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Stephen Malinowski has posted streaming vids
of his Music Animation Machine, a program he developed independently in the '80s using DOS while the music and graphic worlds changed all around him
. Fans of Oskar Fischinger, the pioneer, art Deco music animator hired and fired for Disney's Fantasia
, and Edward Tufte, the design guru who stresses clean, logical presentation of visual information, should both be impressed by this project. Compositions by Bach, Beethoven, etc. slowly scroll left to right in a notation that looks like a MIDI editing grid, reduced to a range of basic colors against a black field. Malinowksi highlights the parts playing in the present in the center of the field, so the eye can easily follow all the melody lines.
The project is intended to give the viewer an intuitive sense of what's happening in music, ostensibly for educational purposes, but the scrolls are also artworks on the synesthetic frontier, tickling those synapses where musical and visual pleasure responses precisely overlap.
Only one of the videos posted is Malinowski's own music, and it hints at creative possibilities for his medium beyond just animating the old masters. Somewhere to the right of the screen shot here a dense Lego-like clump scrolls by for just about as long as the ear wants to hear pure Lego, before returning to the tonal main theme. The deliberate push-pull between melody and abstraction, and between audial and ocular expectations, is territory that ought to be explored more. (Hat tip for the link to Cory Arcangel, whose own work deals with similar issues on an aggressive, cinematic scale, and with electro instead of Beethoven.)