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WAVES AN EXPLORATION OF SOUND AND LIGHT BY ERICA GRESSMAN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Step hen Miles Sarasota, Florida May, 2009
WAVES AN EXPLORATION OF SOUND AND LIGHT Erica Gressman New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT Sound has known to be an abstract phenomenon for many years and it is perceived only through one sensory m ode: hearing. Sound is always present in any environment or performance. All environments and performances engage both the visual and aural attention no matter the form of art. This is because we want to see the source of sound, such as, the spinning vinyl record, or the mouth of a person that is talking. Sound is very detached from our senses so much that people have a tendency to use the eyes to help understand what the sound means. Through various installations and performances, this project strives to c onnect sound (the fundamental element of music) and light (the fundamental element of visual arts) to enrich our awareness of sound's physical and visual existence. Prof. Stephen Miles Humanities
1 WAVES An Exploration of Sound and Light "I have notice d listening to a record that my attention moves to a moving object or a play of light," wrote John Cage in his renowned book, Silence (Cage 31) When we listen to music we form images in our minds. When we go to live performances we tend to watch the sourc e of the sound in order to experience the interaction between visual and aural stimuli. Because sound is invisible and more abstract from our perceptions than visual stimuli, we are drawn to the visual source of the sounds. We tend to search for the embodi ment of a sound in order to understand its physical existence and the reason for its existence. As we experience sound, we know that it comes from some object, but we are not conscious of the interplay between the two. In this project, I strive to bring th e interplay of sound and light into consciousness. I wish to explore how visual enrichments of sound can induce awareness of sound's physical nature and the different effects it has on our sensory perceptions. Borrowing from the methods of composer La Mont e Young, this project strives to create and experiment with an environment rather than a theater or gallery in order to coordinate light and sound so as to enhance the experience of the audience. The environment will be made up of light movements that comm unicate the physical nature of sound. The project will also incorporate a series of performances that demonstrate what happens when the aural and visual meet conspicuously in a performance setting. If sound could somehow be transformed into light, would it then be possible to gain greater awareness of sound's physical existence? Could light movements or any visual stimulus help us learn what sound looks and feels like? Do the visual elements
2 dominate the aural experience in a multimodal environment to a poi nt of becoming solely visual? Throughout this paper I will discuss many connections between sound and light. First to be discussed are the physics of light and sound and how they correspond to each other via scientific evidence. While on the topic of the comparison of sound and light, I will discuss the contrasts and similarities between the visual arts and music. After comparing the similarities between art and music I will discuss the topic of color music and synaesthesia, and will discuss the multimedia works and innovative concepts of John Cage, Fluxus, and finally La Monte Young. I will conclude by describing my installation, Waves and the response of the audience to the display and performance on April 24, 2009. The physics of sound and light Through out the twentieth century new art forms emerged that unified different modes of expression. For artists who used mixed media, understanding the nature of light and the nature of sound was a top priority because the relationship between the two is not obvio us. Before exploring the mathematical details of sound and light, the two media need to be individually investigated. The curious nature of sound and the dynamic affects it has on human perception can be explored primarily through science, specifically phy sics. Sound is a vibration that travels through a medium (air, water, wood, etc.) and is generally detectable by the ear. Sound waves travel 343 meters per second (Rossing 24). It is also the physiological and psychological response to the pressure variati ons in a medium. The pressure variations are commonly caused by the vibration of an elastic body, such as vocal cords, violin string, speakers, etc. (Moravcsik 2). Sound is created by interacting objects, such as a mass (finger, mallet, guitar pick, etc.)
3 attached to a spring. When the mass is displaced, motion is produced repeatedly. This motion is called harmonic oscillation, which results in the production of waves. A (harmonic) wave is a disturbance in something (the ocean, a guitar string, the air, etc .) and produces a sine curve shape. This sine curve pattern changes orientation as time goes on. The rearrangement of this pattern repeats over and over. A sound wave is, therefore, a space time structure because it changes periodically in space and in tim e (Moravcsik 2). Light is electromagnetic radiation, a type of electromagnetic wave that is constantly experienced in daily life. Other electromagnetic waves include radio and television waves, radar, radiation of heat, the colored light, x rays, gamma pa rticles, etc. These various phenomena differ only in frequency and wavelengths. Light waves travel 3 x 10! meters per second (Rossing 24). Light waves typically result from the rapid motion of electrons inside atoms (Moravcsik 55). Electromagnetic waves a re waves of strength of the electricity and magnetism at various locations in space and do not need a medium for their existence. Sound and light have more similarities than differences. There are essentially only two differences between the media: the sp eed at which they travel and their wavelengths. Sound waves travel almost a million times more slowly than light waves. Sound can have close similarities to light and other waveforms, but travel differently. All waves have certain properties in common. For instance, they can be reflected, refracted, and diffracted (Rossing 24). Sound and light are both forms of energy that are propagated in waves (Livingstone 196). Sound and light can both share a similar wave shape or formation (e.g. a small loudspeaker ra diates sphere like waves at low frequency, as will a light bulb with a small concentrated filament) (Rossing 36).
4 Another connection to be made between the two media is air. The analogous evidence between sound and light was encouraged by the new theory that both sound and light were the result of similar vibrations of the medium, air. Air provides the medium for sound to be heard and light to be seen (Peacock 398). Thus, air is the canvas on which light and sound can perform in tandem. Air can hold the p rospective connection between sound and light. To be clear, light waves can use air to travel, but do not need air for their existence whereas sound waves do need air to travel. How we register these important waves is by seeing and hearing, which consist of discriminating them on the basis of wavelength (or frequency), and then processing the resultant neural signals by the brain (Livingstone 196). Therefore, light and sound would not exist for us were it not for our neural system. Discourse on how we rece ive information is important to this thesis because perception is key to experiencing multi media art. We know the world through our senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Each sense provides us with a unique set of information, but sight may be the most important of all. Human anatomy can be used as strict evidence as to why we rely on visual rather than aural information. The human brain is more acute visually than aurally. Evidence for this is that there are greater numbers of neurons dedicated to visual brain functions (McLean 20). Through sight we perceive the size, shape, and color of objects. We form impressions and make observations of the world around us mainly through our sense of sight. Vision results from a combination of light a physi cal entity that carries the information to us and our eye brain system that receives and interprets information (Rossing 1). The similarity that sound and light share when it comes to human anatomy is that the human brain interprets either information sim ilarly. Evidence of the amount of dependence on vision supports my theory that using visual stimulus,
5 as a representation of sound, will help us gain more information about sound as an abstract stimulus. Parallels of Color and Pitch One other scientific c onnection between sound and light is established through the mathematical similarities between color and pitch. The anatomical proximity of our eyes and ears is metaphorically analogous to the proximities of color and pitch. Light is the dominant mode of i nformation, but the parallels to pitch are unusually similar when it comes to color hue. Colors are light reflecting certain wavelengths that interact with the light receptors in the human eye. Pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound detect ed by the human eardrum, which vibrates, sending the information to our neural system. Just like pitch in music, color is a perceived quality. Both depend on a frequency to reach our eye and our ear. Pitch depends on the frequency of a tone and color depen ds on the frequency of the light. In music, the perceived pitch also depends on things such as the amplitude of the sound and the presence of other sounds. Perceived color depends on things such as brightness and context (juxtaposing multiple colors can cr eate the illusion of a different color) (Rossing 173). We can perceive wavelengths between approximately 380nm and 780nm. Interesting enough, between ultraviolet and infrared, the visible light spectrum is almost exactly an octave i.e. the visible edge of ultraviolet having double the frequency (and half the wavelength) of the visible edge of infrared (Rossing 24). The vibrational frequencies can be compared mathematically. For example, the vibrational frequency of violet is approximately two times that of red. Some have speculated that if the sound of middle C could be raised by 40 octaves one would see red light (Peacock 397). These fascinating coincidences have been applied to different fields of study including the arts for centuries. Some artists, such as MacDonald Wright, postulate an exact
