Tag Archives: medium specificity

I like hybrids, mixed media …

… I like paintings you can listen to, music for the deaf and drawings for the blind. I like playing with medium specificity.

I recently discovered High Note (1960, above), a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes animated short directed by Chuck Jones.

In this charming film, various musical notes set up the sheet music to get ready for a performance of The Blue Danube Waltz. However, a sole note is missing. It turns out the note (a red-faced “High Note”) is drunk upon staggering out of the sheet music to “Little Brown Jug“, and the irritated conductor chases after him to put him back in his place so the waltz can continue as planned. Eventually, the rogue note is put back into place, but when the performance starts again, it has disappeared again, along with the rest of the sheet music. The composer then discovers that all the notes have gone into the “Little Brown Jug” to get drunk.

This film entered my head as visual music, although it is less so than the music visualization of Fantasia (1940), of which Oskar Fischinger‘s interpretation of J. S. Bach‘s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is online here.

See also: http://blog.jahsonic.com/listen-to-this-drawing/

Listen to this drawing

 

The Music of Gounod“, a Thought Form from Thought Forms, by Annie Besant & C.W. Leadbeater

The Music of Gounod” illustrates liminality, which in a previous post I called neither fish nor fowl, something inbetween.

At the same time it illustrates something non-existent, an impossible object, like music for the deaf or for people who are tone deaf. The aural experience has been synaesthetically translated in a visual experience.

Listen to this drawing, it seems to say.

I am reminded of the dictum by Walter Pater: “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” And of medium specificity.

Why is it that what appeals to our imagination in poetry will not please our eyes when painted?

Page from "Letter on the Deaf and Dumb" which illustrates Denis Diderot's take on medium specificity

 

There is one page (above, [1][2]) in “Letter on the Deaf and Dumb” on which Diderot illustrates the concept of medium specificity down to a T.

At the top of the page is a musical composition represented by musical notation. Below that is a drawing of a reclining woman.

Both represent a dying woman.

Diderot answers the question “why is it that what appeals to our imagination in poetry will not please our eyes when painted?

“One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” –Duchamp

I want to read Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.

”Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener” (2010) by David Toop
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Back in 2007, I attended[1] a lecture by David Toop. The title was Ways of Hearing.

In 2010, this lecture crystallized as the book Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener.

On the cover is a detail of «Soplones», nº 48 of Goya series Los Caprichos.

It is a book about listening, the way sound is portrayed in painting and other “silent arts”, about arts that involve sound, about the resonance of architecture, about auditory artefacts and about self-reflexivity.

Michaelangelo Matos called it “an exploration of sound in novels, poems, and paintings from before the era of sound reproduction.”

Threaded through the book is Marcel Duchamp’s observation “One can look at seeing but one can’t hear hearing” and his concept of the infrathin, those human experiences so fugitive that they exist only in the imaginative absences of perception.

David Toop is always interesting, he introduced me to the eavesdropper paintings by 17th century Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes and the concept of silence in painting.

A certain Guilherme Werneck has made a pinterest board consisting of a “visual guide” to Sinister Resonance.

Toop’s magnum opus is Ocean of Sound.

See also my current research on medium specificity.