Soundies

Soundies were musical films produced in several American cities between 1940 and 1947. They were short films of songs, dances, or orchestra performances. They were shown on a coin-operated machine, a kind of film jukebox that you could use in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and other public places. Some soundies were later reused as fillers for television.

The soundie was the precursor of the music video. The films, about three minutes long, were mounted on reels with several performances projected in a loop. As the intention was to reach a wide audience, the range of musical genres was diverse, from country to swing, jazz, gospel, folk, and even opera. In some cases, they included shots of women in swimsuits or other slightly erotic sequences to attract the sailors on leave, which led one senator to threaten to investigate the production and distribution of soundies, believing that these were lewd films that should not be shown in any decent public space.

Although some conservative politicians tried to turn soundies into films for sex shops, these were not low-budget films with erotic performers. Soundies were a launching pad for dancers, actors, musicians, and singers like Cyd Charisse, Doris Day, Ricardo Montalbán or Louis Armstrong. And more important, during the few years that they were in vogue, they were one of the few mediums in which artists of colour were free to produce their own films.

The first soundies were shot in 1940, but were not distributed until the following year, when the projection machine, called Panoram, was optimised. A Panoram cost about $600 (almost $12,000 today). Despite its high price, in just three years there were more than 10,000 Panorams throughout the United States. Although more than 1,800 soundies were produced and distributed in that short time, by 1946 the number of Panoram machines had dropped to just 2,000, presumably due to the restrictions of wartime.

Soundies were shot in 35mm and distributed in 16mm so that they could be projected on the Panoram, which as you can see in the following video was a bit of a mix between a jukebox and a television. It was a complex device, with a rear-projection system built with mirrors and a 45x50cm screen. Since each reel contained eight soundies that were projected in a loop, you could not choose which one to watch. To keep the audience interested, they changed the film reels every week.

Due to the technological limitations of the time, all the performers did playback, in some cases awful playback. However, perhaps the most curious thing is that soundies used the same tricks that contemporary music videos: absurd plots, half-naked girls, weird sets, and crazy choreographies. I’m sure some MTV executive has gotten ideas from this.

Mobile Painting: Art’s Newest Expression (1922)

Clavilux

Attempts have been made to coordinate color and music color and music, but thus without encouraging results. The color-organ, or Clavilux, invented by Mr. Thomas Wilfred, and presented recently in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse, differs from these experiments, despite its name, in that its compositions are played in silence and depend for their effect entirely upon a combination of color, form and movement.

The color is produced by refracted light, which is projected upon either a plaster wall or a ground glass screen in luminous, mobile patterns. These patterns or images are capable of extraordinary transformations in all their elements whether of color, form or movement, independently of each other and in varying tempo.

It is difficult to realize precisely what this amazing range in visible effects means; especially when we consider that few natural phenomena change in all their visible elements at the same time. Sunsets come nearest, perhaps, to such simultaneous changes of color, form and movement; but the comparison does little justice to the ordered and significant arrangements possible by means of the Clavilux. It is, in fact, a peculiar characteristic of these images that they cannot well be compared to anything; and while this adds to the difficulties of describing them or philosophizing about their aesthetic possibilities, it unquestionably accounts, in some measure, for their strangely stimulating and imaginative quality.

The performances of the Clavilux were given not only without any musical accompaniment, but in total darkness. This increased the intensity of the experience and permitted the faintest hues and gradations to become apparent. Mysterious effects were indeed often achieved by very subtle and barely perceptible hues which emerged from the surrounding black in vague masses, changing gradually into deeper tones and more clearly defined shapes until they achieved distinct forms in brilliantly luminous colors which now moved in new rhythms, changed into other forms or faded and disappeared again.

Sometimes a form would arise, ascend slowly and then remain poised while new forms would come into being and revolve in front of the first figure, with very remarkable effects of depth and perspective, while, at the same time, the figures remained always transparent. The most complicated configurations seemed to be achieved with the same facility as the simplest, so that the compositions had a kind of magical continuity, one figure flowing imperceptibly into another, precisely as one color became transformed into another, without any apparent breaks or changes. The emotional intensity with which these images affect us is striking; they stimulate the imagination, and hold us fascinated and entranced throughout.

At times the basic themes or designs upon which the compositions are built seem merely abstract conceptions, often very beautiful in form and movement; at other times they seem to be definite symbolic shapes. The colors, being produced by refracted light instead of by pigment, are luminous and thus heighten the abstract effect.

