This project explores the blending of unrelated cognitive paths into the matrices of new meaning through abstraction, comparison and analogy-making. It was sparked by the joy with which I associate certain songs to the films where I had heard them as diegetic or non-diegetic music. I visualized these songs using the mechanical energy of their own sounds.
The acoustic medium can be air or water but also a solid material of the speaker driver whose vibrations create a set of lateral forces that are absorbed by the speaker cabinet. An efficient free-standing driver will also move sideways so it can be used for drawing.
I played the songs over a light, down-facing wireless speaker with a pen attached to the side. This setup does not aspire to the accuracy or reproducibility of scientific experiments. Rather, it is essentially generative and flexible, allowing for complex creative decisions on the type of paper and pen, pen pressure and angle, and pen-speaker bond. It was tuned up to repetitively produce similar drawings of the same song.
Each drawing was generated by playing a single song. The drawings were scaled up to reveal their visual dynamics and graphic subtlety. They were printed in HR with one cursor marking the origin and another marking the center. The wall arrangement of drawings follows the playlist, from right to left.
Analogies explore the blending of unrelated cognitive paths into the matrices of new meaning through abstraction, comparison and analogy-making (Grba, 2015).
The project was sparked by acknowledging the distinctive joy with which I associate certain songs to the films where I had heard them (not necessarily for the first time) and vice versa, in recalling the films for some songs played in them. Although we all share this associative pleasure, its affinities and qualities are highly individual.
From the initial pool of about 50, I selected 31 independently produced songs with the strongest associative links to the films in which they appear as diegetic or non-diegetic music. I discarded the composed film scores (OST) and the musicals, in which the associations are trivial, more calculated and less open for idiosyncratic affect.
I visualized the songs using the mechanical energy of their own sounds. Sound is a vibration that propagates as a wave of pressure and particle displacement through a transmission medium. The medium can be air, water or a solid material of the speaker driver whose expansion/compression creates a set of lateral forces that are absorbed by the body of the loudspeaker. Separated from the loudspeaker casing and played loud enough, a speaker driver will move sideways so it can be used for drawing. Lars Hansen based his project Spiderbytes (2011) on this phenomenon, but never went beyond a well rounded proof of technical concept.
I drew Analogies by playing specific, precisely contextualized musical material over a light, down-facing wireless speaker with a single pen attached to its side. This asymmetrical and flexible setup does not aspire to the accuracy and reproducibility of scientific experiments. Rather, it is essentially generative, allowing for complex creative decisions on the type of paper and pen, pen pressure and angle, and strength of the pen-speaker bond. It can be tuned up to repetitively produce similar drawings of the same song.
This video illustrates the idea and documents one drawing session.
Each drawing was generated by playing a single entry from a foobar2000 playlist of all 31 songs with matched volumes (ReplayGain). The original drawings range from 25 to 125mm in length so they were scaled up to 270% in order to reveal their visual dynamics and graphic subtlety. The enlarged drawings were laser printed in 2400dpi, with one cursor marking the origin, another cursor marking the relative center, and a title on the bottom: Song Title (Artist, Year) | Minutes:Seconds [song duration] | Film Title (Director, Year).
The gallery installation features the framed drawings in a linear arrangement following the playlist order from right to left. The songs play continuously on the wall-mounted tablet over the speakers, and the visitors can select and run any preferred song. The projected video documents the drawing process and presents the film instances of all songs. This is the set at the FFA Gallery in Belgrade.
Milan Kralj made a wonderful set of photos of the installation at his blog.
Analogies were inspired by a number of generative and sound art projects, especially by Mary Ellen Bute's Abstronic (1952), William Anastasi's Subway Drawings (1968/1970), Yoshimasa Kato & Yuichi Ito's White Lives on Speaker (2007), Evan Roth's Graffiti Analysis (2010), Stefan Tiefengraber's Delivery Graphic (2013-2014) and Mogens Jacobsen's Probabilistic Audio Dice Roll (2015).
The project is dedicated to the work of Paul Schrader who summed up its approach with the observation: The more I've made films and written, the more I realize that less and less you need to do, and that telling people stuff, or preaching to people, is really not what we should be doing in the arts. What an artist should be doing is investigation through implication and association.
[Blu-Ray audio commentary to Hardcore (1979), Twilight Time, 2016.]
This video features the film instances of all songs matching the playlist order.
