the holes, implying that forms exist within this space and are emerging out of it. After a whole video of forms invading the viewer’s space, this is the climatic moment where two forms invade each other’s space and then immediately disappear out of frame.

Content and Meaning: Jordan Belson’s Mandala (1953)

After reading “Content and Meaning in Abstract Art” by Pamela T. Turner, I have a lot of ideas spinning in my head. While this article focuses on abstract animation as an evolving art-form, I particularly resonated with using animation as a form of self-representation and visual rhythm. Jordan Belson’s Mandala (1953), mentioned in Turner’s article, is one of the first expressions of this particular concept within abstract animation.

Mandala is similar to other works of its time in that the visual focus involves light, shape, and movement, but Belson takes it a bit further. As Belson has described, his work is not completely void of narrative, but rather he is trying “to relate an experience or state of being”. Looking at Mandala this ideology is apparent. The animation focuses on radiating spheres of light in void space, moving in synchronicity to eastern instrumentals. While the animation is simple in form and composition, the subjectivity of these images aligns with concepts such as the soul, the universe, and other broad philosophical rationalizations of the self. The simplicity of this animation leaves a vast space for the viewer to insert themselves into; not to physically picture themselves but to immerse in as an intangible experience, varied among the individual viewer.

This leads me to a major point that was made in Turner’s article: that abstract animation is meant to be approached as an objective experience. Much like music, this art-form isn’t meant to be understood in a linear fashion, but rather as a whole. Mandala takes this concept and pushes it into another realm, using imagery and sound that follows an otherworldly motif. Though the viewer may have no idea what they are looking at, Mandala solicits the viewer to introspect and eventually resonate with the motion and rhythm of the experience.

Project: Stop-Motion Test Shots

I’ve started to set up the space I’m going to be working with for my next project, making sure the lighting is adequate for the photos I’ll be taking. I’m setting all of this up in my room, getting as close to the window as I can since I have poor lighting.

I’ve decided that the project is going to involve numerous playdough blobs moving around, focusing on color aspects and composition. After setting up my first shot I played around with the photos and figured out how I wanted the blobs to move and synchronize.

(Another angle for variance)

I also took shots using a more direct camera angle, allowing the texture of the wood to become the plane of focus. I prefer the simplicity of the direct shot rather than the zoomed out set.

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