Clavilux

In consequence, the mobile designs become suggestive in strange ways of many beautiful phenomena, either because of a similarity of color effect or, more often, because of a similarity of rhythm and movement in the basic forms. Thus we may have fleeting visions, or rather fleeting recollections, of an eclipse, a comet, visions of icebergs or again of great fires, beautiful changes, as of chemicals reacting upon each other; ethereal effects of swaying, gossamer, cloud-like forms: of motions that remind us of elemental things—of breathing, of the rise and fall of geysers, or of fountains, of the flowing of water, or the dissipation of smoke, of dancing figures, of revolving flower-like forms, turning slowly, of clouds fading and disappearing.

Throughout all these varying transformations the images have a tremulous vibrating character that animates their forms and adds to the dynamic nature of our inner reactions. The figures in their evolving movements are not necessarily suggestive of definite natural phenomena, but often give very vivid impressions of abstract or generic movements, as reaching, sinking, fading, rising movements that might indicate release, grasp, dissolution, involution, evolution, enveloping, revealing, turning, winding, seeking, floating—innumerable fundamental movements which impart amazing fascination to the mobile designs as they develop before us.

This general terms are both vague and abrupt compared to the actual compositions they are intended to interpret. Nevertheless, it will be seen from even this brief and random description that the Clavilux is capable of an infinite range of variation, to a degree which pigment and canvas could not possible attain in the expression of motion with its inevitable echo in our emotions. For, at best, painting is a static result and however unbalanced the masses in a painting may be in order to suggest motion, the picture remains fixed at precisely one moment of an extended action.

The progression possible by means of moving pictures has, of course, completely effaced this difficulty. But moving pictures have been concerned, thus far at any rate, with a literal apprehension of things, so that, in effect, they have merely tended to complete the work of the camera by overcoming the static nature of a single picture. In consequence, moving pictures are more literal even than photographs, and, generally speaking, more lacking in aesthetic qualities.

The Clavilux, while it possesses in perhaps even more perfect degree the quality of movement that characterizes the cinema, promises to develop in a diametrically opposite direction; so that in place of literal representation we will have abstract forms of a symbolic nature, or equally abstract forms unqualified by any derivative or superimposed significance.

In art it is unquestionably true that where most is sacrificed, most is gained. The cinema, which sacrifices nothing of external similitude, has gained precisely nothing, and has revealed nothing. It is not yet an art. The Clavilux is a language as abstract as music, and its effects promise to be as overwhelmingly rich and satisfying to mankind.

The progression which we see upon a motion picture screen is the literal representation of actual movement. The progression which the Clavilux reveals is the visual realization of emotions. This will seem more inteligible of we consider music to be the oral realization or oral interpretation of inner feelings. In this sense the compositions of the Clavilux are more nearly related to music than to any other art—but this does not imply any relationship between color and sound.

Clavilux

The Clavilux is comparable to music because of the intensity, power and range of its emotional effects; mainly, however, because its images appeal to our feelings with the strange and compelling immediacy of a direct language, requiring no mental translation to become emotionally intelligible.

Modernism in painting has largely concerned itself with achieving this result. Despite its innumerable schools, painting has always been representational. It remained for Expressionism to conceive of painting in a wholly new manner which sought not only to escape from the imitation, in pigment, of visible things, irrespective of the ulterior significance to be derived from them, but which essayed the far more difficult problem of directly expressing inward states, moods, or emotional reactions.

In a very general way, it may be permissible to say that while painting has been able to express itself only through an interpretation of the appearance of things, music has concerned itself directly with the significance it wished to express.

It is the aim of Expressionistic art to widen the range of painting in order to make it co-extensive with music. If it has failed it is not because composers are greater artists than painters. The modernists having largely freed themselves from the representational limitations of painting have faced something far more serious, its static quality. They have generally found themselves struggling desperately for expression through the use of broken or otherwise subverted forms, which seldom created an emotional reaction and never sustained it.

For in order to sustain an emotion it is necessary to suggest with some fidelity its entire development. Just as we are completely at a loss, in looking at most modern work, to comprehend how the artist arrived at his conception, so we are equally at a loss to carry it on imaginatively. In consequence we consider the work without significance, whereas actual it is merely an unrelated aesthetic conception of possibly very great merit, Emotions being illusive and volatile, are best expressed by a medium which is mobile and flowing, Expressionism may thus attain an unsuspected development by means of the Clavilux, which has given us the wholly new conception of mobile painting.

