Wednesday, April 03, 2019

On One of These Bends - Vital Weekly Review

Nice review in the latest edition of Vital Weekly of the On One of These Bends LP.



Without having read the cover notes I started playing this record and it opened with a very familiar tune. 'Bright Waves' it is called and I heard it years and years ago on one of my favourite compilation LPs, 'Perspectives And Distortion', as released by Cherry Red Records. In them days that label released some of the best alternative pop and beyond music (think Five Or Six or A Tent), unlike these days when they churn out re-heated dishes of post-punk music that you all used have got rid off and now ‘need’ to buy again (I am not a fan to those compilations; I wish Cherry Red did proper CDs of their own history, like a box of everything by Five Or Six). Anyway, 'Bright Waves', was the opening piece back then, credited to Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey, but now we know it is by Philip Sanderson, erstwhile of Storm Bugs and vocals by Nancy Slessenger. Storm Bugs, Sanderson's previous musical project, used crude tape loops and electronics, but occasionally sounded like a great moody pop band, such as on their 7" for l'Invitation Au Suicide. Following that, Sanderson got more involved in doing soundtracks for experimental films and this LP compiles several of those soundtracks. Sanderson explores electronic music here, but moving away from the noise end of the music of that time, and wanders into something that is more mellow and pop like. He experiments with various female vocalists, who add a sort of jazzy style, but there is also spoken word and humming without words. As I noted last week, without the (moving) images it is not always easy to judge the music proper, but as it is released without the images, the composer is confident enough to let the music speak for itself, and quite rightly so. There is an abundance of beauty in these pieces, as well as variation. Guitars are gently strummed, echo is in place where necessary, and so is the reverb unit and throughout Sanderson plays the vibraphone on a bunch of pieces, even when at times a bit processed. This is exactly the kind of experimental 'pop' (for the lack of a better word) that I liked as a young man and that attracted me to such labels as Cherry Red (and Glass Records, to mention another, more forgotten one); that delicate balance between experiment and something that is a 'tune'. A record like this would not have gone amiss in their 1982 catalogue, I would think. But now it's 2019 and I am very happy to see it's release and it begs the question: is there more like this and when can we hear that? 
Frans de Waard, Vital weekly, number 1177, week 14 (April 2019)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Back Projection (Remastered 2019)


In 2014 Snatch Tapes released the album Back Projection. It was something of a first in the Sanderson oeuvre in that it was only released digitally on Bandcamp without any physical format being available, and more significantly it was largely a collection of songs. Of course the first Storm Bugs EP Table Matters back in 1980 contained songs of a sort, and the second single "Tin" was very much a song, however aside from "The Bugs are Back" the post 2000 Sanderson output (Seal Pool Sounds and Hollow Gravity) had been almost completely instrumental with some spoken word. The tracks on Back Projection all started as free-form analogue synthesizer and sequencer improvisations using a long delay time to build up polymorphous patterns. With the addition of vocals and some judicious editing these tracks morphed almost accidentally into songs.

The Bandcamp/digital only release meant the release received limited attention, though Jerry Kranitz from Aural Innovations wrote a nice review using his extensive years of listening to all things Kosmiche and left field to draw out many comparisons, even commenting that the title track was "like a twisted cross between Peter Hammill and Anthony Phillips". Five years on it seemed a good time to give the material another airing, and indeed a wash and brush up by way of a subtle remastering, and in the case of "Wonder Where you Wander" a remix. The tracks have been re-ordered, and there are two bonus tracks, "Window Hill" originally on the Linear Obsessional Christmas compilation View From A Hill, and "White Van Man" something of a tongue in cheek punk track I have grown fond of. Lastly there is new cover image taken from a recent painting. Free to download for the next month. So here goes nothing...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

On One of These Bends Wire Review

In the February issue of the Wire magazine there is a nice review of On One of These Bends by Emily Bick.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

On One of These Bends


In December On One of These Bends a new LP on Séance Centre (a label run by Brandon Hocura) will be released. The LP pulls together for the first time a number of recordings made during the 1980s mostly intended for the soundtracks of various short experimental film & video projects. 