6 correspondence between the color spectrum and the musical scale (Zilczer 117). Some also believe in the power of synaesthesia, a condition that was believed to have evidence of direct correspondence between light and sound. Synaesthesia in Psychology Synaesthesia is known to be a benign neurological condition characterized by involuntary cross activation of the senses, and may affect at least 1% of the population. There are multiple forms of synaesthesia, including distinct visual, tactile or gustatory perceptions, which are automatically triggered by a stimulus with different sensory properties, such as seeing colors when hearing music. According to a study conducted by psychologists Melissa Saenz and Christof Koch, auditory synesthesia does indeed exist, with evidence from four healthy adults for whom seeing visual flashes or visual motion automatically causes the perception of sound (Saenz R650). This lent the idea of associating light movement to the motions of so und in my thesis. Movement, like air, can hold the potential connection between sound and light. Regardless, I want people to associate their thoughts with how a person with synaesthesia would think about a visual or aural stimulus to be translated into the opposite stimulus. In a sense, I want my installation and performance to create something like the experience of synaesthesia for the audience. Leif Finns researched differences in listeners' experiences by presenting music live, audio visually (thro ugh recorded footage) or only aurally. He found that most factors that characterize live performance could be said to enhance listener's cognitive, affective and evaluative experiences. The exact influence of the visual stimuli that relate to the audio vis ual, and mostly also to live musical presentation is, however, hard to predict. There are many studies that prove that live music has pleasurable effects on listeners (Finnas 55). Finnas'
7 article provides some evidence that people prefer to see the sources of sound, specifically live sources that include instruments being played by musicians. The visual connection to sound can affect an audience member's evaluation of their experience in a more positive manner. Another article, "Auditory and Visual Interact ion in the Aesthetic Evaluation of Environment", discusses the importance of visually perceiving a sound source when hearing a sound. However, the article also demonstrates how seeing the sources of some pleasant sounds can also lead to negative effects be cause of the negative image. The eyes can be the agent that creates boundaries for the ear when the visual stimuli are dominant. In other words, there is a danger to adding a visual stimulus to sound if one is striving to enhance an aural experience. The d anger is that vision can dominate the aural experience. Psychologists, Sonoko Kuwano and Seiichiro Namba, examined the auditory and visual interaction in the aesthetic evaluation of the environment. The experiments involved placing subjects in a dark room and presenting stimuli three different ways: a projected image and a sound, only sound, and only image. They used road traffic noises, sounds from leaves, and motion pictures coherent to auditory stimuli. Results of the experiment showed that an image of m any cars and no sound gave a negative impression. When the psychologists presented the sound from cars with the visual masking of green plants, it became effective in reducing the negative impression of road traffic noise (Kuwano 191). When a sound was not compatible with the scenery, it was perceived as being more unpleasant (Kuwano 192). When normally pleasant sounds of the leaves were presented alone, subjects judged in negative connotations because they were without the information of the sound source ( Kuwano 197). Here we can see how seeing the sound source becomes important when experiencing sound. This study also raises the question of whether light enriches sound or will it steer audiences' experiences to be solely visual? Light may or may not
8 be com patible with enhancing sound's essence, thus other forms of visual stimuli will be presented in the final product of this thesis. Autonomy of Music versus Referential Visual Arts Looking to the arts we can find more connections between sound and light. Mu sic (instrumental music, in particular) is founded on the idea that "discrete abstract components are utilized in composition" (McLean 20). The visual arts, however, are more inherently concrete, and less abstract than music. Visual arts developed from th e idea of referring images to the empirical world and only became abstract when artists started idealizing and creating non representational works. Traditional Western music, however, has always had a theoretical basis that centered on its prime abstract c onstituents (discrete pitches, harmonic relationships, etc.). It uses the twelve tone scale as a primary constituent. For example, B flat in a piece by Johannes Brahms will sound like a B flat heard in the work of John Adams even though the context is diff erent. In visual arts, basic elements such as line or primary colors exist, but they are not seen as completely separate entities in a painting or an experimental computer graphics work as they do in a piece of music. In a piece of music, the original prop erties are most often preserved intact, giving a more "fundamentally abstract foundation for their varied combinations into new relationships" (McLean 20). For this reason, music can seem to be autonomous by nature. Sound has no reference to the empirical world, whereas visual arts generally have strict references to the empirical world. What if someone were to apply the anti autonomy of the visual arts to the autonomous nature of music in order to produce musical works that are less abstract? I find this h elpful for my theory that visual stimuli can enrich sound's abstract character to a point of understanding its physical existence.
9 Artists at the time of the 20 th century did not see the advantage of the visual arts' referential nature and instead strove to embrace music's abstraction. As an outgrowth of the Romantic and Symbolist movement, music was elevated above all other forms of creative expression. "All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music," said Walter Pater over 100 years ago in hi s essay, The Renaissance Spirit The "condition of music" is the means of artistic expression allowing for complete integration of form and content an impossible state for the less abstract arts (Peacock 397). Artists eventually believed that painting shou ld be analogous to music. Music was a non narrative abstraction for them. It transcended language because it has direct appeal to emotions and senses. Music held universality in its form of expression and they thought the visual arts should as well (Zilcze r 101). I view this as a step back from understanding music because they encouraged music to be something so separate from the empirical world, when sound, the fundamental, has so many aspects for us to learn from. The fire for intermedia was set off by t he visual arts in the twentieth century. Some connections between the visual arts and music are simple, and some are complex. For instance, there is musical terminology in the titles of paintings such as Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie Kupka's Fugue in Red and Blue or Alberts Gleize's Symphony in Violet (Peacock 397). Another example is how music has direct inspiration for painting (artists create allusions to musical scores in their works). In 1912 1917 Max Weber produced group of abstract pastels and oil paintings devoted to musical themes. He called them "music pictures", a visual translation of music (Zilczer 104). Lastly, ambitious artists used musical analogy', emulating methods of musical composition in the visual arts (Zilczer 102). European art ists adopted musical analogy in response to symbolist criticism. A specific example of the result of relying
10 on musical analogy is by the artist, Francis Picabia, who developed the concept of pure painting'. His theory involved abstract painting that is b ased on analogous laws of visual composition would result in a pure or absolute art form. Picabia's theory influenced abstract European painters like Kandinsky and Frantisek Kupka. Both of the latter artists used musical terminology to denote their abstrac t compositions and both subscribed to mystical theories of synesthesia, a psychological condition (Zilczer 103). It is interesting that Kandinsky took a step further with pure painting' and musical analogy by creating paintings to be heard' by viewers ar ound the turn of the twentieth century (Williams 29). Visual art was not the only art at the turn of the 20 th century that used other artistic fields' methodology in their compositions. Composers, artists, and inventors, have used methods of the visual ar ts in their musical works. This form of art called color music has had a major influence on my thesis project. Advocates of color music the new art of the 20 th century, depended upon the related notion of synesthesia; that is, the belief in the subjective interaction of all sensory perceptions. Acceptance of synaesthesia led to other subsequent developments. Some viewed the interchangeability of the senses was evidence of a mystical correspondence to a higher reality. More practically some artists joined f orces with scientific researchers to study synaesthesia as a phenomenon of human perception (Zilczer 101). Historical context of Color Music Having examined the connections between sound and light through physics, visual arts, and psychology, I will now d iscuss the evolution of multi modal art that blurred the lines between visual art, music, and science. This interest in the possible relationship between patterns of colors to sounds dates back to the ancient Greeks. In his written work, De Sensu Aristotl e expressed a desire for a harmonious relation between colors and sounds and musical