In so far as modern art is concerned with purely abstract aesthetic relationships of form and color, it will be possible to use the Clavilux with equally rich possibilities. Precisely what may result it will be difficult to foresee. Aesthetically we have nowhere ventured very far in this direction, possibly because, at bottom, we wish art to remain a medium of interpretation rather than an end in itself.

Mr. Wilfred played several compositions of abstract forms which, considering the newness of the medium, were very satisfying. Conceivably these might be developed along more intricate and subtle lines of a far vaster scale with very imposing results. Indeed, it is one of the hopes of Mr. Wilfred to develop the Clavilux into a orchestra of instruments and, in place of the screen, to use a plaster wall of great height and width. Figures of perhaps one hundred feet could be developed, in glorious effects.

And, while all these developments take no account of other arts, it will be possible to use the Clavilux with perhaps amazing effectiveness in the new stage craft, where strange and magnificent things will be accomplished; with music and the dance, as a new form of accompaniment, or conversely, these things may be used as adjuncts to the Clavilux.

“Mobile Painting: Art’s Newest Expression”, Roderick Seidenberg, International Studio, March 1922.

November Film (complete)

*WARNING: This film contains flashing images.*

*Some of the frequencies are quite low, so I recommend you to watch the film with headphones, but be careful with the sound volume.*

This film is the result of a 30 days challenge. It was originally published on a daily basis on Twitter—one-minute video per day from November 1 to 30 (2017). The sound was made in Audacity using tone and noise generators. Images are the audio files themselves saved as JPG, so what you see is what you hear.

You can find the original 30 one-minute films at my Twitter account: @null66913

November Film

November Film 06

This is what I’ve been doing lately. You can watch all my November one-minute films in this Twitter thread. All the films are similar, just tones and noise. I generate the frames using data bending techniques, so a bit of noise and a bit of glitch…

This is not Cinema, 20 de julio en Barcelona

This is not Cinema

Este jueves día 20 de julio en Crater-Lab, This is not Cinema, una sesión con algunas de mis películas experimentales, abstractas o la etiqueta que más os guste ponerle a este tipo de cine.

La entrada cuesta solo 5 euros e incluye una consumición. La sesión dura más o menos una hora, pero seguramente hablaremos un poquito y demás, así que quizá se alargue a hora y media o lo que dé de sí la charla…

Algunas películas son found footage, otras animación abstracta y otras experimentos que podrían entrar en varios géneros distintos. Un poco de psicogeografía, un poco de data bending, un poco de motion graphics y mucho flicker.

¡Os espero!

iotaSalon, LA (03/23/2017): The Best of Punto y Raya Festival

RGB Colour Model at iotaSalon, LA.

One of my flicker animation pieces (RGB Colour Model) will be screened next week in LA as part of “The Best of Punto y Raya” program. Lots of great stuff, if you’re in LA, don’t miss it! Thursday, March 23, 8PM.

“We are excited to announce the next installment of our ongoing iotaSalon series, a selection of beautiful and provocative works from the Punto y Raya Festival 2016 to screen at the Echo Park Film Center on Thursday, March 23. Punto y Raya has been dubbed ‘the most abstract film festival in the world’ by the Japanese press. Based in Barcelona, Spain, the festival criss-crosses the globe with each year’s award-winning films, representing the best of contemporary abstract film. The 85-minute Best-Of program showcases experimental narrative expressions using pure form, color, motion, and sound, avoiding direct representation and bringing people together with imagery that is current, universal and timeless.”

More information

Símbols franquistes a Tortosa i altres desusos

Núvol ha publicat una bonica crònica del Embarrat i també unes paraules boniques sobre la meva acció/vídeo:

«Blanca Rego (Ferrol) va realitzar una de les accions més interessants i directament vinculades a la inutilitat i el desús. La gran màquina I és la realització d’una curosa recerca per Internet de les bases escrites de la primera edició (2014) del festival Embarrat (que no estaven ja penjades al propi web del festival). D’alguna manera, l’autora posava de manifest la obsolescència mateixa de la creació contemporània, les convocatòries, els premis, els festivals o els propis artistes i les seves obres. Un cop trobades les bases en un document PDF, l’autora inicia una cadena de transcodificacions: de PDF converteix el document a audio, el divideix en fragments i el converteix en arxiu de fotogrames, aconseguint un resultat aleatori i imprevisible. El resultat final és un vídeo HD en bucle de menys de 4 minuts esdevingut artefacte inútil, obsolet i inintel·ligible. Una absurditat amb ple sentit interpretatiu».

«Símbols franquistes a Tortosa i altres desusos», Oriol Martí Sambola.