By 1981 the first wave of DIY cassette culture was winding down; the weekly music papers Sounds and the NME stopped their columns listing tape releases and though cassettes continued to be put out it quickly became more of an underground movement focussing on noise music. It had been four years since Snatch Tapes had had its first cassette release and with the simple arrogance that comes with youth I felt that Storm Bugs had done the DIY noise thing. It was time for a change.

Arguably the first seeds of a different approach had been the Bright Waves track credited to the fictitious duo Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey and released on the 1980 Reprint cassette and then on the Cherry Red Perspectives and Distortion LP.  Reworking through a Revox tape delay system a few choral phrases sung by Nancy Slessenger at the Paddington Snatch Tapes HQ, Bright Waves is a floating wall of breathless vocal sound that threatens to fall apart at any moment. The track was part homage, part pastiche of sections of Eno’s Music for Airports; the title intended as an irreverent nod to how ambient can so easily become easy listening. 

This element of pastiche was to be developed in the music recorded from 1981 onwards. Fellow Storm Bug Steven Ball was studying Film Video and Sound at Maidstone College of Art and through him I met another student Michael Denton. Having heard that I had some facility with sound he asked for help recording music for his videos. Visually and sonically the frame of reference was less photocopied black and white grainy industrial, and more 1950s jazz LPs with their use of vibraphones and bright block colour sleeves.  

Both the Goldsmiths and the West Square electronic music studios I used had alongside their VCS3 synthesizers and tape machine set-ups vibraphones. Quite why they had vibes was unclear as nobody ever seemed to play them, but nonetheless once plugged in the motors started whirring and out came that classic tremolo tinkling, a sound like shimmering glass. In the summer of 1981 Michael and I recorded Viewfinder, which combines an analogue 32 step sequencer driven VCS3 pattern with a simple vibes part and clipped guitar rhythm, somewhere between Storm Bugs and cocktail music. The authenticity of the industrial mixed with a dollop of pastiche.

I began recording some new songs at West Square. The lyrics referenced a tongue in cheek celebration of 1950s jet set life style “mixing drinks and aeroplanes”, open top car drives in the Alps and “khaki trips to Egypt”, all somewhat at odds with a life of grime on the dole in South London.  By 1982 I had worked up about four songs in this vein but my own voice seemed ill suited to the new material. A frequent visitor to West Square was a young American woman called Naomi. One day I asked her if she could sing and indeed she could, and so she was quickly drafted in to record the tracks, lending them a quality somewhere between Streisand and the Shangri-Las. The studio was in an old school building outside of which was a playground, and in the quieter passages in Love in a Cold Climate you can hear the playtime primary school laughter.

I spent some time trying to promote these new numbers, even wangling an audience with the head of A & R at EMI. I had sold him the project over the phone on the basis that it was a cross between Kraftwerk and ABBA, which of course it wasn’t. The interview lasted a few minutes before he began fast forwarding the tape to the next track commenting nicely, if disapproving that it sounded like the more experimental end of Kate Bush’s output (Bush was on EMI at the time). Fifteen minutes later I was back on the street with my cassette. I tried with other labels including Rough Trade where Geoff Travis kindly listened to the whole tape on headphones in front of me, but politely said no.  My svengali impresario career seemingly not making much progress I put the reel to reel tapes in the cupboard and moved on to the next project. 

Michael Denton had received a small film development grant from the Arts Council and was working on a short 16MM film to be shot in around Dungeness, a bleak windswept part of the south coast occupied by small shacks, a lighthouse, narrow gauge railway and oh a nuclear power station. The area has subsequently become rather fashionable, a development triggered partly by the filmmaker Derek Jarman buying a cottage there in 1986, and then planting a garden and making a film shot in and around the cottage.  Watertight as Michael’s film was called preceded Jarman’s move by a year or so. He asked me to record some music for the film. By this point I was using a Yamaha DX7 and a Roland SH101 and put together a number of variations on a simple musical sequence. As with all the film music I recorded there was more than a nod to Laurie Johnson (who had composed the Avengers theme and incidental music), John Barry, and of course Ennio Morricone and François de Roubaix. There was over 30 minutes of ‘cues’ and this spawned the main theme Watertight to be found on the LP as well as Everything He is Not.