11 chords (Wagler 443). In 15 th and 16 th centuries, artist/inventor Leonardo Da Vinci had ideas about the relationship between music and color (Williams 29). One of the most well known mathematicians, Isaac Newton, attempted to find a correspondence between the frequencies of colors and the notes of the musical scale (Wagler 443). Newton was the first to postulate a correspondence between the proportionate width of 7 prismatic light rays and the string lengths required to produce the musical scale D, E, F, G, A, B, C (Peacock 398). As one can see, people were theorizing about a correspondence between light and sound very early on. Other scientists and artists were heavily infl uenced by Newton's mathematical theories. Around the mid 1700s, philosopher and mathematician Louis Bertrand Castel was the first with a proposal for a color music performance that would include a special instrument (Peacock 398). He developed the Clavessi n Oculaire a color organ that related seven colors mathematically to the seven whole notes of the occidental musical scale (Wagler 443). The inventor, however, manipulated his method of mathematically coordinating notes to colors. In principle, the notes were not converted into colors. The next inventor to contrive the color organ innovations was in 1876 by Bainbridge Bishop. He created the Color Organ which had a light attached that projected colored lights onto a screen in synchronization with musical pe rformance. Keep in mind that this instrument's colored lights are separate from the sound: light is controlled and operated by a performer to in synchronicity with the music. This is not directly converting music into light. Alexander Wallace Rimington, an other inventor/professor of fine arts, also invented a type of color organ in 1895. He believed in the physical equivalence of light and sound. He applied three musical functions' to color: time, rhythm, and combination. He then equated the seven spectrum bands of natural light with diatonic intervals, which composed the musical octave similar to Castel's method of comparing whole
12 notes to light spectrum (Zilczer 118). The instrument's performance was silent and only used light as the physical expression o f sound. I find Rimington's method of performing sound with colored light and three musical functions to be very effective in enhancing sound's physical existence, but not effective in the sense of being able to translate music into colored light. The mai n issue with Castel, Bishop, and Rimington's methods is that they created these instruments believing that they were directly converting sound into light, but they were really just placing the two together using mathematical and physical similarities. They had too much control over the process, thus creating an inauthentic way of presenting the method of converting sound to visual light. Therefore, their inventions and theories did not provide a convincing route to take up on for my project. At the turn of the twentieth century, after the fundamental shift in aesthetic theory in visual arts, Claude Bragdon, an American architect became the advocate for color music. Unlike his predecessors, he based his notion of color music on the psychological instead of t he purely physical analogy between light and sound. Interestingly enough, he enlarged the concept of color music beyond simple correspondences between color and music (Zilczer 122). Before explaining why, I want to include the highly similar beliefs of ano ther visual music theorist. Professor Hallock Greenwalt also believed in the psychological basis for musical analogy. She stated that in developing the new art of kinetic light, strict correspondence between color and music would be impossible. She says, light is an atmosphere, suffusion, as with notes, is inconceivable" (Zilczer 122). Both Greenwalt and Bragdon introduced the issue of "truth to materials" into debate about color music, that is, the truth about corresponding the material light to sound is impossible. After learning this in my research, I began to be
13 convinced that there is no such thing as a direct translation between sound and light. There just may not be a direct one to one relationship between light and sound! However, I still held the s trong belief that light can induce a greater awareness of sound when the two are coordinated using various methods, such as Bragdon and Greenwalt's psychological connections. I kept researching color music emphasizing methods of enhancing sound on a visual level. There are other inventors and musicians that took up the study of color music, which lent them strong theoretical differences from their predecessors. A good example is artist/inventor, Thomas Wilfred, who was also a student of art and music. He w as known for building the most successful instrument for color music in 1919, called the Clavilux. Wilfred believed that the physical correspondence between color and music was false. Rather, Wilfred saw color music' as a metaphor. In his work, light was used in an abstract manner (Peacock 405). He concluded that an art of colored light should be based on the intrinsic properties of the medium: form, color, and motion (Zilczer 122). I find this theory to be most relevant to my project, leading me to use mo tion, colored light, and form to enrich sound's abstractions. Sound and light properties can be compared on the intrinsic level of visually enhancing light motion, psychological color coordination, and forming images and not through mathematics. In other words, if we treat' light directly the way we treat sound, there may be a new and greater way of expressing sound through light. Barton McLean, another inventor (and a composer of electronic music), took a step further with Wilfred's theory by treating l ight like sound. He invented the visual instrument called the Sparkling Light Console in 1983, which was played and perceived in musical terms. The instrument is a midi controlled panel of 500 pulsed bulbs in five colors that project
14 complex, bright, sharp ly focused light displays of linear and textured patterns. These patterns are, however, predetermined (McLean 19). McLean and Wilfred differ in some ways from other inventors of color organs in that they do not imply that there should be a one to one rela tionship between pitch and point of light in the actual artistic work, emphasizing instead that the primary constituents of both media exist independent of one another, as purely abstract quantities that acquire significance only when they are combined to interact with other equivalent primary constituents (McLean 20). The fact that all instruments of color music are predetermined shows that there was never a direct correspondence between colored light and pitch. This acceptance and awareness that there is no direct relationship, but interesting methods of treating' light in musical or audible terms is the route I decided to take for the rest of my project. Another such composer/architect who took up this interesting approach was Iannis Xenakis. He connecte d the parallels between light and sound to enrich each other. One way of connecting the media was through his new form of multimedia art that he called "polytope". The idea of "polytope" has to do with big spaces with many smaller elements: a domain of spa tial complexity that may be articulated by sound and light (Barley 55). Big spaces are seen somewhat as the canvas for many small elements to be understood especially through sound and light. He uses architecture by designing massive multimedia pieces with complex mathematical structures similar to methods in architecture. One of his complex multimedia pieces was called Polytope de Montreal This piece contrasts aural and visual layers by juxtaposing linear continuity of the sound with the discrete, pointil listic effects of the lighting (Barley 60). What looks like millions of points of light on a highly elevated ceiling move in a extremely structured and organized system, which parallels the drones of sounds being played
15 out of loud speakers. Xenakis also b elieved that an artist/composer can use the audience's psyche or mental structures to his advantage in order to connect light and sound. Xenakis said, "I have now understood that there are certain structures contained in visual and auditory experience that are comparable mental structures, to be precise" (Bossuer 50). Xenakis connects the visual and the auditory experience through audiences' mental association of movement. Movement thus becomes another platform for connecting sound and light, which is stron gly emphasized in my project. What I have learned from researching color music or visual music in general, is that there is no such thing as a direct translation of sound into light, though there are many methods of enriching sound through light. These me thods include treating light with its original intrinsic properties that parallel sound's properties, using psychological (not mathematical) color pitch or light and sound movement/coordination, and forming images. Essentially, I will take up Xenakis' advi ce of taking advantage of how audiences can have mental associations with sound and light via movements. After learning that movement is a very handy tool when inducing awareness of multi media in art, I found that there are many other forms of art that al ready took advantage of this factor. Other forms of Sound Art Other art forms besides color music use image, sound, and movement to enhance musical experience. In fact, many different repertoires of mainstream art involve the linkage of sound and image. D ance is said to be the expression of music via movement of the body. It is a visual performance for the audience. Movement is of course strongly emphasized and vital to the performance of dance. Dance or movement of the body is almost inherently associated to
16 sound because sound and music involves so much movement. In dance, there is rhythm, there is movement of the body, and there is expression. All of these have a direct association to music. Expressing sound by the movements of the body is a feature in m y project that will be discussed later on in the paper. Film is another mainstream art that links sound and image. One major film that even coordinated image to music was Walt Disney's Fantasia. Early experimental filmmakers, Hans Richter, Oskar Fischinge r, and Norman McLaren, developed personal visual and temporal languages that correspond directly with music. Contemporary artists such as John Whitney, Robert Snyder, and Edward Zajec use computers to present abstract images that are closely linked to musi c, musical concepts, or sound. Whitney developed a formal relationship between musical structure and visual structure that express the use of abstract elements such as points and lines "permutations." Snyder integrated sound and image by using an "equal te mporal" keyboard to control colored light. Zajec's "Chromas" orchestrates "flow of color passages in time" creating a visual counterpart to the corresponding music (Williams 29). These forms of multi media art and entertainment have very strong sound and image coordination. They are also well known and have been known for many decades, however, it is not easy to recognize them as art involving the intermedia of sound and light. The fact that they are popular gives reason to mention them as intermedia art b ecause they are widely held conventions and pleasurable forms of art and entertainment. Thus, there is reason to believe there most of the population can have positive responses when experiencing the coordination of sound and image.
