post of Sat, 28 Jun 2003 03:43:03 -0000
Re: Into Action:
(candid speculation and the forces of nature)
In response to your Iota
message requesting feedback on the question
of the relationship between seeing and
hearing, and the implications this
relationship may have for artists who wish
to create an art form that unifies seeing
and hearing or painting and music.
I have grappled with these
issues for the better part of 40 years, as
others have- and offer insights that may be
of value. They have been of value to me.
The mechanical apparatus
(in the brain) for seeing and the apparatus
for hearing are apparently separate and in
place. But there is a huge
interconnectivity possible between the two
and it is this interconnectivity that is
the area of interest. But
"interconnectivity" need not mean
the synching of the one to the other- which
has been the case until now- but rather,
something entirely new.
It is the purpose of this
letter to describe (to my way of thinking)
how music is composed; how painting is
composed; and how music and painting can
begin to be be composed as a single entity.
I find it helpful to start
with the approach that- the painting (or
composed piece of music) is not "the
thing". The painting is but a residue
of "the thing". The real
"thing" is the interneural
connection within the artist that caused
the painting to come into existence.
So, when a spectator sees
the painting that the artist made, a
roughly equivalent set of interneural
connection is built within the spectator-
that roughly corresponds to the set of
interneural connections in the painter-
namely, the set of interneural connections
that generated the painting. This
description is a vast, even brutal
simplification. But, we communicate mind to
mind. We get at each other's mind via the
artifacts generated out there into the
world: jots on paper forming pictures that
are words and sentences and images;
abstract noises out of vocal chords, also
forming sounds that are called words and
But how do these jots
on paper and abstract sounds get made? Why
does Beethoven sound like Beethoven, and
Coleman Hawkens like Coleman Hawkens? How
is art put together?
Music is composed through
the motor act (moving your hand, etc.) of
laying down a note, then laying down a next
note, then laying down a third note, etc.
And a picture is composed by a similar
process- the motor act of laying down a
line, then another line, a third line, etc.
In music (or in painting)
a fraction of a second may occur between
the first note and the second note. In that
fraction of a second a myriad of
interneural connection can come into play
referencing the artist's history, training,
feeling, personality, what he had for
breakfast, etc. But one thing is clear- if
a second note is to follow the first note
the competing interneural activity must
resolve into a single dominate strain
which, Bang, releases as the motor act of
the next note. If no second note is
forthcoming then the artist either thinks
again harder, listens to Brian Eno or JSB
for inspiration, or quits the art business.
(The above description is,
once again, a brutal simplification of what
I understand to be cutting edge theory in
neuroscience, which I find to be useful as
guiding theory for creating the new
audiovisual art form) --
If the artist is a
musician he or she is working primarily
within the gestalt of hearing. That is to
say, by training, custom and practice the
interneural connection within the artist
circles primarily in and around the ear-
the hearing function. And similarly, in a
painter the name of the game is the eye.
So, within us we have these two seemingly
separate worlds- the world of seeing, the
world of hearing; the functionality of the
eye, and that of the ear; the concept of
space and that of time.
But the issue is to make one world out of these two separate worlds... And is it possible?
Let's be blunt. Music, as
music, is easily created. We well know how
to do it.. And pictures, whether on canvas,
in computer or in camera can easily be
created- we're programed for it. And music
and pictures that are created separately
can be played simultaneously, and when that
happens they reinforce each other. The
connectivity that already exists between
seeing and hearing "syncs" any
music and picture together. Dozens of
movies have been strengthened in emotional
content by simply playing a Bach track
alongside the pictures. Music videos start
with a coherent piece of music, written as
music, to which pictures are then synced.
Great fresh results can happen even when
picture and sound are randomly combined.
But the syncing together
of two different forms, created separately
and with different tools leaves painting
within the gestalt of seeing, and music
within the gestalt of hearing, and begs the
point of a fundamental integration.
Early in the 20C Arnold
Schoenberg recognized that composers
schooled in the Western tradition of music
were so dedicated, so reliant, so
internally shaped to hear Western tonality
that great effort was needed to "jump
the track" into atonal sound. The tone
row was invented and this deconstructed
tonality and enabled western-trained
composers to "hear", to
"appreciate" atonal intervals.
This led to Cage who further deconstructed
music, bringing it to 'a point in space'.
In a similar way (get
ready for more simplification) Cezanne
pulled painting out of it's depth to the
surface of the canvas, and through cubism
led to Jackson Pollack- in whom the
desparate impulse to create forced painting
to the brink of time. We stand in front of
a Pollack painting and, odd as it may seem,
are deeply emotionally satisfied by moving
our eye across canvas as we follow a line;
follow a line; follow another line...