We are now in the mid 1980s and a former Maidstone student Andrew Fitzpatrick who was working on a project with funding from Eastern Arts commissioned some soundtrack music for his video Tale Chase loosely concerned with assignations in a Paris park and a French poodle.  I recorded the tracks at IPS studios in Shepherd’s Bush, one of the few studios in London where the engineer would not blink if you said you wanted to record a bowed hubcap and a bag of nails, indeed Organum and many other similar luminaries worked there. It was around £25 per hour which whilst cheap for studios at the time focussed the brain. Armed with an old acoustic guitar I recorded three or four pieces using the studio’s digital reverb and primitive sampling to the full. The result was E For Echo, and Echo Complex (both on the LP). The tracks were made without first seeing the moving images, and though Andrew declared himself very happy with the results they clearly didn’t fit the pacing of the video and so an outake from the Watertight sessions was reworked and found to match much better.

Meanwhile Steven Ball and I had been discussing making a film together based on a story much heard in the Medway towns (where we had spent our teens) of repeated ghost sightings of a hitchhiker on Blue Bell Hill in Rochester. The legend went that following a car crash in 1965 that motorists travelling alone up the hill at night would see a woman hitching at the side of the road. The drivers would stop and offer her a lift. The woman would insist on sitting in the back of the car, but as they neared the bottom of the hill the drivers would turn round only to find that the woman had disappeared. The area around the hill is the location for Neolithic burial sites and is criss-crossed by ley lines. A somewhat complex scenario was worked up, a trilogy no less of short pieces which involved not only the ghost sightings, but also a journey across nearby Cliffe Marshes by the ‘ghost’ played by Angela Staples. The approach was to treat the landscape as a kind of shifting palimpsest on which the memory of events that had taken place were in some way recorded, and which could be subsequently activated or played back. 
With funding from South East Arts we embarked on part one of the trilogy Green on TheHorizon. I had a very simple melody picked out on an acoustic guitar, which can be heard about 9 minutes and 30 seconds in on the Storm Bugs LP Up The Middleand Down The Sides. We went into Creekside studios in Deptford and using whatever keyboards they had on offer recorded variations on the theme. Mixed with the voices of Tony Raven and Patricia Hosking plus a drone from an IPS session this forms the basis for the opening theme This is Not a Game. “This is not a game or a competition there are no prizes to be won times to be beaten or rules to follow, you are on your own”.

Following the completion of Green on The Horizon Steven slightly unexpectedly moved to Australia, no reflection on the film, which was well received, touring extensively as part of the Electric Eyes programme. I embarked on the second part of the trilogy Hangway Turning, again with funding from South East Arts. This time the film featured not only the ghost but a psychic investigator called Thomas Cubitt played by Alien Brain Nigel Jacklin. The West Square studio was now located next to Morley College and had acquired new digital equipment including a Yamaha soundbank synthesizer. In an afternoon session a few basic tracks were recorded using the soundbank fed through a VCS3 for added reverb and ring modulation treatments. Three of these pieces from the session, namely Scene of the Crash, Looking Back, and the title track On One of These Bends are included on the new LP.  

There was still part three of the trilogy to complete, though it had never really been established what exactly that might entail, and the project morphed into Shadowman. This coincided with a move to run down flat in New Eltham, a somewhat nothing place on the very fringes of London (you could literally walk down the dual carriageway past the sign that said you are now entering Kent). Feeling somewhat exiled from everything, Shadowman has the filmmaker’s shadow as the only character. The E for Echo vocal loop features as the main music in the film.

