I thought once of abandoning my usual practice of accompanying musical compositions with visual imagery when I post them online. The predominant theory on this forum seems to be that “absolute” music is no better than “programmatic music,” that is, music attached to some kind of story, series of images or sensuous input. I have revised this work presented once before, and this time collated a series of thematically linked images to enhance or highlight certain musical elements. I suppose in most cases, “programmatic music” is composed with some kind of story, drama, or definable scene ALREADY IN MIND. That’s always the case with tone poems, ballets and operas, of course. I almost never compose that way, though I do often contemplate what images, mythical archetypes, ideas or story fragments MIGHT conceivably accompany music AFTER I write it. One can see (and hear) a specific result in this audio-video: Trigrammic Prognostications for Trombones, Strings and Wind Instruments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KriCHxLLJZA&list=UUwhfJAuCe2jSoyq8FlU_z7g My question for the forum, is not simply about the music or sounds themselves. It’s a question about the so-called “Gesamtkunstwerk,” or the idea that various arts should work together in order to have a greater impact. This view was foreshadowed in stage presentations by Gluck, and later, Wagner tried to work out the theory to guide him while he composed his greatest operas. In more modern times, a collaboration between Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenakis and Edgard Varese produced a sort of Gesamtkunstwerk, which is described in a short documentary, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY5gQYfJe68&list=RDCY5gQYfJe68#t=312 Architecture, photography, painting and music were combined to create the Poem Electronique. For a rough approximation of that work, as it might have looked like, you can view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQKyYmU2tPg&list=RDCY5gQYfJe68&index=2 Varese-Edgard-and-Le-Corbusier_Poeme-Electronique_1958 So my question is this: Is it wise (or even theoretically almost necessary today) to enhance a musical presentation with accompanying photography, paintings, or architectural surroundings? In the case of the work I am posting here, “Trigrammic Prognostications,” I am asking: do the visual images actually improve, highlight, or positively accentuate aspects of the music, to create an improved aesthetic experience, that one might not have without the images? Or is it the case that the music, in and of itself, best stands alone and apart from any externally attached sensuous input? I am wondering now, when I produce music, if I should make two versions, (1) a video with imagery, and (2) a second video with a blank screen, or simply on a site like soundcloud or picosong, where there is really not much visually to “distract.” Then there is the additional question of whether to post (3) a version of the work with accompanying moving visual scores, and / or “piano rolls,” using camtasia or other similar software. Abstract accompaniments, that provide the content of the piece in some notated form, are often useful and interesting, but mostly only to other musicians and composers (whereas real visual images, in the form of photos of natural scenes, of other artworks—paintings, architecture, sculpture—or geometric patterns, are often more appealing to the non specialist). It’s a relatively important question, in a world where multi-media are so easily accessed and attached to any kind of production. Yet I don’t know that the issue has been discussed very much here, or at least as much as I would like to see it discussed.

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  • 'Koi on a Squat Sea' (sic) is a work I would probably have had a hard time relating to without both elements, I can say. Serious speculation on this is a bit above my pay-grade, but I think I can add this much: I've found it to be the case that more modern music (this video you've posted, for another example), such as atonal, ambient, etc., is often more easily accessible with a more or less precise visual element wedded to it (pun intended, I reckon) than without. I've noticed it can give me something to hang my hat on. Whether I've actually hit the peg, or simply thrown it on the floor unawares, is another thing, of course, but at least it enabled me to make an attempt at it. So, yes, at least in this instance, it did enhance the experience.   

  • I heard the piece without looking at the video, and I'm glad I did so.

    I liked the music very much!

    It reminded me somehow of Xenakis' "Metastasis", but more tonal in character. (Not to be overstretched this view of mine).

    I heard it a 2nd time watching the video. It did not increase my enjoyment any more so I'm glad that I did not watch it the first time. I don’t object to the visual aspect but this is primarily a piece of music to me, so a score of the piece would be much more appreciated.

    I cannot connect the audio to the visual material and I found it rather irritating that I should have to watch it. It may be a danger there, Ondib, that it destructs listeners from appreciating your music or message. Is your message a composite of sound and image? If yes, then I missed the point, if not let it be just sound.

    I am not against using visual material, but I think sometimes that it's free at our disposal so we use it.

    On the other hand I want to use it for some compositions too. There I would prefer to create my own specific visual for the needs of any particular piece that I have in mind, and still music and (if vocal) poetry would contain my main message with the usual aspect playing the supporting role.

    You pause a very difficult question. It needs a lot of thinking.

    Thank you for pausing it and thanks for sharing your music.

