In the early days of modernism, the futurist manifesto "The Art of Noises" was a provoking and seemingly outlandish proposition, more agitprop than reality. At the time, there was really no practical way for Russolo or others to realize the ambitions of the text. In the decades that followed, many composers and artists, following similar ideas, worked with percussion and newly constructed electronic "instruments" in an attempt to explore, in a broad way "The Art of Noises". Only in the 40's and 50's, with the tape recorder could anything like the use of "everyday" sound objects be incorporated into a musical fabric. Still, tape was difficult and inflexible. More importantly, the composers working with "concrete" had their background in traditional musical composition, which is based entirely on regular vibration producing instruments. Did it occur to them that a different compositional approach had to be used for a fundamentally different i.e., irregular vibration (car motor) sound source?
It was only in the late '70's, and realistically, the '80's when sampling became an affordable (for artists) tool for capturing these irregular vibration sound sources. We are just beginning to see the results of artists who have been creating sound art and music for the last 20 years with digital sampling technologies. What is the result of such work? Has it lead to new kinds of human artistic expression or been a dead end?
In the '80's, my sound palette was almost exclusively, with the exception of the electric guitar, irregular pitch. I never met a sound I didn't like, and I preferred a bird to a violin any day. I worked for seven years exclusively with sampling. It included live performance works and two virtual audio installations. Because of the vivid, almost visual effect of the virtual audio, I began to think of expanding my work into a larger framework. Because of the visual connotations of the samples I was using, Could there be a visual extension of my work?
At the time, I was studying the surrealist artists, from the most famous like Tanguy to the less famous but just as good like Kay Sage. I began to create visual scenes, each usually centered on one sculptural object that moved. The works overall were composed in a musical sense, with reoccurring shapes and motives. The form of each was created in a very flowing, rhythmic sense often with several scenes shown together, contrapuntally, in four different windows.
The music was composed afterwards. Usually I chose one kind of sound that resonated, in some way with what I was looking at. For me, neither the image nor the music was sufficient by itself, but together created a new thing, A+B=C. For example, in the beginning of scattered……wide, behind the credits is a cloud shape that is rotating on the ground. I chose some bird samples to accompany it. Why did I choose that? Perhaps as you look at the rotating cloud, your attention is drawn to the shape of the cloud and it's two "wings". The cloud then becomes a "cloud bird", a result of aural and visual.
To me, these works really aren't animations or films. They're something else. Could they be music? There's not much to the sound track. Yes, there's almost always sound, but it certainly couldn't be played without the visuals.
What is music today anyway? Is it still organized sound? Or is it evolving into something else? Perhaps music is not only sound. Perhaps artists choose a medium to work in because it enables them to present their ideas reflecting how they view time?
All art perception is time based. Some mediums take longer to perceive, that's all. To experience a building you have to walk around it and through it. That takes time. How much time does it take to view a Vermeer? It's fairly rapid because the photons are moving at the speed of light. Music, moving at the speed of sound, is a lot slower, so things have to be placed in sequence. Literature works even slower.
Maybe choosing a particular medium has little or nothing to do with a physical attraction to sound or vision or imagining a narrative in one's head? Maybe it has to do with time and the aesthetic predilection of the artist, whether it's emotional, sensual, intellectual or aesthetic. Because of the computer, maybe the physical attractors to an art form are becoming less important to an artist's choice. If so, perhaps we're in an age that is revealing what an accurate definition of each art really is. Or maybe all the arts are disappearing into a one huge, all encompassing "mega-art" form?
After completing about seven works influenced by surrealism and exploring the sound/image combination in an abstract way, I felt that, as satisfying and beautiful, at least to me, as those works are, it was at an end. Again, I was reading a surrealist poet, Reverdy, when I thought of the idea of movement between medias- a sound, a light dimming, a man turning. This idea of motion, realistic motion, all connected in a time sequence (naturally, after all, I am a musician) became the foundation for all my work of the past seven years. Because it is similar to real movement that one can observe, I felt this work had a resonance that lasted beyond the initial viewing.
I took movement and abstracted it, separating it from further actions by that human, animal or light. Then, I connected it by linking the motions in a sequence, which is highlighted for the viewer by numbers on the screen. For example in on the roof, the first scene consists of the following multimedia movement
a. the couple, half in shadow on the roof, embraces
b. the sound of pigeon wings
c. the couple makes two motions, becoming closer
d. the pigeon wings again
e. the words "I shift my weight from my left to my right"
f. two more motions with the man shifting from the right to the left along with the sound of a woman's heels on pavement
g. "The air is cool"
h. a light comes on the wall above the couple showing a window with blinds from a neighboring building.
For me, the sound of pigeon wings has an intimacy about them that matches the couple's motions. The words "I shift my weight from my left to my right" either suggest a viewer of the scene and his or her physical motion complimenting the couple, or a remark to focus on the physical aspects of intimacy. "The air is cool", suggests something amiss and the light above implies a future intimacy or something else.
For me, all the abstracted motions are artistically satisfying by themselves. But when they are combined in a sequence, they take on a meaning that is more than the sum of their parts. I am attempting to create a new kind of sensitivity or perception that encourages one to transfer attention from one aesthetic response (visual, aural, tactile) to another in order to experience a new kind of trans-medial perception. They also suggest, at least to me, human issues and concerns. Does the light on the building in the above scene suggest a destination for the relationship or is it some sort of metaphor for human relations as a whole?
I chose digital animation to work with rather than video because I couldn't isolate as well the movement, especially the light. Also, in order to think about the movement one is seeing and reflect on it, the digital world is better for me than video. Video looks real because it is a video of a real event. Therefore, I think it's easier to identify with what one is seeing. But, in my work, I don’t want you to identify with any of the characters or scenes, but rather to observe them and reflect on the motion. You need a certain distance that the digital medium can give. Plus, the digital world looks and sounds different than video. Video is warmer, blurry and bit too self-indulgent for me. I like the look of the digital. So I have created works like i'm sitting, watching……, a doll's house is…… and claudia and paul claudia and paul claudia and paul claudia and paul which are concerned with the choreography of reality. While each explores different scenarios, they present they same artistic perspective. The world that we live in is made real by movement and this movement is all connected to produce a meaningful and at times profound statement about life and ourselves. Whether it's sitting in a café in Venice like i'm sitting, watching….. or viewing the activity in an apartment building like a doll's house is…… or following the mise-en-scenes of claudia and paul in a dingy industrial city, all my work is about this "mega-art" where all the art forms are equal and interact to create a truly 21st century view of human life and human reality. My work, therefore, doesn't have a technical agenda, but rather uses the new technology for an expressive agenda where, hopefully, the materials vanish and art emerges.
Henry Gwiazda (www.henrygwiazda.com) is a new media artist/composer whose artistic trajectory has taken him from sampling, sound effects, and immersive technologies to his current work with new media. This new work is a comprehensive artistic approach that has resulted in work that is multimedia in nature and focused on movement. Gwiazda's works are regularly screened in festivals and galleries throughout the world including New York, Paris, Madrid, Cairo, Amsterdam, Beijing, Berlin, Sao Paolo, Naples, Marseilles, Seoul, Damascus, Athens, Istanbul, Moscow and many others. He won First Prize at Abstracta Cinema (Rome, Italy), Magmart Video Festival (Naple, Italy), Festival InOut (Gdansk, Poland), Second Prize at the Crosstalk Video Art Festival (Budapest,Hungary), Third Prize at the GIGUK Video Art Festival (Giessen, Germany), and the Grand Prize for Best Audio at the 2008 DIGit Media Exposition (Narrowsburg, NY). His work is available on Innova Recordings.