17 Fluxus and its major influences To steer away from the smaller influences of color music the main art influence on my project is the Fluxus art group and its predecessor John Cage. John Cage, one of the most highly acclaimed and influential composers of experimental music. H e was mainly known for his conceptual pieces that involved chance procedures and indeterminate' results. His piece 4'33" has been the single most influential piece of experimental music to date. During this piece, one becomes aware of silence to be powerf ul and ironically non existent. He was also known for allowing multiple "events," including visual and aural, to coexist and accumulate. "Events" being a time frame without a definite duration that includes visual and/or aural actions that are theatrical. Cage used process as the main component in his works, as like in his Theater Piece or Variations, to force the audience in a situation where the outcome effectively depends on the choices of each individual (Bosseur 90). He believed that theater was the cl osest approach to integrating art and life. Cage's work has greatly influenced composers and artists of so many different kinds to think differently about art, theater, and music as a whole and on many different levels. Like Cage, I have always thought all live performances have a visual and aural element, which qualifies as theatrical event or happening.' His teachings and works have greatly influenced the art group Fluxus to create radical and unique forms of art. The Fluxus group was founded in 1961 by George Maciunas and formed mainly in the United States and in Germany. Fluxus was known mainly through their idiosyncratic works strongly asserting that there is no dichotomy between art and life. Their actions and publications offer an extreme alternativ e to Cage, a reduction/miniaturization of the material presented to human perception. Fluxus never had any kind of manifesto, but they called
18 themselves Fluxus to literally mean, "that which flows." It is as if the goal of Fluxus was to focus an action int o a single event, in as concise a manner as possible. For example, George Brecht's Comb Music : For a single or multiple performance. A comb is held by its spine in one hand, either free or resting on an object. The thumb or a finger on the other hand is he ld with its tip against the end prong of a comb, with the edge of the nail overlapping the end of a prong. The finger is slowly and uniformly moved so that the prong is inevitably released, and the nail engages the next prong. This action is repeated until each prong has been used. Most of the "events" staged by Fluxus, especially those of George Brecht, can characteristically be identified as standing between several different modes of communication, between poetry, theatrical representation and musical production, between art and everyday life. George Maciunas says that their actions derive "from the monostructual and theatrical qualities of a simple natural event, of a game or a gag. They are a combination of Spike Jones, vaudeville, gags, children's ga mes, and Duchamp" (Bosseur 90). The exceptionally diverse assortment of objects (combs, fire, bowls) used their events to provoke new ideas only shows that anything can be substituted for art. Fluxus makes the boundaries placed on art become considerably h azier than they had originally seemed, as long as sight and hearing are linked together, and thoughts motivated. The majority of their actions make their impression as jointly acoustic and visual phenomena. "I'm just pursuing that human dream of a synt hesis of sound and vision," said composer, artist, and teacher Nam June Paik, a major figure in Fluxus (Bosseur 145). Name June Paik believed that the perception of sound and the perception of image are two radically different phenomena. Paik once said, "I think sound goes very deep, is very emotional, and has a very exclusive quality. When you have one sound, you cannot listen to another sound, when somebody plays the radio, you cannot do anything about it. Whereas the visual is more freedom oriented, more reason oriented. So you can have a hundred paintings but you can only have one music. Music is definitely more dictator oriented, so that's why all dictators use music and not that much museum/video stuff. When music is good, it is very strong, much stron ger than visual
19 experience. Sound alone is much more strong and profound than sound and picture together" (Bosseur 149). I found this quote to be the most profound description of sound and light mainly because Paik believes that sound is so powerful that it is even greater than sound with image. Going back to previously mentioned artists who strove to make visual art more like music, sound has an abstract quality that has a compelling presence all around us that is unlike any visual counterpart. For this reason, there is a risk in my project that I must recognize if image or light is complimenting or striving to enhance sound, there may be too much information taken away from sound thus weakening its effects on us. Paik's beliefs had a direct and strong in fluence on his student, La Monte Young, and gave him reason to believe in visual enrichments of sound. La Monte Young "Isn't it wonderful if someone listens to something he is ordinarily supposed to look at?" (Young 22). The Fluxus composer, La Monte You ng was born in 1935, in Bern, Idaho, in a log cabin where he was first influenced by the sounds of wind rushing through the logs. Young started off as a modernist composer using Schoenberg's twelve tone method, but after his exposure to Stockhausen, Richar d Maxfield, and John Cage drastic changes occurred in his music and beliefs about art. Young then joined Fluxus. Ever since Young's discovery of Cage, he has created audacious works that are both idiosyncratic and highly original. He is known as one of the most imaginative composers in America by offering numerous novel pieces, many of which have shown the importance of performance in music and the visual aspect in sound. Young can be considered the instigator of using visual elements in musical contexts, e specially after creating performances involving theatrics. His Compositions in 1960' were the start of Young's principle of using theater in sound' (Young 17).