  • Bob Porter said,

    “I think the order needs to be the other way around. An audio/visual presentation should be visuals supported by audio. I think most of us are affected more by what we see than what we hear. So putting a series of royalty free slides to a piece of music does what , exactly? I think doing that limits our interpretation of what we are hearing. We are forced to go down the road chosen by the composers' slides. We cannot form our own opinions.”

    I genuinely applaud your well-considered thoughts on this point. And I often think the exact same thing. On the other hand, any staging, of an opera, ballet-- or appeal to the use of senses other than hearing by the director, conductor or composer—it all has the same effect, doesn’t it?

    Have you ever heard a lover of classical music say, “Why do I want to go to a concert hall and see a bunch of bald old men (and/or bald women) move their bows back and forth, and spit into their ugly instruments—when I can close my eyes and listen to the divine music?" Or, "I’d just as soon hear it on the radio.” "Why watch the conductor's back, as he waves his baton?" They have a point, I think.

    Doesn’t the image of what happens during a concert performance distract as much as anything else? And of course, staging in operas and ballets are equally “manipulative,” and distract from musical content.

    “This is why I don't like to listen to music from the forum on YouTube.”

    Again, I think that is perfectly reasonable and understandable. One can always turn down the screen brightness to zero. I do that sometimes, if I don’t like what I am seeing.

    “The composer will put up some slides that may or may not fit their music.”

    Very true. This is always a problem. I often notice though, in ballet, or in opera, or the concert performance (where there may be some kind of visual stimulus) the image may not “fit the music.” I have heard it said, that many of the truly transcendent ballet scores (like Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe) are so beautiful, that no choreography can live up to the music. Many people love Wagner, but don’t like to watch the opera on stage, because the physical appearance of a bunch of ordinary looking (or even less than average looking human beings), however well they sing, will destroy the beauty of the music. That’s the danger of relying too much on the use of the physical eyes rather than on the eye of the imagination. Music’s entire strength may be in its ability to free us from certain “limitations” of materiality. (At least, that’s what Schopenhauer thought, and Wagner agreed, though he obviously could not dispense with the “use” of human bodies when staging performances of his operas).

    I think you see both sides of the problem very clearly, and you also see how visuals can be beneficial, if great care is taken. I appreciate your remarks. Thank you.

    I have not yet read the other comments, but I will and I will respond to those later. Thanks to all who have posted so far.

  • I recently ran into a similar problem.

    I was listening to this Schuman piece but barely heard it

    due to   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jbHbDena_U  the video, particularly the pianist.  Go figure...... R S  

  • Thank you, Socrates, for your very generous and supportive remarks.

    You said, “I heard the piece without looking at the video, and I'm glad I did so.
    I liked the music very much! It reminded me somehow of Xenakis' "Metastasis", but more tonal in character. (Not to be overstretched this view of mine).”

    Metastasis is one of my favorite pieces by Xenakis. I did not have it specifically in mind when I wrote this, but I am sure it “influenced” me, if only subconsciously. I went back and listened to it again, and I saw a few similarities that were interesting particularly the slow speed of the glissandi and the use of a bell at one point. I think you are right in saying my piece is reminiscent in some ways of Metastasis, and also in pointing out that it is “more tonal” sounding. That is no doubt due to the chord structure, which is simply based on the shape of the Chinese trigrams and hexagrams, which are spread out and compressed at various times throughout the work, superimposed and merged and separated. The “trigrammic chord” by itself (without pitch gliding) will often sound very tonal, and can have the same structure as a C – E – G chord, when it is in its “yang” form, and stationary.

    I appreciated your comments on the visual aspects of my question.

    “I heard it a 2nd time watching the video. It did not increase my enjoyment any more so I'm glad that I did not watch it the first time. I don’t object to the visual aspect but this is primarily a piece of music to me, so a score of the piece would be much more appreciated.”

    I can understand what you are saying. It’s difficult to produce a score for a work like this (See the discussion Kristofer Emerig and I are having under his thread, Symphony in C, pantonal, where we analyze this difficulty in some detail).

    “I cannot connect the audio to the visual material and I found it rather irritating that I should have to watch it.”

    You shouldn’t have to watch it, of course. It’s meant to be optional.

    “It may be a danger there, Ondib, that it distracts listeners from appreciating your music or message. Is your message a composite of sound and image? If yes, then I missed the point, if not let it be just sound.”

    Understood. For me, in this piece, the “message” is best gained via the apprehension of sound structures, and the photos are afterthoughts and loosely connected with the compositional ideas, as a mere ornament, perhaps, or as images for people who simply like that sort of thing. One can read more into it if one chooses to, or less.