Shadowman completed in 1991 was to be the last single screen piece I was to make for ten years, spending the 1990s working on sound and light installations.  Listening back to the two sides of the LP without the moving images its nostalgic musical sequences and feeling of displacement and loss turns it into something of a memento mori for the films, and maybe the decade itself.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Typing Pool

Using an old OS9 application called Videodelic, Keyboard Skills reworks footage from a WW2 information film on the correct way to type and the importance of proper typing to the war effort. The soundtrack is a combination of asynchronous typing sounds and a riff (pun intended) on Scott Joplin.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pebble Dot Dash

Pebble Dot Dash by Philip Sanderson combines flâneur footage with shortwave radio recordings. The camera takes a series of walks on and off the beaten track around the coastal town of Hastings. Time slips elliptically by as movements there and back are merged electronically; the train arriving whilst departing, the tide going in as it goes out, a man shadowing his own footsteps.
The moving images are married with shortwave transmissions from across the globe, captured during filming. These broadcasts from China, Pakistan, Russia, the USA, and elsewhere, reflect contemporary neo-liberal anxieties; deals and scams, the financing of the second coming, aspiration and desire. Sound and image mesh asynchronously, global audio relocating the here to there.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Boule de Neige

For the first week in March 2018 the UK was thick with snow. The combination of white outside and sharp periodontal twangs inside, prompted the recording of a somewhat old school 16 minute electronic track called 'Boule de Neige'. The piece was made using a homebrew Max/MSP/Jitter Synthi, but rather than the usual Sanderson/Storm Bugs clattering sequences you get a free-form improvisation. The main patches uses a variation on the no-input circuit much beloved of David Tudor. Here a touch of white noise seeds a feedback loop that moves between modulated hi and lo pass filters, giving one the sharp dynamics of a sound on the edge of break-up, not far removed from a bowed hubcap or squeaky gate. The overall feeling of 'Boule de Neige' is very akin to a couple of the live sessions I played with Nigel Jacklin and the Rupenus Brothers back in the early 1980s, hence the subtitle (Alien Brains for Breakfast).

Having uploaded 'Boule de Neige' to Bandcamp, four more recent tracks were added to make up a full long player. 'Factory Settings' features the soft Synthi/VCS3 again, but with a sequencer and delay line for self-pollinating cross rhythms. 'Window Walk' is an instrumental version of the track included on the 2017 Linear Obsession Christmas compilation A View from a Hill. The track began life as a visual sequence of shifting squares, which were then translated into their audio equivilent by Artmatic. 'We Thought it Would be OK but the Wind Changed' was originally credited to Maids of the Marsh and included on the M - The Thirteenth Letter ‎CD Compilation assembled by Daniel Blumin for WFMU in 2013. The children's voices come from a 1970s public safety film highlighting the potential dangerous combination of high voltage power lines and kites. The music is a nod to children's TV programmes from the same decade such as, The Owl Service, and Children of the Stones. Lastly 'Broken Morning' is an inversion of the spirit if not the music of the popular Christian song 'Morning has Broken'. Instead of chiming guitars and angelic voices celebrating the new day, one gets more of a granular synthesis lament, with yodeling and a percussion loop. Oh and the drawing was made during a workshop on REF impact statements!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Mourning of Mark E Smith

