Quadrangle
2005

Quadrangle takes as its starting point Richter's Rhythmus '21 (1921), one of the first visual music films, built from animated overlaid rectangles and squares that move from side to side, and forwards and backwards within the frame, creating an illusion of depth. The logic of the spatial organisation and of the accumulation of visual shapes, is as the title suggests underpinned by a musical form, the Bach fugue (Robertson, 2009). Rhythmus '21 was originally shown without a soundtrack and as with Eggeling's sister piece, Diagonal-Symphonie, the musical metaphor “is made the stronger by Eggeling's insistence that his film be shown silent” (Rees, 1999, pp 37). Adding music can turn metaphor into illustration, or be used to substantiate claims of synaesthesia. Digital mapping offers the potential to side step these problems, by producing both sound and image from the same data, but enabling an element of arbitrary correlation.

A patch was built in Max (Cycling 74) to generate quasi-random, trills, runs and staccato bursts of data, punctuated by moments of silence. This information was then mapped to control the animation of the white square, and via MIDI, a synthesizer. As the electronic music starts and stops, so simultaneously the white square performs a synchronised spatial choreography: changing colour, moving across the frame, advancing and retreating, and producing a variety of grid like patterns.

To offest the synaesthetic, an arbitrary element was introduced by keeping the sound parameters the same throughout the piece, whilst the visual mapping parameters are changed (at various points). So for example in one section a data trill will produces a particular electronic sound, corresponding with the white square moving across the screen, whilst later, the same data causes the square to rotate, whilst the sound remains the same. The result is to continually question sound and image causality, and counter suggestions of literalness

Screened at: Island Art Film & Video Festival, London, UK (2005), PROG:ME New Media Festival, Brazil (2005), Lumen, Leeds, UK (2006), Visual Music Marathon, Boston, USA (2007).

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