20 Listening "Inside Sound" The reason why Young uses visual theatrics for sound was to "get ins ide sound." Young believes that each sound has its own world: seeing and breathing its own life (Kahn 37). He also believes that the problem with music historically is that man has tried to make the sounds do what he wants them to do and if we want to lear n about sounds, we should "allow the sounds to be sounds instead of trying to force them to do things that are mainly pertinent to human existence" (Young 73). Sound will end up reflecting human ideas if humans "tame" them. We could actually learn somethin g new about sounds if we were to go to the sounds as they exist and try to experience them for what they are (Young 73). Young's ways of getting inside sound' were by loudness, repetition, and sustaining sounds. A sound itself defines a space, which is o ne of the features of being inside a sound (Kahn 288). Loudness was an important method to get inside a sound because loud sounds affect our bodies to a point where one can feel the vibrations of lower frequencies (Kahn 229). Loudness can also stifle the b ody so much that when the loud sounds turn off silence is charged (Kahn 233). The louder the volume, the more difference in tones you can hear, and the greater the "intonation precision potential" one of Young's fascinations (Young 56). Repeating a sound for a long duration will demonstrate that one sound makes many different sounds. It creates its own variations and modulations of time. Sound becomes plural and is different every time it is played. Sustaining a sound for a long period of time can help us learn other things about sound. It can be easier to get inside sounds that are held for a long period of time because of how our attention spans can shift from hearing to seeing. Young noticed this when he was producing long, sustained sounds. In one of th e performances of his sustained sound pieces, he was looking at the dancers and the entire performance space instead
21 of listening to the sounds being produced (Young 74). Giving ourselves up to sound, as Young says, can be interpreted by being more patient with sounds as listeners. As composers or creators, we can let go of controlling sound and try to listen to an indeterminable outcome. La Monte Young's Works Vision (1959), one of Young's earlier theatrical pieces, manipulated the audience's experience o f a performance by altering the setting. Young wrote this piece after being exposed to Cage's chance music. He organized thirteen minutes of time with eleven sounds. These sounds involved strange noises from traditional musical instruments and other vocal sounds. The salient feature was that the lights were turned off. When this piece was first performed, the audience was furious only because they could not see where the sounds were coming from in the dark. This is how Young became fascinated with the audie nce as a social situation (Young. 29). Already we can see that the visual element in music is just as important as the audible experience. The visual, or lack of the visual, will interrupt our aural experience in pleasant and even unpleasant manners. In a n interview Young said, I've noticed that a much greater part of the world is visually oriented and more capable of concentrating on visual stimuli than aural. Only a small percentage have learned how to concentrate on sound" (Young 30). He then began to produce a series of compositions that built upon the ground of questioning unlocked by John Cage's 4'33" Young's Composition # 3 1960 reads: Announce to the audience when the piece will begin and end if there is a limit on duration. It may be of any dur ation. Then announce that everyone may do whatever he wishes for the duration of the composition. The concept is similar to Cage's principles by the use of duration as its limiting aspect. This piece is different, however, from Cage's 4'33" because Young demonstrated that a musical composition does not need a musical instrument or performer for its performance. Cage's piece
22 has a pianist sit in front of a piano silently. By contrary, Young's piece uses an announcer' to designate the boundaries of the even t (Young 70). Composition # 2 1960 reads: Build a fire in front of the audience. Preferably, use wood although other combustibles may be used as necessary for starting the fire or controlling the smoke. The fire may be of any size, but it should not be th e kind, which is associated with another object, such as a candle or a cigarette lighter. The lights may be turned out. After the fire is burning, the builder(s) may sit by and watch it for the duration of the composition; however, he (they) should not sit between the fire and the audience in order that its members will be able to see and enjoy the fire. The composition may be of any duration. In the event that the performance is broadcast, the microphone may be brought up close to the fire. This piece, al so known as the Fire Piece, introduces the importance of listening to small sounds. Young argues that even seemingly silent acts still have sounds. The audience begins to realize that the fire makes small crackling noises as it burns materials away. The so unds can be considered, but the visual image of the fire is pertinent. Young's Fire Piece should lead the spectator listener to "listen to what one normally only sees, or vice versa" (Bosseur 91). Another piece that presents the visual element in a musica l context is Young's Composition 1960 # 5 which reads: Turn a butterfly (or any number of butterflies) loose in the performance area. When the composition is over, be sure to allow the butterfly to fly away outside. The composition may be any length, but if an unlimited amount of time is available, the doors and windows may be opened before the butterfly is turned loose and the composition may be considered finished when the butterfly flies away. This is an important composition because it shows how we can listen to what we ordinarily look at. It contains the special feature of the inaudible overpowering the visual. People can easily see the butterfly, but it is inaudible. Both the visual and auditory elements are very
23 delicate in this piece, however, ve ry powerful in its meaning (Young 70). It is also important to recognize that the sound of the wings flapping does produce sound, but it is inaudible to the human ear. It is difficult to accept this as music, however, by traditional musical conventions it can be labeled as such It has a beginning and ending, it involves listening, and is experienced only over time. "P eople can become aware of the inability of a single mode of perception to reveal the totality of an object as it presents itself" (Doris 98). The labels that people place on an object can limit our experience with that object as something other than just sound' or just light'. The butterfly piece is musical, but also a visual experience. Herein lies the issue with presenting a seemingly visua l object in a theatrical setting and trying to make audiences become aware of the sonic factor involved with the piece. Therefore, labels can be a big issue on my audience's experience with my piece because I will use multiple forms of media and objects. O ne of Young's better known pieces, The Tortoise, His Dreams, and Journeys is among the most admired works in contemporary theatre. Performers chant an open chord over a long duration, amplified to the point of aural pain. Performances involve two sessions each around two hours long, in a darkened room illuminated by projections of patterned art created by his wife, Marian Zazeela. Music is the predominant force in this particular piece; however, the entire setting induces a multi sensory involvement. As t his piece's time is open and its space closed, Young classifies it as a kinetic environment (Young 18). In traditional terms, Young defines this piece as music and theater. Again, the music might dominate, but it is presented in a theatrical situation (You ng 60). The projections play a large role in the piece since audiences are forced to recognize the power of the music when it is charged by the visual stimulus. The designs that are projected on
24 the wall are symmetrical, derived from calligraphic forms. "P art of the projection falls upon us as we play and re programs us, or actually re costumes us visually into the larger pattern, which is intended as a mode for visual concentration as votive image" (Young 60 61). The projections have objective elements m eant to motivate subjective responses this is a strategy aesthetically similar to Young's music. There are parallels with the music and the light images even in these early works. The light gives the eyes something to rest on and become absorbed in, as the ears have the sound to become absorbed in (Young. 61). The environment created in the Tortoise piece inspired Young to create the second most significant project, the Well Tuned Piano. Young's interest in sound led him to the discovery that it is only af ter years of effort to put an interval of time in time: tuning is a "function of time"(Duckworth 22). To make that more clear, time is a convention of thought and conversation and it does not really exist. We give time intervals through theories, but Young believed there was another way of placing intervals of time in time. Young thus connected tuning pitches to measure an interval of time. Young's fascination with intervals of time in sound led to his profound work, Dream House. Dream House Young's strong est influence on my project is his multi sensory environment called Dream House. Young set up a total environment set of frequency structures in the media of sound and light (Young 11). The simultaneous visual environment created by his wife Marian Zazeela presented light forms undergoing slow movements of mutation, where the slightest breath caused the relations between forms, lights, and projected shadows, to alter in a very fluid manner (Bosseur 45). The sources used to produce the frequencies in the sou nd medium are sine wave oscillators that generate a continuous live electronic sound environment.
