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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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Monday, May 14, 2007

Thoughts on the Whitney's by Jared Caldwell

After the inception of visual music during the Dada era of the 1920's and 30's, other artists started to experiment with different ways in which sound could be translated into images. Two such artists were John Whitney and James Whitney. Dadaists such as Hans Richter and Viking Eggling composed works of visual music such as Symphony Diagonale through hand drawn or cutout animation. During the WWII and post-WWII era, the Whitney's created their own devices to compose their works. On the cusp of the computer age, the Whitney's used analogue and optical apparatuses to produce their films. What tools that didn't exist or weren't made readily available, the brother would create themselves. With the use of a pendulum to produce electronic tones, created by John, and an optical printer, the Whitney's were able to use light to “animate” their movies. These composed films are described by Brougher as “sound is image, and image is sound, with no fundamental difference”.

From the early 1950's onward, the Whitney brothers delved into studies and experiments on visual representations of music. During this time of a technological Renaissance, towards the end of and immediately following after WWII, mathematical patterns, eastern metaphysics, and atomic energy were a major influence on the Whitney's, and are prevalent throughout the Whitney's works.

In James Whitney's Lapis, light, color, movement, and sound are used to create the work. Considered by Rougher to be “[o]ne of the great visual-music works”, James uses a series of perforated index cards to filter a light source, onto which an optical printer (created by John) records the movements and patterns of the light to create Lapis. In the work, the images are reduced to their “most basic fundamental state—essentially [points] of light”. These particles of light, bearing semblance to representations of atomic particles, are placed into patterns and shift position, color, brightness and transparency compelled by sitar music. The symmetric shapes and highly saturated color schemes used in Lapis are influenced by mathematics and eastern culture. This blending of music, mathematics, energy, and metaphysics creates a web of “truths”, in “'an attempt to approximate mind forms'”. James thought that these particles and their behavior based on harmonic movements were a way of creating a head space in which to contemplate the cosmos.

The brothers are an example of what it truly means to be part of the avant-garde; the Whitney's were at the forefront of visual music from the 1950's onward. With the creation of original optical devices and electronic tone producers, the Whitney's were able to erect these apparatuses to create truly original works in ways that no other filmmakers working in visual music had before. Meshing together technology, art, eastern philosophies, mathematics, and light, the Whitney's facilitate an environment in their films to show energy and how it is interconnected with all of these elements within visual music.

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