Re: "Visual Music" a label for film?

From: Tom B Whiteside (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Oct 08 2008 - 08:04:14 PDT

The prehistory of music is pretty vague at this point, but it's possible
to imagine that some of the first musical sounds produced by humans
mimicked those of birds, other animals, the sound of the wind - they were
"representational." Not too long ago I taught a six year old how to play
the mourning dove's four note song on the piano; she had heard it out the
window, was singing it nicely, I showed her the notes on the piano. Later
I heard her play it in a different key! She later told me that she can
also play this two pitch phrase on her bicycle bell, but frankly I don't
believe it.

Photography (and its younger cousin, motion pictures) also started out
completely representational - the image was not simply an arrangement of
shadows, but it WAS that street corner, that tree, that person's face.
Later on, people were able to give more attention to the shadowy
arrangements; I think that in most experimental film we are paying
attention to both aspects - some more, some less.

Does "program music" transcend the program? Of course it does. Mendelssohn
was impressed by Fingal's Cave in the Hebrides, he wrote "Hebrides
Overture." Does this music sound exactly like those waves and that
shoreline? Of course not. Is it "representational?" Good question.
According to his title and his letters, it is. There are plenty of
examples of this in music, another good one would be Messiaen's "Catalogue
of Birds." Is music abstract? Maybe I should seriously consider that
bicycle bell rendition......

In music there are many descriptive labels - symphony, song, concerto,
bluegrass - that help us navigate the art form. I think that "Visual
Music" has become one of the most desciptive and helpful labels in our
field. I'm not sure who first said that architecture is "frozen music,"
but I have long enjoyed referring to music as "melted architecture." At
some point labelling art work can counterproductive, but on this side of
that point it can be a very useful thing.

        - Whiteside

>The word 'music' implies the assemblage/arrangement of sounds, and so I
wonder about why it is so difficult for cinema to have the same
implication with >regard to image. I understand the comparison, and I
don't mean to get deep into the bog of semantics, but the tradition of
labeling cinema by comparison >to other modes of creation/expression is of
interest to me: Visual Music, Cinepoem, a Collage film, narrative cinema

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