The titles of all song/film pairs matching the playlist order:
One Time One Night (Los Lobos, 1987) | 4:49 | Colors (Dennis Hopper, 1988)
American Girl (Tom Petty & Heartbreakers, 1977) | 3:32 | Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Cameron Crowe, 1982)
Feel Like a Number (Bob Seger, 1981) | 3:45 | Body Heat (Lawrence Kasdan, 1981)
Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry, 1958) | 2:41 | Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith, 1975) | 3:13 | Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
Magic Man (Heart, 1976) | 5:31 | The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 2000)
Dancing Queen (ABBA, 1976) | 3:52 | Summer of Sam (Spike Lee, 1999)
Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969) | 2:20 | Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Devo, 1977) | 2:40 | Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon, 1978) | 3:30 | The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese, 1986)
Shimmy Doll (Ashley Beaumont the 18th, cca. 1958) | 2:04 | Viridiana (Luis Buñuel, 1961)
Shot Down (The Sonics, 1966) | 2:13 | The Odds (Simon Davidson, 2011)
Parlez Nous à Boire (The Balfa Brothers, 1967) | 3:11 | Southern Comfort (Walter Hill, 1981)
Baba O’Riley (The Who, 1971) | 5:01 | Summer of Sam (Spike Lee, 1999)
The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff, 1972) | 3:07 | The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1972)
Angel of the Morning (Juice Newton, 1998) | 4:15 | Charlie Wilson’s War (Mike Nichols, 2007)
Tipitina (Professor Longhair, 1953) | 3:37 | The Big Easy (Jim McBride, 1987)
Chain of Fools (Aretha Franklin, 1968) | 2:49 | Sneakers (Phil Alden Robinson, 1992)
Foul Owl on the Prowl (Boomer & Travis, 1967) | 2:36 | In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)
Stroll On (The Yardbirds, 1966) | 2:46 | Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
I Got the Blues (Glenn Morris, 1957) | 1:55 | Cold in July (Jim Mickle, 2014)
Englische Suite II BWV 807 I Prelude (J.S. Bach, cca. 1715) | 4:31 | Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
Across 110th Street (Bobby Womack & Peace, 1973) | 3:48 | Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
That’s the Way I Like It (KC & the Sunshine Band, 1975) | 3:04 | Carlito’s Way (Brian De Palma, 1993)
I’m a Hog for You (Clifton Chenier, 1971) | 3:41 | In the Electric Mist (Bertrand Tavernier, 2009)
Dueling Banjos (Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, 1972) | 3:17 | Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
Precious Memories (Susan Raye, 1973) | 3:08 | Hardcore (Paul Schrader, 1979)
Hold on I’m Coming (Sam & Dave, 1966) | 2:33 | American Gangster (Ridley Scott, 2007)
Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid Opus 30 No. 6 G. 324 Passa Calle (Allegro vivo) (Luigi Boccherini, cca. 1780) | 2:15 | Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
Crazy on You (Heart, 1976) | 4:56 | The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 2000)
Just an Illusion (Imagination, 1982) | 6:26 | F/X Murder by Illusion (Robert Mandel, 1986)
Some of the excluded songs:
The Battle Cry of Freedom (George Frederick Root, 1862) | Virginia City (Michael Curtiz, 1940)
What'd I Say (Ray Cherles, 1959) | Black Rain (Ridley Scott, 1989)
American Woman (The Guess Who, 1970) | American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
Oye Como Va (Santana, 1970) | Carlito's Way (Brian DePalma, 1993)
Ain't No Sunshine (Bill Withers, 1971) | Munich (Steven Spielberg, 2005)
Strong analogy, weak song
Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon (The Three Degrees, 1972) | The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1972)
Better analogy already in the playlist
Damn Right, I've Got The Blues (Buddy Guy, 1991) | In the Electric Mist (Bertrand Tavernier, 2009)
Respect (Aretha Franklin, 1967) | The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
Think (Aretha Franklin, 1968) | The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
Prisoner (Barbara Straisand, 1976) | The Eyes of Laura Mars (Irvin Kershner, 1978)
Help Me Up (Eric Clapton, 1992) | Rush (Lili Fini Zanuck, 1991)
Chaiyya Chaiyya (A.R. Rahman, 1998) | Inside Man (Spike Lee, 2006)
Listed as soundtrack but not featured in the film
Ma 'Tit Fille (Buckwheat Zydeco, 1987) | The Big Easy (Jim McBride, 1987)
The complete drawing setup consists of a leveled glass stand, stripped down Gigatech BT-777 bluetooth 3W speaker, Unipin 0.3mm black pigment ink pen, Scotch 3M Magic adhesive tape, Scotch 3M Superstrong double adhesive tape, 2mm pressed cardboard sheet and Graphis 500g/m2 paper.
The project was realized with generous technical and logistical support by Dejan Vračarević, PING PONG Studio (Srđan Apostolović & Nenad Lužanin), Vladimir Veljašević and Adam Pantić.
Dejan Grba is a media artist, author and educator. His artistic investigation of the perceptive, cognitive and cultural factors of visual phenomenology is focused on constitution, representation and interpretation of the individual notion of reality.
He has exhibited and lectured at venues including ISEA Manizales and Hong Kong, SIVA Shanghai, ZKM Karlsruhe, IFA Berlin, GfZK Leipzig, Montevideo Amsterdam, MiP Vienna, CCN and <rotor> Graz, MoCA Novi Sad, MoCA and MST Belgrade.
He chairs New Media department at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade where he teaches Transmedia Research. He teaches Poetics of Digital Art seminar at Digital Art PhD program at University of the Arts in Belgrade. He was a guest professor with Computer Art program at the CVPA at Syracuse University, NY.