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Somewhat bemused by all the MES obituaries, partly as one suspects the man himself would have found it all too fawning, but also because I doubt many who claim to care so much can name any of last 10 Fall LPs. Not that I can, this isn’t a “I’m a real fan and own the grief” routine, but rather the social media outpourings suggests that MES represented far more than his music, which high points such as Elastic Man aside was intensely repetitive. Yes saint John Peel thought the Fall were the bees knees, and there are many amusing (as long as you were not on the receiving end) tales about him firing band members at service stations, or pouring beer over a coach driver’s head as they hurtled along at top speed. The appeal of all this is the notion that MES never sold out, he was the keeper of the post-punk flame, he just kept on, drinking, playing live, making an album a year, firing band members, getting hitched up with new ones (and wives), drinking, getting into fights, playing live, firing and hiring band members, and so on. This drum pattern of a life is it seems intensely appealing to many a middle class male soul. I was surprised when separately a couple of people I knew admitted to being not just Fall fans but having been for a while some British version of Dead Heads. They had in their early twenties after university (of course) not just attended the odd Fall gig, but followed the band round for whole tours, sleeping rough and hitching, begging and stealing, whatever it took to get to the next gig.  This went on for months at a time and then one day this post college right of passage over they progressed on to proper jobs. Whatever dues they then paid in the coming years selling out to the man and the mortgage company, compromising on their once held beliefs, they had at least in some way ‘lived the dream’ and could sleep sound at night in the knowledge that MES was keeping the flame alive, drinking, playing live, making an album a year, firing band members, getting hitched etc, etc.
What a nightmare. To imagine that not deviating from the same riffs and barroom taps for all those years is an achievement, something to be applauded is to misunderstand both the misery of the alcoholic and the mind numbing tedium and lack of imagination in repetition. After thousands of gigs any soul not steeped in drink would cry out to do something different. Even ABBA were insightful enough to sing All I do is eat and sleep and sing. Wishing every show was the last show”. Turning MES into an updated whisky priest feeds into the dubious concept of there being authenticity in grinding yourself into an early grave, of some goodfella blokey truth in getting plastered night after night. Believe if you like that MES lived the dream/nightmare so you didn’t have to, but I will mourn instead for all the things he could have done.         

Thursday, January 25, 2018

George Smiley at Snatch Tapes HQ

It is 1981 and George Smiley (AKA Alec Guinness in the BBC version of the Le Carré novel)visits the Snatch Tapes HQ which was at 25 Westbourne Terrace. Of course we had moved out the year before so he is unlucky in his attempt at securing a copy of Snatch 3. Looking like it was shot on 16mm what is interesting is that unlike a big budget film production in which the street would have been closed off and the passers by and cars would all be extras, this was filmed in the everyday hubbub of the street with 'real' people and cars. https://twitter.com/twitter/statuses/956456702844526592

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quick Quick Quick

If by chance you should find yourself at the London Art Fair this week then wend your way through to the screening room at the back of the Art Projects space to see a programme entitled Quick, Quick, Quick curated by Pryle Behrman this contains both a fine selection from volumes 1-9 of Kerry Baldry's One Minute programme and a collection of half a dozen or so Lumiere et Son pieces. Here is one of them…

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

Resisting immersion in Visual Music, Greenwich Sound/Image Colloquium


Transcript of a presentation given at the 2017 Sound/Image Colloquium at Greenwich University.



Resisting immersion in Visual Music: the case for heightened listening and looking and against pseudo-synaesthesia

The quest for a synaesthetic melding of the senses, for the revelation of an underlying correlation between sound and image has underpinned the development of visual music, from Aristotle’s Music of The Spheres, through Castel’s Ocular Harpsichord, to twentieth century advocates such as Whitney (1980, pp 40-44) who sought  to discover their laws of harmonic relationships”. In contemporary visual music practice the term immersive is increasingly being used, denoting an all-enveloping synaesthetic experience, be it more populist examples such as Bjork’s foray into VR, or installations at Ars Electronica. The impetus for immersion comes from a number of directions, including developments in digital technology, and a renewed desire for a symbiotic relationship between science and the arts; Miller’s (2014) Colliding Worlds.

Whilst the case for an absolute correspondence between colour and harmony has been repeatedly debunked, not least by practitioners themselves – see Le Grice’s (2001, pp?) mathematical reasoning why such a correspondence is fanciful, the terms synaesthetic and especially immersive continue to be used, with little interrogation of whether a blurring of sensory boundaries or an enveloping of the audience is a positive step forward. This paper argues that instead of synaesthetic immersion, what should be encouraged is a heightened state of looking/listening brought about by a reflexive engagement between the work and the audience. Three methods for potentially achieving such a heightened sate are proposed each employing a form of arbitrary function.  In each case a short one-minute extract from my own practice will be used as a brief illustration.

