What is Scary? Part 2

What is Scary? Part 2

Fans of the website may have noticed that two avatar personalities have undergone rather startling seasonal transformations. Mona, our brilliant young marketing strategist, generally looks fresh and sharp in her Macy’s sweatsuit. Alas – she is totally zombified! One eye has apparently been gouged out, teeth are clearly in disarray, and hands are skeleton bony. Monstrous? Perhaps, in a fun sort of way. Scary? naaa . . . Despite the awful innovations, Mona merely poses. She remains playful and cheery. She intends no harm. She is clearly having fun and we have fun with her. Scary stuff has some critical components. For one, we relate on some level with the subject. There is something a little believable about something mostly fantastic. Or there is something with which we identify. Another critical component is feeling threatened, directly or indirectly. Arty, Mona’s white lab, transforms in a way which subtly threatens us, even as we laugh and say “how cute!” We all know that Arty keeps a paint brush firmly in his jaws and at the ready for that unscheduled plein air opportunity. But now behold the creator’s tool is supplanted by a long and terrible knife already bloodied from violent aggression. And against whom is this wanton attack? He stabs none other than his (formerly) beloved sister Mona! His eyes glow demonically. They laugh at us, not with us. Top all of this off with the physical transformation (a long blue worm tail supplants his bottom and fits just a little too perfectly), and we have a scene that creeps us out. Some small part of us is appalled. This...
Sound and Color : Anatomy of a Track Part 1

Sound and Color : Anatomy of a Track Part 1

Apropos to the Halloween season, Arty suggested that we get our paws (and hands) a little bloody and dissect a recent audio submission to the site.  Arty, by the way, took over for me as VP Technology and as a poster child on the homepage.  That’s fine with me.  He’s a good boy, and youth sells, so let him at it.  I still get to blog. One of our Midisparks composers, Dan Goldstein, has been exploring for some time relationships between sound and color.  Dan subscribes to the theory that all of us have the potential (if only latent) to experience sound as color.  That some experience sound in this way is documented.  The phenomena, known as chromesthesia (a subcategory of synesthesia) has been reported to occur in two ways.  In the first, the response to auditory stimuli is a projection of colored shapes, like fireworks, in the external space.  The second is the experience of a particular color in the mind’s eye in response to a particular note or other auditory input.  Studies have shown certain individuals to be genetically pre-disposed to chromesthesia, but that it is nevertheless a latent potential in most of us. Unfortunately, there seems to be no predictability about which notes will trigger which colors, when the reported responses of color-synesthetes are analysed statistically. This does not discourage Dan, however.  Dan suspects that different folks tune in to different overtones and hence different colors, even if the fundamental note is associated with a particular color.  In fact there has been demonstrated a mathematical relationship between audible frequencies and the frequencies associated with the light...
Photo Coloring – Art or Vandalism?

Photo Coloring – Art or Vandalism?

Do you love seeing modern colorizations of old, vintage photos? Is photo coloring an enhancement that deepens your engagement with the previously black and white image? Do you discover details which might have been missed if not for the highlight offered by hues of yellow, red or blue? Or perhaps you are a purist and believe that the colorization process compromises the integrity of the original. Do you feel that photo colorization represents a form of graffiti, vandalism which marks up and covers over the subtle effects uniquely achievable in the world of gray scale. Maybe you feel cheated of the opportunity to imagine for yourself the subject’s actual colors. There is much room for debate about the merits of old photo coloring. In addition to viewpoints about the actual transformation of the image, there are questions about the collection value of colorizations. Is a photo colorization of a vintage photo in and of itself a collectible? Perhaps the treated historic image can only be regarded, at best, as a new work of art. We thought it would be interesting to pose these questions to an artist actually devoted to the colorization process. Perhaps we might gain some insight into how at least one individual values this work and how the colorizations themselves can be valued. To this end, we contacted Mike Sadler, proprietor of Carney’s Photo Colourizing, Perth, Australia.  Mike and his wife have been engaged in the process of restoring and colorizing old family photos, mostly portrait photos, for well over 25 years. Mike was somewhat surprised about being contacted by a Springer Spaniel.  Nevertheless, he kindly agreed to respond to...
Music for Art – Shape and Sound