Audible Frequency Range

Just a small test, a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency sweep heard as sound and seen as images. Sound and images are the same files saved in two different formats (AIFF and JPG). Images were generated chopping the audio file in very small fragments (the equivalent to one frame) and saving them first as RAW and then as JPG using Audacity and ImageMagick.

Psycho 60/98

WARNING: This film contains flashing images.

“Psycho” (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock and “Psycho” (1998) by Gus Van Sant collide in a frame-by-frame editing that assaults the eyeballs and assassinates the normative consciousness of the viewer. The footage seem to penetrate us, as though it was a knife or a threatening phantasmagorical entity. The fast succession of single frames and extremely short audio files produce afterimages and aftersounds—entoptic and endaural phenomena—creating a film that does not happen on the screen, but in our brain cells.

*Just a technical note for those interested on how things are made, this film consist just of both shower scenes fragmented in frames; the odd frames are the shower scene from the Hitchcock movie and the even frames are the shower scene from the Van Sant remake. No image or sound effects of any kind, just the frames. Sense-destructive cinema, enjoy! :)

Angular. Volumen 01 en Otros Cines Europa

En Otros Cines Europa han publicado una reseña muy bonita de Angular. Volumen 01. Además, dicen cosas que me gustan sobre mi película, así que agradezco sus palabras por partida doble, como enamorada del cine experimental y como parte implicada :)

«En una línea similar de cineastas-videastas que conocen la tradición experimental y dialogan con ella desde un punto de vista contemporáneo, está el trabajo de Blanca Rego Engram (optical sound #001), un trabajo que forma parte de una serie titulada “Esto no es una película”, que emula u homenajea obras clásicas del estructural, a través de una sucesión de frames blancos y negros, pero hecho, no en celuloide, sino con una aplicación de teléfono móvil llamada 8 mm, que emula el aspecto cinematográfico de las películas antiguas. Parte homenaje, parte ironía, el trabajo es puramente posmoderno, y reflexiona sobre cómo nos relacionamos con la tradición cinematográfica, por un lado, y cómo, por otro, añoramos el aspecto físico de los soportes analógicos, creando simulacros nostálgicos. Estos dos trabajos dan una buena muestra del enfoque contemporáneo con el que Angular se da a conocer: no se trata de reivindicar un cine experimental añejo per se, sino de entender la historia, dialogar sobre ella, y pensar cómo el cine experimental puede seguir reinventándose, ya sea a través de sus relecturas, en dialogo con sus fuentes, o explorando nuevas vías a través de nuevas herramientas digitales: al fin y al cabo, el cine experimental, fuertemente unido a sus herramientas técnicas, nunca podrá ser el mismo, o no debería, si cambian las tecnologías».

Reseña completa en Otros Cines Europa.
Más información sobre Angular. Volumen 01 en Angular.

D_FragTV tapestry

D_fragTV

Some weeks ago, I met Celeste Araújo (one of the programmers of the Xcèntric‘s programme of experimental film). She told me that once she had made a tapestry from one of my works (D_FragTV) and I really flip out! I asked her if she could send me a photo of her tapestry and here it is.

D_fragTV_tapiz

This is so nice that I don’t know want to say, so I’ll just say a big THANK YOU!!!

The Spaces Between Cities premiere @ Seattle [December 8th, 2015]

A world premiere presentation. EXcinema commissioned twenty films by international experimental filmmakers spread across four continents to create one feature length road film. The Spaces Between Cities is a collaboration made in the form of an exquisite corpse. Each film connects randomly to the next by way of a series of prompts creating a continuous road trip, or journey that will connect these different parts of the world.

Filmmakers: Amy Bassin, Mark Blickley, Stephen Broomer , Charles Chadwick, Pip Chodorov, Konstantinos-Antonios Goutos, Pablo Molina Guerrero, Salise Hughes, Douglas Katelus, Anna Kipervaser, Kate Lain, Insa Langhorst, Jesse Malmed, Milan Milosavlijevic, Reed O’Beirne, Arto Polus, Ben Popp, Blanca Rego (that’s me), Margaret Rorison, Dustin Zemel, Robert Zverina

December 8th, 7:00pm
Grand Illusion Cinema
Seattle (USA)

More information

I love flashing lights warnings from films and TV shows

Warning: This film contains flashing images and stroboscopic sequences

This one is from A Field in England by Ben Wheatley. I remade the original intertitle that I had because it was a bit small for a HD video.