To argue that there is no absolute sound/image or tone/colour correspondence is not to suggest that there is no propensity to make such correlations, but rather it is to locate the adhesion of sound and image in the minds of the audience as they engage with a piece. Adhesion was first identified by Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Alexandrov, in their Statement on Sound of 1928, when they noted that marrying sound with moving image could all too easily produce the “‘illusion’ of talking people, of audible objects, etc.”. The Russian filmmakers response to illusionist adhesion was asynchronism, a technique employed and nuanced by both Eisenstein and Pudovkin in subsequent writings and films. In neither case should asynchronism be viewed as meaning in some way out of sync. For Eisenstein the term became increasingly to mean a form of quasi-musical counterpointing, whilst for Pudovkin (1929) a looser connection is advocated in which occasional moments of adhesion form part of an asynchronous push-pull rhythm, with the audience drawn in and out of the frame, visually and sonically. Pudovkin then utilises the propensity for adhesion as part of a strategy that creates a productive tension and interplay between the senses.

Asynchronism was adopted by a number of filmmakers such as Cavalcanti in the first half of the twentieth century. In contrast in visual music adhesion was often actively sought. For example the prologue to Fischinger’s Optical Poem (1938), states:
To most of us, music suggests definite mental images of form and colour. The picture you are about to see is a novel scientific experiment. Its object is to convey these mental images in visual form. (Fischinger, 1938)

Here it is not just adhesion that is desired but something more, an equation between musical and visual forms, the synaesthetic and seeing sound, hearing colour equation. One might ask if there is a visual music equivalent of asynchronism that can be applied to offset this for of illusionism? An examination of various visual music pieces suggest a number of strategies, which broadly down into three methods.

The first method is close to Pudovkin’s asynchronism in that it uses momentary adhesion. Examples of this approach can be seen in the films of Lye and Le Grice in which the moving images are not synchronised note for note with the soundtrack music, but married to syncopated musical rhythms. In Lye’s Trade Tattoo (1937) it is Cuban dance music, whilst in Le Grice’s Berlin Horse (1970) the looping imagery is counterpointed by Eno's phasing piano loops.  In both cases sound and image work together, but retain their identity, there is no beat-by-beat or 4/4 dynamics, cementing the audio-visual relationship, but rather flashes of momentary adhesion, occur simultaneously, at different tempi and at different locations within the frame. This open-ended and shifting correspondence has a dynamic and yet arbitrary quality, arbitrary not as in random, but in the sense that adhesions are being actively made and broken by each member of the audience, independently and somewhat differently at the moment of audition. In my own piece Landfill (2008), an animated morphing topography is married with a soundtrack of treated yodelling a form of early sonar. There are no designated points of correspondence, but rather a series of arbitrary adhesions.

Landfill (2008) from Philip Sanderson on Vimeo.

To look at further possible implementations of the arbitrary let us examine optical sound films made at the London Filmmakers Co-operative in the 1970s by two filmmakers, Sherwin and Rhodes. Optical sound films rely on what Sherwin calls “an accident of technological synaesthesia”, namely that when the images on an optical film soundtrack are the same as those in the main projected frame, one in effect has a means of both transforming images into sound and of their simultaneous synchronised reproduction, (Sherwin & Hegarty 2007, pp 5).

Sherwin made a number of optical sound films in which the images were also printed on the optical track including Musical Stairs (1977), and Railings (1977). The sounds produced by this process are in sync with the images but are not those which would be made had the railings or stairs been recorded with a microphone.  In Musical Stairs it is the panning of the camera up and down a flight of metal stairs, which when those images pass over the optical head produces a musical scale, whilst in Railings, by filming the ironwork from different angles, a sequence of electronic pulses are generated (Hamlyn, 2005). Sherwin’s pieces counter the illusion of sound and image correspondence by in part employing the adhesive tendency against itself, sound and image stick, but in a way, which forces the audience to question causality rather than accept it. It is the movement of the filmic representation that generates the audio not the represented object.

