This generative drawing project explores the blending of unrelated cognitive paths into new matrices of meaning and discovery through abstraction, relationality, and analogy-making. It was sparked by the joy of connecting certain songs to the films where I heard them (not necessarily for the first time) and vice versa, recalling certain films by songs featured in them.
I formalized the intersections of music and cinema using a simple technique that visualizes sound through its mechanical energy. The radial asymmetry of lateral sound pressure forces produced by the vibrations of an efficient, free-standing speaker driver will move it around on a horizontal plane, which can be used for drawing. I selected 31 songs that I strongly associate with films in which they appear as diegetic or non-diegetic music and played each one full-volume over a light wireless speaker with a side-attached pen touching a paper sheet fixed on a leveled surface. This setup has no accuracy or reproducibility of scientific experiments, but with some care, it can be tuned up to render consistent traces of a chosen song.
To contextualize the sonic “seismographs” and reveal their visual subtleties, I scaled them up, added positional markers and essential song/film data, and printed them in high resolution. The exhibition features all prints, the playlist of their source songs, and two videos: a drawing process demo and a songs-in-films sample reel. With a range of inspirations and references in sound art, generative art, and computational art, this work leverages the mental broadness of vision and the material openness of depiction to celebrate the power of analogy-making surprises at the core of all creative processes.
Analogies explore the blending of unrelated cognitive paths into new matrices of meaning and discovery through abstraction, relationality, and analogy-making (Grba, 2015). It was sparked by the joy of connecting certain songs to the films where I heard them (not necessarily for the first time) and vice versa, recalling certain films by songs featured in them.
I formalized the intersections of music and cinema using a simple technique that visualizes sound through its mechanical energy. The vibrations of a speaker driver create lateral forces that are normally dampened by the loudspeaker body. But when an efficient speaker driver is separated from its casing and played loud enough, the radial asymmetry of lateral sound pressure forces will move it around on a horizontal plane, so it can become a drawing device. Lars Lundehave Hansen used sonically-driven mechanics for drawing in his work Spiderbytes (2011), but it never went beyond a well-rounded proof of technical concept. He played low-frequency noise on wired, down-facing speaker drivers, mounted on four graphite sticks symmetrically attached through the driver’s mounting holes. My sonic drawing methodology in Analogies features a clearly conceptualized source pool (songs in film) and technique (analog transcoding) within a multifaceted contextual space of analogizing the cognitive processes in creative acts
Another phenomenon caused by the mechanical nature of sound is cymatics: the emergence of different patterns in the excitatory medium (usually fluid or granular) depending on the geometry of the sound transmitting device and its driving frequency (Wikipedia 2023). It was explored by artists such as Ron Rocco and David Hykes’ Andro-Media (1980), Ned Kahn’s Sonic Range (1992), Carsten Nicolai’s Milch (2000), Yoshimasa Kato & Yuichi Ito’s White Lives on Speaker (2007), and Gabriel Dunne’s Cymatic Organ (2009). Nigel John Stanford used it in his hyperaestheticized promo video Cymatics: Science vs. Music (2014) to produce intricate water, nanofluids, fire, and lightning patterns.
I selected 31 songs that I strongly associate with films in which they appear as diegetic or non-diegetic music and played each one full-volume over a light wireless speaker with its driver facing down and a side-attached pen touching a paper sheet fixed on a leveled surface. This drawing setup has no accuracy or reproducibility of scientific experiments, but with some care about the type of paper and pen, pen pressure and angle, and strength of the pen-speaker bond, it can be tuned up to render consistent traces of a chosen song. This video illustrates the idea and documents one drawing session.
Each song was drawn on a separate sheet of paper by playing a single entry from a foobar2000 playlist of all 31 songs with matched volumes (ReplayGain). The sonic “seismographs” range from 25 to 125mm in length so I scaled them up 2.7× to reveal their visual subtleties. To each scaled up drawing I added one positional marker for the origin, another marker for the relative center, and the essential song/film data on the paper’s bottom: Song Title (Artist, Year) | Minutes:Seconds [song duration] | Film Title (Director, Year).
The gallery installation features all 31 framed prints, a wall-mounted tabled with an all-songs playlist, a process demo video, and a video montage of film samples featuring the visualized songs. The linear arrangement of prints right to left follows the playlist order. The all-songs playlist runs continuously by default over the gallery speakers and visitors can select and run any preferred song. Headphones are provided for the videos. This is the installation at the FFA Gallery in Belgrade 2017.
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: 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 (Schrader 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 drawing setup consists of a leveled glass stand, stripped down Gigatech BT-777 3W Bluetooth 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.