Music for Art – Shape and Sound

Despite my best efforts to divert Webmaster Dan from his quixotic exploration of the relationship between music and visual art, he dives deeper and deeper. Today the boss discovered several articles at ScienceDaily.com which flesh out substantially, in a non-mathematical way, the EyeMusic SSD. For those of us who lead normal lives (sleeping on sunny parts of the floor, grazing grass, chasing squirrels and rabbits, etc.) a brief refresher on the EyeMusic SSD is probably in order. This sensory substitution device (SSD) translates shape and color information into auditory data, a soundscape, which stimulates the visual cortex of the brain. With some training, a blind person listening to this soundscape will see shapes. The shape and sound algorithm translates images into sound through positional mapping. The x-axis describes left-right position of an object with volume differentiation over time. The y-axis describes high-low position with higher or lower audio frequencies. Apparently the visual cortex approves of the algorithm’s logic, because it is stimulated in the same way it is stimulated by actual visual sensory information. This dog, for one, is skeptical. The only thing I see when my master whistles for me to come is the flat side of his hand on my butt if I don’t snap to it. But Dan is all hot to trot with this one. He thinks there are exciting implications relating to his music for art. Specifically, he wants to find ways to apply the algorithm to the images for which he writes. He feels that even for a sighted person, some additional dimension of information about the visual subject may be conveyed. If...
Color for the Blind: Part 2

Color for the Blind: Part 2

The spiritual life has its advantages. Occasionally, and mostly during meditation, I become aware of a different reality, a world of the spirit. In this world, aspects of G-d are revealed to us differently. To be sure, our senses our engaged in that revelation. But they are engaged in unexpected ways. In our daily experience, for example, we know love as a feeling. But in prayer and meditation, we can understand G-d’s love as part of His creation equation. Is not nature sustained through the interdependent relationship of its elements? G-d’s love can be understood as the openness of elements in Nature, one to the other. The flower receives the bee. Smoke soothes the bee and she yields her honey. Some sugar inspires a creative thought. We build. This experience of the spiritual offered a key to dealing with my blindness. If I could “see” love, something normally felt, perhaps I could feel what was normally seen. Or perhaps I could hear what was normally seen! This possibility of using sound in lieu of sight to understand the physical world around me, and the visual expressions of that world in art, occurred to me when I started learning the seung, the traditional 4-stringed Thai guitar. Both the feeling and the sound of strings vibrating, quickly and slowly, softly and loudly, conveyed a variety of emotions. And more than this, the organization of notes, in various linear and horizontal patterns, were experienced in my mind as colors, structures and textures. It was with fascination that I discovered today an article about this relationship between sound and image perception. Professor Amir Amedi...
Color for the Blind: Part 1

Color for the Blind: Part 1

Lolita generously invited me to offer a guest blog this morning. Back in April of 2011 I met Lol’s close friend, Lizard King, during his visit to the Pathome Asoke Monastery at Amphoe Mueang Nakhon Pathom, Thailand.  Lizard King suggested to me at that time that I might benefit from some adventure and some re-connection with my backstreet roots.  To this end, I traveled to the United States with Lizard. That is when I met Lolita and became interested in her blogging about the relationship between music and art.  That is when a key was offered that unlocked a door to deeper appreciation of visual art. Exploring the realm of visual art has been challenging for me, and not only because of my physical impairment. I was exposed to very little art in my urban Bangkok youth.  Sure, there was plenty of graffiti.  My friends described to me imagery of violence, of loveless sex, of angry protest.  I could connect to these themes, because they were the themes of my street.  But I was cheated of the details.  The subtleties of the visual expression – color choices, textural variations, subject composition, were unavailable to your humble monk. During my years at the Pathome Asoke Monastery my awareness of the visual arts broadened.  My brothers were engaged in painting, pottery, calligraphy.  They spoke of the Asian master artists and their inspiring works.  I learned that visual art might portray other subjects than those of urban deprivation.  I understood that our community’s love of nature, for example, found expression in the Monastery’s creative pursuits.  Nevertheless, my appreciation for the visual depiction of, for example, a lotus tree in full blossom, was still limited to...
Creative Collaboration: The Secrets of Pathom Asoke