25 Vocalists sang additional frequencies at certain time intervals throughout the piece. The instrumental drones playing with or against the electric tones creat ed whole fields of audible harmonics that had sounds of Indian like vocals (Duckworth 32). The light media was manipulated in the gallery rooms with floating sculptures and dichotic sources (Young. 11). The colors of the mobile also paralleled the sounds: the colors, blue and amber, were chosen in response to the complex aural spectrum provided by Young's sound structures (Duckworth. 204). Young and Zazeela see the visual aspect of their work as inseparable from the aural aspect. Throughout the process of t hese multi sensory environments, the two media are treated with equal respect. The visual elements were of great importance because they created a dispute as to whether the pieces were truly musical or just environments (Duckworth 104). Dream House is a ce ntral piece for my project because of the sound light relationship. The visual aspect fuses with sound so well that the two seem indivisible. One can experience this piece thinking that the concept of light and the concept of sound are tied into each other but the two are not really on a one to one response plane. However, if one were to explore a way to make it on a one to one direct relationship, Dream House seems be a good route to take. Dream House can permit music after many years of constant sound, t o have a life and tradition all on its own. It allows music to drive itself by its own momentum in order for people to experience something new about sound (Riley 10). We could view sound as an entity or visitor on our planet that can have a life of its ow n. The lives of sound differ according to how a creator presents sound. Young and Zazeela has shown how light can be seen as crutches' for sound as sound is sustained.
26 Senior Project: Waves: An exploration of sound and light After learning about the myste rious nature behind sound, I chose to experiment with the sister medium of light to explain how sound works. There are very few ways to explain how sound works, including, words, sound repetition, sustaining sound, dance, or video. I would like to see soun d in a different "light" and find out how our experience and understanding of sound can change by putting sound in the context of light and performance. My senior project, Waves: An exploration of sound and light, took place on April 24, 2009 and a Post Sc ript describing the performance and its results. How to connect sound to light The most basic connection between sound and light is movement, as we have learned from the physics of sound waves and light waves and within different art repertoires. "Sound i s only emitted when action takes place. Without action, there exists merely the music of everyday life," said composer Wolf Vostell (Bosseur 109). The central method by which I connect the two is simple: I put a mirror like object (mylar, compact discs, wa ter, even glitter) on a loud speaker, put a lamp in front of the mirror, and have the loud speaker activate sounds (Fig 1a, Fig 1b).
27 Fig. 1a Sound unit with mylar (Photo by Boelang Moleah) Fig. 1b Mylar and Compac t disc on a Speaker unit (Photo by Kipp Whitaker) The result is light reflected onto a wall, and the reflection moves simultaneously to the sound movements. This is one of the few ways I have chosen to connect light and sound. Although we cannot see the w aves propagating through the air, we can see how each sound wave affects the reflected light.
28 There will be several of these sound light reflecting units scattered in different areas of the gallery. Each will feature a different pre recorded sound and som e will consist of an extra light to sound unit, called a photoresistor oscillator. I constructed this homemade instrument using the book, Homemade Electronic Instruments: The art of hardware hacking by Nicolas Collins. This electronic device is a simple o scillator (sound producing instrument) that uses a CMOS Hex Schmitt Trigger microchip to produce clicks. The speed of the clicks is resisted or controlled by a light sensitive component called a photoresistor. The faster the clicks, the higher the tone. Th us, the unit is a light sensitive sound producing instrument. I strategically place the photoresistors where the light will hit and change over time. I find this unit interesting because it has the ability to give a spectator the idea that light can trans late into sound. When the two units are placed together, they become like an orchestra. Placed together, the photoresistor oscillator detects the movements of the light reflecting off of the vibrating loudspeaker. There is a strong circular relationship be tween the sound and the light, which can potentially leave spectators questioning how we interpret our environments with a synaesthetic process. Again, with this unit, you can first discover that what you see (light reflections) is moving to what you hear (sound from loudspeakers) and take a step further to hear from another loudspeaker (photoresistor oscillator) what you see. This ideal cycle should reveal how one can experience the connection between the two media. Not only hearing sound but seeing it can increase our awareness and understanding of the abstractions in sound.
29 The colored balloons The audience's first experience of the sound light environment will be just outside the gallery space in the arcade grass area. I envision this space having dozen s of colorful helium filled balloons filled with LED lights. This portion of the environment will be silent, but will serve as an introduction to how I want the audience to experience this entire environment. Silence is interpreted just as much as sound. T his will be a seemingly silent act but it will still have sounds, as did La Monte Young's Fire Piece There is sound all around us when there is perceived silence, we just have to chose to listen. This area in the environment is an obstacle for the ears be cause our ears rely on our eyes to find the source of sound. However, being that there is no immediate sound, our ears may fail and our eyes dominate our perceptions. The danger of a visual dominance is strongest in the beginning of the whole environment b ecause by the end of the performance/environment we learn to appreciate sound in all its wonder and mystery. The balloons have the impression of stillness, which is false and at times there is lucid movement from the balloons from wind. Movement is signif icant but subtle in this portion of the project. This correlates to the perceived silence of sound. There are sounds emanating from everywhere constantly, though most are inaudible to the human ear just as the movements from the balloons at times are invis ible to the human eye. After studying the potential visual nature of sound, I believe that movement is the key to effecting a correspondence between sound and light. There will be a delicate feel to this portion, which invites audiences to take the time to embrace it.
30 Inside vs. Outside space I also want to touch upon the concept of inside space versus outside space of theatres mentioned in Gay McAuley's book, Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre The purpose of this is because I use th e outside space (the colored balloons in the arcade area) as the entrance and introduction to my installation/performance, Waves McAuley mentions that some theatres are known for their outside space to be more visually appealing than other theatres' exter iors and some deny spectators the opportunity to experience theatre space from the outside at all. If people use a building, they should relate the inside to the outside especially theaters. Theatres are known to be inwardly focused and therefore should ta ke advantage of this convention (McAuley 48). Theatre, as an art form, uses the concept of the onstage/offstage relationship, which correlates to the concept of inside and outside space. Other binary features about theatre that connect to the inside/outsid e concept is the theatre building itself and its surroundings, and its use in presenting fictional worlds what is real/not real. All theatres have different ways of distinguishing between their inside and outside environments by blending, overpowering, or just becoming lost within it. "Each provide a different experience of crossing the threshold for the theatergoers, and require a different kind of physical and mental effort" (McAuley 51). In my project, the outside space is a representation of the inside space. I interpreted this representation of the inside space to be an introduction of the environment since the environment is a visual and aural time based work. An audience member can choose to enter from the other side, but will not experience the work the way I intended an audience member to experience the program as a whole. Inside space is
31 where an audience member feels situated and will feel the work moving towards a goal. As in theatrical and musical settings, the people become situated in a chair. In visual arts, spectators are situated in the gallery space and are free to choose which piece to look at first. My intention is to mix several ways of approaching exhibition spaces. Audiences are meant to enter from the front of the gallery space, move through the hallway space of the gallery, and then into the big and small room area. They are free to revisit any area and experience different parts in different ways. Physics of physical space I am also creating other units, such as the sound light spa ce area in the hallway of the gallery. This section consists of a stream of LED lights that are coordinated to the sound of passerby's footsteps. The equipment will consist of two Christmas chasing lights and an amplified speaker. A relay switch will cause electrical pulses to turn on the lights instead of sending the electrical signals to the speaker. I will mix twenty contact microphones placed under a wooden boards on the floor of the forty foot long hallway into a mixer and out into two sets of spea kers, each speaker thus having a set of chasing Christmas lights attached. The lights have a chasing or pulse effect that will correspond to the sound waves that move in the hallway shaped space. I will also turn the hallway into a mylar tunnel to reflect the lights all over the space (Fig 4). This is another way I chose to translate sound movement into light movement. A spectator can become aware that she affects the sound and the lighting of her environment. This will be their second experience of the sou nd and light environment.