This second arbitrary function can be applied to either abstract or representational imagery, upsetting the expected dynamics of causal relationships. Whilst optical sound offers plentiful scope for experimentation digital technology allows one to expand and develop the arbitrary function. As an example lets look at Moth Flight (2016) made to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the death of Amy Johnson, the first female pilot to fly from Britain to Australia in her Puss Moth plane. Here the audience is encouraged to ask, is the ‘action’ producing the sound, or is the movement of the image in some way generating the sound or…

Moth Flight (2016) from Philip Sanderson on Vimeo.


The third arbitrary function is best illuminated by Rhodes optical sound film entitled Light Music (1975-77), in which she printed a series of horizontal black lines on both the optical track and film frame. By varying the thickness of the lines, the pitch of the sound rises and falls in sync with the projected light patterns. (Hamlyn, 2011, pp 215). In an interview at the time of the piece’s exhibition at Tate Modern in 2012, Rhodes stated “what you see is what you hear”, a sentence which invokes both the basic synaesthetic equation.

Curiously rather than demonstrating literal equation, Light Music suggests a further arbitrary function.  Two types of optical track were routinely employed, the bilateral variable-area method (consisting of wavy curvaceous lines) and the variable density method, the straight lines used in Light Music. Both methods produce the exact same sound, but if Light Music had employed the bilateral method the projected image would have had a very different appearance.  Nonetheless, we would have still perceived correspondence and made equation. One might go so far as to conjecture that if the optical track, and the projected image had not been identical, but been some other visual form that reciprocally changed as the sound did, a similar connection would still be made. The third arbitrary function requires a foregrounding of the arbitrary nature of the correspondence. Digital mapping offers the possibility to create just such self-declared reciprocal sound and image changes.

An early example of this reciprocal mapping is Le Grice’s computer piece Arbitrary Logic (1988), in which the same data is used the to produce both the on-screen colour fields, and via MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) the sound. When Le Grice was making Arbitrary Logic, digital technology was in its infancy, and in his writings he speculates about the future possibilities of mapping (2001, pp 284). Such opportunities would become available some ten years later in software such as Max/MSP/Jitter (Cycling 74) in which digital MIDI data can be used to control audio parameters such as pitch, velocity, volume, envelope, whilst simultaneously being mapped to visual manipulations such as: rotation, zoom, hue, video feedback, and so on.

Thus the tendency towards literalness can be offset by varying the parametric relationship; for example if in one section of a work as the frequency rises the hue changes, this can be offset elsewhere, by mapping pitch to changes in form, or another visual element. By such strategies, the arbitrary nature of the audio-visual correlation is foregrounded, as the audience is encouraged to make first one equation and then another. Here is Quadrangle, an early example made back in 2005  in which a patch was built in Max/MSP to generate quasi-random trills, and staccato bursts of data. This information was then mapped to control both the animation of a white square, and via MIDI, a synthesizer. As the music starts and stops, so the square performs a spatial choreography: changing colour, moving across the frame, advancing and retreating, etc. The arbitrary element is introduced by keeping the sound parameters constant throughout, whilst the visual mapping parameters are changed.

Quadrangle (2005) from Philip Sanderson on Vimeo.

Synaesthesia has both underpinned and arguably thwarted the development of visual music practice. This paper started from the position that recent tendencies towards immersion have exacerbated many of the negative aspects of the genre and that this can only be countered by a continual reflexive interrogation of the audio-visual relationship. Three arbitrary functions designed to introduce just such a reflexive tension at the moment of audition were outlined. Key to all three is the recognition of the propensity on the part of the audiences for making causal audio-visual equations, but rather than use this to encourage immersive synaesthesia this desire to adhere can be utilised as part of a range of strategies for denying equation, questioning causality and reflexive mapping that all contribute towards creating a heightened state of looking and listening.