Creative Collaboration: The Secrets of Pathom Asoke

Last week Lizard King returned from a rare voyage overseas to Thailand. Now we won’t deny Lizard’s enthusiasm for the liberally available diversions of Bangkok, and without question he did some bar hopping there. Having satisfied his healthy and irrepressible appetite for the sensual with a few days in Thai-town, Lizard embarked for the countryside. With no particular plan, of course (after all we are speaking of the ultimately spontaneous Lizard King), our affable Chameleon stumbled upon the Pathom Asoke Buddhist Community about an hour outside of the bad city. What struck Lizard King most about the kind and humble people in this community who welcomed him so warmly, was a mysterious combination of openness and reserve. Even as the mellow monks offered him food and bed, shared with him some of their teachings, guided him around the enclave and it’s natural surroundings, he was profoundly aware of a secret, unfathomable reality not to be accessed casually, or quickly. For our likeable Lizard, with his proclivity for instant self-gratification, the measured and reserved interactions with the buddhist folk were a revelation, and a challenge. This was our young Lizard’s first exposure to a culture of reserve and moderation. He wanted in. He sought a key to open these people to him a bit more. He discovered Blind Monk. Blind Monk was born to a single mom in Bangkok and raised in the back alleys. The unsuspected blind boy fenced cash throughout his teens. He knew the street and the street trusted him. At about 19, an old Lama suggested to our young hustler a break from the city, and...

Music for Monster Art

As you turn in to the gallery of horrors, the sound of an old school theramin, reminiscent of monster movies from the 1940’s, wafts from speakers. The eerie, mellifluous sine wave stirs fear and foreboding. Perhaps all these scary creatures, apparently well secured on canvas, could leap out of the frames at any moment and attack. Along one wall of our gallery you are greeted by ominous portraits of Erique Claudin (Phantom of the Opera) and the Vampire Nosferatu. Fateful organ tones from Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor evoke images of holy cathedrals inhabited and held hostage by desperate evil. Just as music informs the horror film, so can music make a scary painting scarier. Generally speaking, music can deepen the experience of visual art by setting the mood, suggesting a narrative, or defining the space in which the artwork resides. In the monster art genre, our understanding of the story behind the image can contribute a lot to our connection and response to the work. Behold our sonic gallery’s image of a ferocious Wolfman with his massive clawed hands slashing out at us. The portrait is terrifying. When we understand the tragic story behind the image, that of a man helplessly transformed into a monster at the waxing of the full moon, feelings of pity mingle with those of repugnance and fear. Our response to the painting is all the more complex and troubling. A musical cue, such as a wolf howl, can trigger the background associations which deepen our experience of the visual piece. Monster art is essentially portrait art, and as such the singular...

Music for Animal Art

You are strolling through the gallery, one earbud tucked snugly in place. As you approach the awesome painting of a cheetah streeking across the canvas, your phone lights up with an “audio available” alert. Keenly focused on that cheetah, lest he tear out the door, you take your stand before the canvas and activate the music. Electric congos and toms are beating fast, incessantly, in the canyon below. Birds are screeching. And then the cheetah emits his wild, high pitched cry. You enjoy this option to experience a composer’s sonic contribution to the artwork, this music for art. A new dimension of art appreciation unfolds. Music can enhance the experience of visual art in several ways. The ambiant track offers a deeper experience of place. A melody, or a choice of instrument, may establish for us historical or cultural contexts. A track that unfolds dramatically may suggest to the viewer a narrative, a story for the art itself. Explicit sound effects serve to animate the visual image. Music for art contributes to art appreciation by creating deeper connections and richer associations with the visual creation. What then, might distinguish music composed specifically for animal art? The animal figure is often presented in closeup. The artist may feature the creature’s head, or perhaps even the eye. When the entire animal is presented, the figure generally takes up most of the canvas. Even in the somewhat abstracted animal representation, there is a scientific aspect to animal art. There tends to be a focus on anatomical detail. For our fascination with this genre is largely about wondering at the unique forms that...