32 Fig. 4 Mylar Tunnel (Photo by Boelang Moleah) Colored Light Synthesizer Inside the space, the gallery consists of the hallway, the main room, and then finally the small side room. The main open room will b e the main performance area and will have the most eclectic of sound light units. It includes the main units previously mentioned (mylar speaker with light reflections, and photoresistor oscillators) and it will have a colored light synthesizer. The colore d light synthesizer has historical precedents that inspired its construction. As mentioned earlier in my paper, color organs were invented in the hopes of directly translating pitch into color. I wanted to have this instrument in my work to further convinc e my audience that there is a way to understand sound through light. Associating pitch to a color gives the sounds in music a greater
33 depth and language for us to perceive. Pitch and color, discussed earlier in the paper, have many similarities to wave int ensity and speed. It is obvious to me that music is characteristic of colors and vice versa. My aim is that audiences will experience sound art in a musical context. This instrument references music and the visual arts more directly than any other unit thr oughout the project. The connection between the two thus becomes powerful enough to make new discoveries of how one listens to what one sees. The instrument was constructed by using a micro controller and open source electronics prototyping platform base d on flexible hardware and software called, Arduino. An Arduino can sense an environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. I programmed the Arduino using softwar e and used an interface to have a pitch signal turn on a certain colored LED light (light emitting diode). The color programmed to a pitch is previously assigned subjectively. Using the methods of Alexander Wallace Rimingtion, Claude Bragdon, and others, c ertain pitch wavelength with equal ratios to the color spectrum can be calculated to be equated through numbers. It is important to recognize that these are not direct equivalences, but mental associations with how they can seem equal. Mathematics can show parallels but not translations. The color pitch simultaneity is used to simulate a direct correspondence so that the audience can experience sound differently. I find that this way of associating sound to a colored light is effective because audience's at tention towards sound will be grabbed by the wide array of visual stimuli. The wavelength of each band of color in the visible spectrum (measured in nanometers, nm) can be divided in half repeatedly until the vibration rate comes within the octaves of the audible spectrum (measured in Hertz, Hz). The pitches C, D, E, F, G,
34 A, and B, equate to Yellow, Green, Blue Green, Blue, Black, Violet, Orange. This is an individual choice to use this mathematical way of corresponding pitch to color, but the end result o f the pitch color phenomena is a reflective and dynamic experience. The small room flooded with sound and light The last portion of my project involves the small space, a room filled with projections of water ripples on each wall. At the center is two spe akers hanging over a clear tank filled with water (Fig 5). Fig. 5 Water Ripple Tank (Photo by Pamela Z) Under the tank are four light bulbs connected to two motion detectors. They were aimed through the tank and onto each wall. Loud s ounds from the speaker will disturb the water and cause ripple waves. Projections of the wave motions will be on the walls. I also took advantage of this space and how sound would travel within its small volume. Sound travels in a more complex way in small er perimeters than in a large room, or hallway, or outdoors. Sound will fill the room at a higher volume because of the lack of travel space. Thus, I will literally flood the room with light projections of wave motion coordinating to the sound waves. I wan t the viewer/listener to be metaphorically submerged in this room
35 and feel, see, and hear the vibrations. This is a special portion of the project because sound holds such close proximity to the light and spectator. The smaller room is the compact version of what we all experience in our daily environments: visual images coordinating to sound and all kinds of electromagnetic waves surrounding our bodies. Audiences' bodies interrupt this environment abruptly when their shadows disrupt the light projections o n the wall. For this reason, I chose to have the bodies interrupt the sound as well using the motion detectors. Our bodies constantly disrupt and change the environment because of the electromagnetic waves repelling from any object. The motion detectors fu rther argue that our movements affect our environment visually and sonically. Thus, the audience can affect the environment and the environment and can affect audiences' experience with this sound and light unit. Multi Media Performances or Events I will i nclude three events that include performers, for the reason that this will be a space used for the expression of sound using visual correspondences. Music, dance, film, and theater all have the visual expressions of sound. Movement is essential and inevita ble in any performance, whether it is labeled as music, dance, film, or theater. The opening performance involves two performers with stringed costumes (Fig 6a), a large homemade string instrument (Fig 6b) and projected live footage of a speaker with color ed liquid cornstarch on top of a speaker cone. I am going to include this performance because I want to have the most basic, direct, and acoustic form of sound oscillation: string vibrations. I will emphasize the string oscillation by using glow in the dar k paint on the string of the instrument and place a black light next to it. This will show the movements of the string oscillation, to further press the idea of using visual enrichments of sound to
36 change our perception and awareness of sound. I will add a pick up to the instrument and amplify the sounds through the speaker, which will have white liquid on top. The instrument will be played by one performer as another will add different colors to the white liquid in the speaker coordinated to the changes in pitch. I will have a projected image behind them of the speaker to add a more visually rich atmosphere to the performance. If people see more of a sound they may also hear more in that sound. Fig 6a Stringed Suit (Photo by Kipp Wh itaker)
37 Fig 6b Stringed Box (Photo by Boelang Moleah) The second performance, will involve what I like to call mylar on drums'. Drums will be placed in front of four photoresistors that are connected, once again, to an oscillator. A stage lamp will be in front of the drums (Fig 7). My movements from drumming will of course change the oscillation of the four photoresistors just by blocking the light. I will be wearing a mylar costume to emphasize movement with reflecting light off of the complex folds and movements of the mylar suit.
38 Fig 7 Mylar on Drums (Photo by Pamela Z) As a drummer, I have always valued movement the visual element of drumming. The act of drumming can have an intense energy like no other pe rformance and can really bring sounds together. Therefore, drumming is a way to make the energy between light and sound come together. I enjoy looking at the movement of mylar and because throughout this whole environment there will be mylar on speakers, w alls, and floors, I want to make it seem like the mylar came to life. My Independent Study Project in 2008 inspired this performance. I was interested in the cyclical relationship between a drummer and music. A drummer normally follows what she hears, but in this project the drummer is simultaneously changing the sound by her movements. The struggle with following and leading sounds is what leads me to use this work in my senior project. The following and leading between performer and visual audible cues sh ould parallel the audience's struggle between perceiving the simultaneity of visual and aural stimuli.
39 The final performance/grand finale will have many layers. A performer will be introduced in the outside space. This performer will have a gigantic infla table blue suit that will be lit up inside by LED lights (Fig 8a). This costume represents the importance of air as the medium to connect light and sound. The way the performer moves is equally vital because the air like aesthetic should move as if it weig hed nothing, expressing the fluidity of air and blurring the lines between the dichotomy of the arts and music. This performance is more theatrical than any other portion of the project, and I want the theatrical element to be very clear. This ball of air will end up at the colored light keyboard in the big room. Then the performer will play the keyboard while having a projection of the oscilloscope behind him (Fig 8b). The oscilloscope reads electrical signals such as sound and will convey what the sound w aves look like coming out of the keyboard. The keyboard is also attached to the Arduino, which is programmed to make a pitch from the keyboard signal a colored LED light. The lights are inside five balloons placed near the performer. This will be the bigge st of visual displays and brings the whole project together. Movement is clearly the connection between light and sound. Light and sound are represented through the colored light keyboard. One can view this somewhat as an orchestra of different visual medi a. This portion of the project may have the danger of the visual stimuli overbearing the sound. However, at this point the audience learns that the light motions are the vibrations and wave movement sound.