--> ReferencesEisenstein, S. M., Pudovkin, V. I., and Aleksandrov, G. V., 1928. A Statement. In: E. Weis and J. Belton (eds). 1985.  Film Sound: Theory and Practice. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hamlyn, N., 2003. Film Art Phenomena. London: BFI.
Hamlyn, N., 2011. Mutable screens: the expanded films of Guy Sherwin, Lis Rhodes, Steve Farrer and Nicky Hamlyn. In: A.L. Rees, D.Curtis, S.Ball, D, White (eds) 2011. Expanded cinema: art, performance, film. Tate Publishing, London, pp 212-220.
Le Grice, M., 2001. Experimental cinema in the digital age. London: British Film Institute.
Miller, A.I., 2014. Colliding worlds: how cutting-edge science is redefining contemporary art. London: WW Norton & Company.
Pudovkin, V. I., 1929. Asynchronsim as a Principle of Sound Film. In: E. Weis and J. Belton (eds). 1985.  Film Sound: Theory and Practice. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sherwin, Guy K. and Hegarty, Sebastiane (2007), Optical Sound Films 1971 – 2007, DVD, London: Lux.
Whitney, J., 1980. Digital Harmony: On the Complementarity of Music and Visual Art.  Peterborough New Hampshire: Byte Books/McGraw-Hill.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Clapped Out

In New York in 1972 Steve Reich was composing Clapping Music whilst in Maidstone (UK) David Hall and Tony Sinden were making This Surface. Clapped Out combines the images from one, and the sound from the other in an asynchronous mesh, Credits: David Hall & Tony Sinden - This Surface (1972/)3, Steve Reich Clapping Music (1972), here performed in 2006 by VSU New Music Ensemble.
Clapped Out from Philip Sanderson on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Shadowman (1991)

Having completed part two of the Apostrophe S trilogy with Hangway Turning in 1900, it was time to turn to part three. Except there wasn't really a third installment, with most of the what one might now call hauntological elements about ghost sightings, ley lines and shifting landscapes having been suitably explored in the first two parts. Nonetheless an application was made to South East Arts (who had generously supported the previous two projects) with an outline detailing the further research of Thomas Cubitt. Things had moved on at SEA however with TV people now on the grant selection panel and a more commercial remit being adopted, part of that idea that took hold in the late 1980s and early 90s that experimental film was really only a stepping stone to feature production. So the application was declined, I did however later that year pick up a small development grant of a few hundred pounds from Greater London Arts which paid for about twenty rolls of super 8. A small crew was assembled from members of Paul Bush's film workshop, of which I had become a member, and we spent a few nights down in Greenwich in the what was then still industrial dockside. There was a vague espionage narrative, which was really a cover for another shifting landscape scenario with a figure appearing and disappearing in a maze of half-lit alleyways. Using only available street lighting, even the fast black and white Tri-X film stock was really not fast enough to capture more than occasional highlights.
A few grainy reels was all that emerged and the project was sensibly put on the shelf. On the fridge shelf however were six or so reels of unexposed colour Super 8 stock left over, and these were used to shoot the footage that would then become Shadowman. Up to this point most of my moving image work had involved solitary figures in some way interacting in a quasi-choreographed way with the landscape. The landscape setting and the symbiotic relationship with the person filming it (occasionally glimpsed in shadow) now became the sole focus. In many ways the material explores quite painterly concerns of light and shadow both in the undergrowth and on of empty train compartments. Many of the shots are repeatedly looped and there is a touch of structuralism when these are married asynchronously with the predominantly tape looped train sounds. This structural element is offset by the hints at biographical narrative involving a character forced to live on the outskirts of town, who spends his days wandering the abandoned and overgrown gardens of once grand mansions. All a thinly veiled reference to my own relocation at the time to New Eltham, a godforsaken suburb on the border between London and Kent.         
A completion grant of about £1,000 from GLA paid for a telecine to Umatic video and enough editing time to finish the work. Shadowman was given its first outing along with other work supported by GLA at a preview theatre in Dean Street. A small number of other screenings followed including at the London Film Festival and the European Media Art Festival. Around this time I also shot  three reels of Standard 8 film using multiple exposures and in camera overlays. These single screen pieces were to the last ones I made during the 90s as I then began to explore a more installation based practice. Shadowman hasn't been seen since even on line so here is a reasonable copy made from a DV transfer from the Umatic.