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This is a journal I keep to record all things I do within the realm of filmmaking.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Music for the Deaf, by Jared Caldwell

By 1924, Viking Eggeling had completed what most consider his masterpiece: Diagonale Symphonie, or “Diagonal Symphony”. Diagonale Symphonie is a black and white film created solely out of linear animated lines and curves. This “symphony” of line movement creates what some consider to be “visual music”. Diagonale Symphonie is one of the first in a wave of Dada films that uses abstract animation through film to capture a symphony of music through visual means.

Eggeling, originally a painter, committed most of his life's research to the “theory of art based on a language of linear forms”. He would take elements found in nature, such as rocks, grass, trees, and the sky, and distill their forms into basic geometric shapes. Eggeling used these basic derived elements of nature to create a kind of pictorial language through abstraction. His research became a progression of using these elements with the “notion of counterpoint of linear elements”. The pictorial “language” he created juxtaposed with elements with opposite meaning (i.e. Large to small, few to many, increasing to decreasing), formed a “'creative marriage of contrast and analogy'”. The use of counterpoint within these linear hieroglyphs were intended to create expression. The final element to achieve in Eggeling's work was the sense of temporality.

In Diagonale Symphonie, Viking Eggeling brings his paintings and drawings to life in animated sequences. “One motif follows another, each presented with the diagrammatic clarity of a blackboard drawing, all arranged along a diagonal axis.” Eggeling takes his pictorial language of lines and curves and presents them in a way to convey rhythm, contrast, temporality, and counterpoint. The pictographs and gestures start of small, slow, and simple; then, the rhythm picks up, and the images and gestures become more exaggerated. These gestures compose a song and dance of sorts with these “curves and straight lines [that] sprout and retract in a regular rhythm, one answering the other”.

According to Richter, both he and Eggeling believed that “'music became the model...every action produces a corresponding reaction”. The thought of counterpoint is well integrated into music. The gestures of counterpoint in Diagonale Symphonie, along with rhythm, create the sense of visual music. A musical structure is solidly in place. A beat or pulse is created by the rhythm of the movement of the pictographs. Crescendo, decrescendo, and accents can be seen with the ebb and flow of the counterpoint gestures. Legato and staccato are composed by the duration of the images in the film. One can experience a visual symphony without the use of any music.

Diagonale Symphonie is an important venture into the realm of avant-garde filmmaking. Not only is Diagonale Symphonie constructed in a way completely different from the normal conventions of film, other genre's such as painting and music are incorporated to create a meaningful visual experience. Diagonale Symphonie is an atypical approach to filmmaking and succeeds in creating music through a visual symphony.

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