Chris McLay.

Interaction designer and user experience consultant.

A working methodology…

When I first came up with the idea for this visual music project, the method of working I had in mind was very similar to what is outlined below. Yet, while I never completely abandoned the ideas, I lost faith in their ability to create a solid piece of work that would achieve my goals, and so began my search for other creative inputs and methods that would assist me in creative this artwork which said nothing assist me to develop this creative artwork, which tries to signify nothing.

Part of the problem of trying to signify nothing is that it is not actually possible to achieve, all you can do is aim to signify as little as possible. However, if I develop images I think go with a piece of music they will signify something to me, based on the music, and my interpretation of the music will be passed on to the audience. To avoid this I have to play a series of mind games with my self trying to adjust my thoughts and interpretations into imagery that somehow relates to and enhances the imagery without adding new meanings to the music. Confused? I was…

After looking at the Pendulum music piece performed by Kronos, and reading the background to the development and creation of fractal geometry and the related imagery that is derived from it, I began to think differently about artistic processes and methodologies and saw increased value in stricter formulae and concepts driving a creative work. I’m still not convinced that these processes and methodologies actually lead to good or even “proper” art what might be considered high art, or even art at all, but they can produce interesting a contemplative works, and I’m not actually trying to produce art anyway – I’m trying to support and enhance an existing artwork without creating or developing new meanings or narrative for the artwork.

So I began to see that some of my original ideas and concepts actually provided a way to have some distance from the original artwork, yet a strong influence on the composition of the projected vision, and a sense of randomness and lack of control over exactly what would come up at the end of the process.

The process:-

  1. Choose a piece of music to work with. Outside this course I would probably not have this choice, but I do now! As you read on it should become clear that the music does need to be a certain style to best suit this methodology — preferably multi layered with some clear separation of parts, and with some movement over the length of the piece (a number of clear movements).
  2. The main task is then to break down the music into a type of score for the piece, separating out the various parts/layers in the music, and mapping their comings and going throughout the movements and length of the piece of music.
  3. Having mapped out all the layers, each layer then needs a visual object or representation to be included in the final work. This could be an actual visual object (sphere or cube) that appears on screen, or it could be an effect or image that effects the entire screen and the other objects on it. This is where I get to have most of my creative influence.
  4. Each visual for each layer then needs two “formulae”: one for how the visual responds to changes in the layer of the music, e.g. object gets bigger as music gets louder, and pulses on every beat; the second for how the visual may interact with other visuals in play at the same time, e.g. this object will always sit over any other visual, but will be more transparent as the layer gets quieter.
  5. Once we have out basic story-boards and visual formulas we can actually start capturing, creating and refining the graphics for each visual, and building in the required changes the visual will need to go through.
  6. Finally the visuals need to be combined and have the formulas applied as required. For an actual live piece this could be done with various audio feeds going through computers to mix this live. In this case I will simulate this as best I can using the skills and software I have available to me.
  7. Perform and present!

Hopefully it is clear at this point that the methodology effectively divides up the music into various layers, which then develop and control their own individual visuals. These visuals are then composed (composited)? assembled together to create a new visual mix of the music that resembles and responds to the original, but does not attempt to add new meanings or narratives to the existing artwork.

I pretty happy with this and think I can start working on it almost immediately, but it raises a few questions I have not yet answered for myself:

  • Is the base for the visuals black or white or another colour? Perhaps the base is actually a layer in the music?
  • Do I allow myself the ability to introduce my own variables and adjustments in the final composition stage? If I believe it would look much better if that visual swayed gently at this point, but that is not part of the formula I defined for that visual can I do it?
  • Equally, can I introduce new visuals which are not related to a layer or part in the music?

How strict with my self do I need to be?

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