Due to Violent Content, and Flashing Lights with Strobe Effects, Viewer Discretion Advised

This one is from Hannibal, my favourite TV series ever (it’s from “Takiawase”, season 2 episode 4). The DVD doesn’t include this warning at the beginning of the episode, but it was there when it was broadcasted on TV.

Computer Music Studies

During last month, I spent most of my time making a series of audiovisual pieces entitled Computer Music Studies. The sound, and the title, are by Mikel R. Nieto, who provided me with twenty tracks. This work was made for Nokodek Festival.

The initial idea was to make a series of audiovisual pieces based on digital feedback. That is, using configurations in which the audio output returns to the audio input, generating an internal digital feedback which usually is nonlinear and difficult to control. The sound was generated in an autonomous way using different configurations of the same pattern. (I don’t know which audio software used Mikel, if you’re interested in the sound tracks you should ask him).

The video track is not feedback, but data bending, which I guess could be understood as a kind of digital feedback because it uses a stream of data—in this case audio data—to generate another kind of file—in this case an image file. It’s not feedback, obviously, because I’m not routing the output back as an input, but in certain sense I’m routing the ‘output’ data of one format as an ‘input’ for another. In any case, it’s not generative, it was made frame by frame.

What I did was splitting the audio tracks in fragments of around 41.67 milliseconds—the equivalent to one video frame—using Audacity. I saved all those files as .raw, then I opened them in Photoshop, and I saved them as .jpg. So, what you hear and what you see are exactly the same data.

This video is just one of the twenty pieces, the complete work is around 40 minutes. It can’t be played live, because the data bending part is almost ‘handmade’—the conversion phase is not automatic, it’s painstakingly slow—, so even it was made for a music festival it’s more like a series of films than ‘live cinema’. Machine music for machines.

NoiseVideo Festival 2015

“Since our start in 2012 we made few good things such as Brasil on Art (first online festival of Brazilian films on Art with Sao Paulo MoveCineArte Festival). We have investigated the representation of architecture with live sessions at Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina in Serbia and through the online format EVA (Experimental Video Architecture) Festival. Recently with the Circuit of Auckland with have streamed ‘Goodnight Kiwi’ an online session of New Zealand video art. Also since 2014 we have started the “Special Guest” programme with live streaming session aimed at introducing the work of single artist such as Mircea Nicolae, Federica Cogo, Brit Bunkley, Luciana Beneduce.

With 2015 we are happy to launch our new format titled NOISE VIDEO Festival that will present a short selection of videos that engage the dialogue between sound production and video/cinematic design. The goal is to explore this interaction field in the visual art. For this first edition we will present a wide gamma of possible approaches as a chance to start a debate and make it available to a wide audience. For this we have invited a group of authors to participate in this online festival that will take place from 3rd April – 3rd of May 2015.”

FILMS INVITED:

AARON CLUB
Hyperions Schicksalslied
Italy, 2013
time: 3′ 30”
Watch from HERE

THE UNSTITUTE
Wrong
UK, 2012
time: 4′ 35”
Watch from HERE

JENNIFER JUNIPER STRATFORDIO
Radioactive Dreams
US, 2014
time: 5′ 29”
Watch from HERE

ERIC SOUTHER
Dissecting Muybridge Excerpts Part 1
US, 2014
time: 14′ 14”
Watch from HERE

LARRY WANG
Ghosts
US, 2014
time: 1′ 38”
Watch from HERE

JESSE MALMED
Conque
US, 2014
time: 8′ 47”
Watch from HERE

BLANCA REGO
Engram (Optical Sound #001)
Spain, 2012
time: 2′ 27”
Watch from HERE

CHARLES COHEN
Figures
US, 2014
time: 1′ 00”
Watch from HERE

BENJAMIN DUCROZ
Press +
Australia, 2009
time: 1′ 27′
Watch from HERE

NATHAN THOMPSON
Zero Return
New Zealand, 2007
time: 9′ 44′
Watch from HERE

KIM ASENDORF
News From the Webcoast
Germany, 2011
time: 5′ 00”
Watch from HERE

LISSA MITCHELL
Rain
New Zealand, 1998
time: 8′ 40”
Watch from HERE

EMILY ALDEN FOSTER
Learning to Use the Alphabet
US, 2013
time: 3′ 36”
Watch from HERE

HOOLIGANSHIP
Super Sellody
US, 2008
time: 1′ 41”
Watch from HERE

GERALD WHITE
Bruxelles Double Sens
Belgium, 2013
time: 3′ 17”
Watch from HERE

More information at FilmEsssay