    “I am not against using visual material, but I think sometimes that it's free at our disposal so we use it. On the other hand I want to use it for some compositions too. There I would prefer to create my own specific visual for the needs of any particular piece that I have in mind, and still music and (if vocal) poetry would contain my main message with the visual aspect playing the supporting role.”

    I agree. I simply used visuals that I found appealing and changed them in way to correspond to mood changes in the piece, though in a vague way. Most of these images were simply connected with the larger outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), some of their satellites (Ganymede, Titan, Triton) and a few mythological images related to the gods corresponding to the names of the celestial bodies. (Statue of Ganymede; Temple of Zeus). Ligeti and Holst were in my thinking at times during the composition process, which had a tenuous connection to the selection of these photos. Sometimes after I compose a piece of music, my choice of visual materials will have a more deliberate purpose, but even then, they are inserted into an iMovie program after the fact, after the music is already fully composed and put into its final form, for all practical purposes.

    “You pause a very difficult question. It needs a lot of thinking.
    Thank you for pausing it and thanks for sharing your music.”

    I offer you my thanks for taking the time out to listen and comment.

    Σας ευχαριστώ για την προσοχή σας

    P.S. for Roger. Yes, I saw the Schuman video, and I understand what you mean. Taking everything into a account, and making allowances for all factors, that dress was simply too tight for the pianist.

  • Please do not feel at all "let down." I agree with your thoughts about the synthesizer, "synthesized sounds," and the nature of the violin versus the synthesizer. I agree 100 per cent.

    In actual fact, I believe the computer synthesized instruments are indistinguishable from the so called real ones (and if they are not yet, they will be soon).

    I certainly believe, a synthesized violin played over the internet sounds just as "real" as a genuine physical violin heard over the internet or certainly over the radio.

    In practice, I believe in blending the sounds that are perceived by most people as "electronic" and "real." That's what I tend to do. I have only written a few pieces that are "fully electronic" or mostly electronic, with no reference to, or sound of, "natural or real instruments. I am also becoming very interested in the so-called "sound sculpture" instruments, which create new instruments that have the feel and sound of natural objects in odd contexts. (Like cellos played underwater, or a flute blown while the flautist is under the surface in a vat of molasses). One can also conjure up: Violins made of glass, flutes made of cat gut, trombones and tubas made of balsa wood; and drums, xylophones and celesta made of honey, syrup and milk mixed together. These are all possible now.

    So you are absolutely right. If we become cowards and back out, we have only ourselves to blame. If I am too slow, please forgive me. I will work harder.

    [But don't put too much stock in the title. I might call my next piece "Concerto for Sex, Violence and Mayhem," simply to get more people to listen to it. But that will have nothing to do with the content.




    Kristofer Emerig said:

    mmm.. I'm not sure why others find the videos disconcerting, or they have much effect on the listening experience. Keep the videos, at the very least, they do no harm, and quite possibly, they bring a broader array of stimuli to the experience.

    That aside, I wonder why you entitle it "for trombones, strings, and wind instruments". Unless this is a "mock up", I feel a bit let down, abandoned even, as an advocate of the concept of pure, concrete [electronic] music which you have yourself promulgated on this site, and would expect your postion on this to be more congruous with mine.

    What I find particularly troubling is the notion that our modern synthesized instruments, which I consider in many respects vastly more versatile and capable than their acoustic cousins, must always be relegated to the status of mere placeholders for "real" instruments.

    Nonsense, I say. If the alleged inferiority of the synthesizer, in its current form, lies in the fact that it can not duplicate, absolutely and in precise detail, every possible utterance made by a violin, then by the same reasoning, how much more inferior is the violin, for its complete inability to even come remotely close to duplicating the breadth of sounds of which the synthesizer is capable?

    http://cent.In/
  • I'm not an expert by any means, but I'll add my tuppence worth.

    Firstly I like this, having listened to it both with and without the imagery.

    In answer to your first question I can only answer with "it depends".  IMO (which may or may not be worth much!), all music, regardless of genre has a "narrative".  Trigrammic Prognostications, to me, is music that is (for want of a  better description) a soundscape which, rather than conjure up traditional images is a bit more abstract.  As I listened without images I visualised warm dark colours forming sort of abstract clouds that would morph in shape size and colour with the music with the interruptions arriving as bright, almost white vertical lines.  Does this make any sense whatsoever? :)

    Really I think what I'm trying to say is that I think that imagery is a great idea, if it fits with the character of the music.  The problem then being is finding the right sort of images and placing them at the correct points.

    It's an interesting question and I don't really see there being a definitive answer.  If in doubt go with your gut!

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