40 Fig 8a Giant Inflatable suit (Photo by Kipp Whitaker) Fig 8b Projection of the Oscilloscope onto ceiling (Photo by Kipp Whitaker) This performance was heavily influenced by the internationally acclaimed visual theatre production of Slava's Snowshow in 2008. It is the most spectacular, breathtaking performance I have ever experienced. It is a combination of clowning and dreaming with the emphasis on the absurdity of life. It has the capability to turn adults into children
41 instantaneously by firing the imagination This Russian fantastical performance is similar to Cirque Du Soleil and is created by Slava Polunin, clown artist extraordinaire. Snowshow is an ensemble of clowns that lacks a narrative thread and dialogue, but has a magical way of engaging emotions and affects through large and small scale props, lighting, movements, costumes, music, and sounds. At times you'll feel like you're in storm of snow, in water, cobwebs, and bubbles. It is also highly interactive given that clowns come from the stage into the audience's space and also by moving large scale cobwebs, balls, and lots and lots of snowflakes (tissue) into the audience. What I found most influential is how the movements of performers, coordinated to the sound and lighting effects, made the visual and aural experience that much more capturing. There was slow and miniscule movement that challenged audiences' expectations always leaving audiences with suspense and curiosity much like children. In a surreal art form, the clowns changed their size from sma ll to large, clowns threw balls the size of cars at the audience, objects were floating mysteriously in midair, and that is only the beginning of what I could describe of this surreal performance. There was an art behind this way of presenting visual thea tre and I knew I had to include it in my project. I knew I could use a fantasy like element to this portion along with an airy feel to the movements of a balloon performer. As in Slava's Snowshow I want there to be some form of audience interaction with t he performer in my project so as to parallel the interaction between sound and light. I also enjoyed the use of costumes and how the characters engaged the audience with their costumes and ridiculous nature.
42 Waves Post Script April 24, 2009 There were man y plusses and few minuses to the final product of the production of my senior project. The most accurate and fulfilling portions of the project were the lit balloons, the mylar light tunnel, and the mylar drummer performance. They were all close to how I i magined they would be. The problematic portions of the project were the liquid cornstarch filled speaker for the string oscillation performance, the water sound ripple tank room, and the size of the audience. The comments and remarks from the audience memb ers were mainly written down on note cards but were also told to me in person or through email. I originally wanted to have the speaker for the string oscillation performance filled with liquid cornstarch so that one of the performers would fill the speak er with different colors. The liquid cornstarch color would change according to every new pitch plucked by the stringed box. I wanted to enhance the audiences' associations with pitch and image by using these colors and strange formations in the cornstarch The vibrations of the speaker make the cornstarch create these very organic formations and ripples on the surface. Instead, I had to use glitter as the visual display of three dimensional sound, which ended up becoming a very successful alternative. Many people said it was a very clever way to display sound visually. One student, named John Ewing, said, "the glitter in the speaker cone was beautiful and also an excellent way to visually represent sound to people who might not know what a sound wave looks like". As Brian Eno would say, "Honor thy mistake as a hidden intention" (Tamm 6). The next mishap was the water sound room, which had the ripple tank. This room was supposed to have water ripples caused by vibrating speakers projected on all sides of
43 the room from four lights. Unfortunately, the water was not shallow enough and the lights flooded the space so much to the point of blurring any image of ripples in the water. I was disappointed in the fact that this did not work especially because of the mai n concept I had with the tank, which is sound waves flood our spaces at all times. The light projected images of the sound waves did not invade that room at all, which did not convey my concept. Even though the water sound room disappointed me, renowned co mposer Pamela Z said "it was my favorite partit was a surprisingly elegant piece in comparison to the circuit bender aesthetic in the main room. It was also a great way of explaining the concept behind the thesis". I heard very positive comments about th e small water room, which took me by surprise. People took their time with this portion by looking at the waves in the water and "felt very at peace," said one New College student. The most salient issue at hand was the amount of people in the gallery. So me said "it was very difficult to move" and others said "I could not see most of what was going on". If I were to do this installation again it would definitely have to be in a larger space. I also really wish I had stages for the performances, which could of really helped out the large crowd to see. However, student John Ewing said, "the way that you had things go on from all directions ensured that no matter where you were standing, you would get at least one moment when you were standing in the front row ". It was fortunate that I did have performances in three different areas of the main gallery space and they were all back to back, so no one had time to move to the other end of the room by the beginning of the next performance. The most successful port ion of the installation was the mylar tunnel. I found that it worked wonderfully for everyone. Some people were saying things like "it was fun to
44 watch the excitement on peoples faces when they realized that they could control it." I also heard things like "some people started dancing and jumping around wildly. It was great." I was also pleased by the "Mylar on Drums" performance. From the movement towards the drums to the last strike on the snare, some people said it was their favorite performance. I had no complaints at all with this portion because my concept was conveyed exactly how I intended: my movements blocked light, which changed the sound and ultimately changed my drumming performance. A lot could have gone wrong, such as a major cable was not pl ugged in or I could have lost a drum stick or even had my mylar mask come off or the photoresistor oscillator could have run out of batteries. I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do in the costume (move dramatically and intensely) and in the situatio n of having a large crowd (move smoothly to the performing space). I did not have to compromise any kind of mistakes. Overall, the final product, Waves, was a very positive and satisfying experience for me. From the little that I did hear from the audienc e, they were able to understand the meaning of my project without being told what they were experiencing. Some complained that they did not fully understand the use of costume and some complained about not being able to see some of the performances. I do w ish I given more information about the whole piece by providing more programs and artist statements. I should have made more copies or have spoken about it before it began. However, this could have changed their experience of "discovering" the concept. The y seem to have enjoyed finding out for themselves what it all meant. The audience also seemed to have judged the piece as its own physical mass of work and not as individual sounds that culminate in a song or several works of music. One student emailed the ir comment that said, "It was
45 more like a museum that introduced this new way of expressing sound, which is through image and light." Another person told me it was more like a massive science project that had a "circus feel" to it. New College alumnus Just in Crowell said "the direct visual interpretation of sound made objects react rather than calculate a response. It has an organic feel." I was glad to have read that because it shows that the issue of converting sound into light could never truly happen. H owever, as Justin learned, light can "react" to sound if there were certain objects placed correctly together, such as mylar on speakers or speakers in water. When this happens, light and image can simulate sound in a visual world, which is what the audien ce was able to experience. After hearing and reading the comments, I learned that people can get the most excited about seeing sound through interaction and theatrical performances. Conclusion I have always believed in capturing audiences' ear by using th eir eyes. Many works by Fluxus artists use repeated sounds, sustained sounds, and even loud sounds to induce physical sensation of sound. The work of La Monte Young especially used these methods to involve the audience into undertaking deep awareness of so und. It is no wonder that his work evolved into using the eye for listening and "getting inside" sound. The true astonishment of seeing sound through light and performance is that we can connect ideas about sound to other thoughts about images. Audiences were judging sound on a different level other than music or other than an audible realm of judgment. I think that listening is thought provoking but seeing and listening can compel profound and deeper reflective thought.
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