A point in space; a line in time.
Seen in this way the great
art of the first half of the 20C has
heroicly pulled painting out of space to
the brink of time; and deconstructed the
entire ediface of music to a point in
space. I believe this is where we are now.*
Art in the second half of the 20C has been bogged in a muddle, waiting for the tools- both practical (computer) and intellectual (neuroscience)- with which to proceed.
Why bother? Ask Runge, an
early painter; Wagner in opera 50 years
later; Redon, Fantin-Latour, Whistler,
Klimpt, Gauguin, Debussy, Marc, the
Cubists, and many others who talked and
wrote about a music/painting synthesis.
Kandinsky was convinced that colors could
be heard, etc., etc. Long books are written
on these topics.
But the philosophical
question is deeper. And if I may indulge in
speculation- it has been noted that the
various disiplines within the University:
mathematics, psychology, physics, other
science, religion, the arts, etc., are
separately full of content, but speak
different languages and thus "pass
each other like ships in the night"..
"there is a schism within the soul of
modern man..." By showing that our
disciplines are all abstractions drawn out
of a common pool of feeling, a common pool
of highly integrated and interacting
neurons in an ever self-differentiating and
self-elaborating nervous system, cutting
edge theory in neuro-science goes a long
way towards showing how these same
disciplines can be integrated and shown to
be aspects of a common self-model (or
self/world-model) embodied in our nervous
systems... "and thus we shall be whole
Back to reality and towards a conclusion:
Music and painting can't
be integrated if music is made on a musical
instrument and the painting is done with
painting tools-- just as you can't make
piano music by composing the white keys on
monday, and the black keys on tuesday. Or,
to give an example from painting- you can't
draw the horizontal strokes of a painting
in one room, and the vertical strokes in a
different room, and expect a unified piece
With two separate
instruments (and separate computer programs
are separate instruments): one for music,
the other for painting, at best, you get
two separate thought lines that sync
together at certain predetermined points.
Of course this can be truly wonderful. At
first blush it is better than the
integrated process of combining picture and
sound, since all the sophistication of
"painting" made separately, and
"music" made separately, as they
have existed until now, can apply.
But it is not a fundamental integration of sight and sound.
I am suggesting that the
blending, the melding of sound and picture
must come at a level of creation within the
creator- and prior to syncing. By an act of
creative will the composer must interject
the impulse to picture and the impulse to
sound- smashing them together inside the
self- at the very next creative move, and
(Frankly, I'd love to see
a collabrative efort at a nude- in which
Ingre sketched only horizontal lines and
Paul Klee drew the vertical lines.
Interesting? Yes. The continuing basis for
an art form? No- more like a parlor trick.)
"Hey, I'm a sharps and flats man- I don't do white keys!"
-May I suggest that by
maintaining such a separation Western music
would never have moved from Plain Chant to
the Brandenbergs. And it took almost a
thousand years for that to occur. Think of
all the practicing of scales, effort at
composing, false starts and small gains
along the way. When Bach became Bach he was
resting on the backs of the thousands of
creators who came before him.. Or to be
more specific- in a mimetic way, Bach
picked up a vast filigree of interneural
connection which had painstakingly been
created, neuron by neuron, by those-
heralded and unheralded- who came before
We are, once again, at the edge of the world.
1. Use a single program (like After Effects) in which both sound and picture can be manipulated or arranged using the same method (moving pixels) in the same time-line.
2. Start with the smallest jot of sound and the simplest impulse of picture, and move and arrange the pixels of sound and the pixels of picture in and around each other, frame by frame according to your own personal aesthetic- a new audiovisual aesthetic that you must build from the ground-up within yourself.
3. Strive to proceed with sound and picture together, not relying even for a small passage on your wonderful capacity to make music, or your long history of drawing lines into picture, but rather- jump the track of the visual gestalt and steer off the custom of the audible gestalt to form a new interneural pathway. A pathway that integrates seeing and hearing at the interneural level of creation... A pathway that, once achieved, can be absorbed by viewers (learned from) so that each successive step towards the new audio-visual art form is solid, differentiated and additive.
I hope the above has been
even slightly helpful rather than confusing
and off-putting, and that it encourages
work. Again, they are my ideas and no-one
holds a monopoly on ideas.
Barry Spinello (c) 2003
[emphasis AuzGnosis's ]
the first half of the 20C James Joyce and
Gertrude Stein deconstructed verbal
content- deconstructed words and the way
words connect and deconstructed
"meaning" itself. And
"meaning" would figure into an
ongoing unification of music and painting-
and in so doing pull a music/painting
synthesis away from pure abstraction. But
that would be the concern of another
letter. [return to text-body]