The quest behind the concept for ‘Under Willow’…
The crux of the idea is merely a study of how music is interpreted; how its attributes affect us internally by inducing emotions and visuals which can then bring about a physical reaction such as the act of dancing.
I wanted this film to provide a unique account of how sound could be shown in a visual form.
The tone and structure of the piece would be dictated by the sound track, influencing the progression of the story and the interaction between characters.
The characters would essentially be rhetorically mirroring the behaviour of music.
Synchronisation and synaesthesia were taken into account. The nature of music and image (particularly moving image) is closely related. This is true partly because our ears and eyes detect forms of energy. More importantly, they measure frequency and wavelength but also the amplitude of waves.
In this way, parallels can be drawn between their respective formal elements.
Line in image composition is something that generally influences the direction of the viewer’s gaze. I find it appropriate to pair this with melody, as the latter is what drives a piece of music, just as a line serves as a guide in images.
The uses of straight and curved lines often help to create certain moods in a visual piece.
Tone or rather timbre of sound (meaning the sound wave’s properties and characteristics) can be interpreted as the texture and density of a sound, as in sharp, soft or hollow.
Dynamics in sound can be analogous to what in image terms is referred to as size, meaning the relative dimensions and proportions of elements seen in a composition.
Dynamics can also be akin to levels of light; darkness can be used to depict quietness as brightness can be used to represent loudness.
The relationship between colour and pitch is extremely close. Although it had been a topic of curiosity as far back as ancient Greek times, it wasn’t until 17th century that the idea of corresponding sound and colour was properly addressed.
The physicist Isaac Newton sought to explore the hypothesis that musical tones and colour tones have frequencies in common.
In his attempt to link sound oscillations to respective light waves, he managed to match the seven colours in a spectrum of light with the seven notes in a musical scale.
Then came the colour organ, in several designs and renowned by many masters.
It was inspired by the principles set by Newton but this meant that its approach to analogising music and image (mostly colour) was fairly rigid.
My interest lies rather in the richness of the psyche; how it can influence the diversity of the associations that can be made between these stimuli.
Closer to present time, around the start of the 20th century, audiovisual concepts were being explored in film.
I started to gravitate to the work of two artists in particular – Oskar Fischinger and Len Lye. Fischinger would focus on the dynamics of motion, often linking visual and auditory rhythm.
Film still from Allegretto 1936
Len Lye commented on the process of his film ‘Rainbow Dance’ as an opportunity to transform ‘realism’ into colour ‘hieroglyphics’.
In Norman McLaren’s Dots made in 1940, the subject matter and soundtrack are both very simple and in this way very effective. The sound that is used to accompany images of appearing and disappearing dots is tightly synchronised to the motion, adding a sharpness to the timing of the visual element of the piece.
In fact, because of his pioneering techniques in animation but especially his pursuit of sound and visual synchrony, I am slowly but surely becoming obsessed with his work. It’s also quite weird that I only saw this piece some time after constructing the treatment for Under Willow.
The work of Erika Russell was recommended for my viewing. In her piece Feet of Song (1988), there is a theme of repetition in the design and movement of the characters that feature in the animation.
Whether simultaneously or consecutively, the characters move in unison and are placed equidistantly to one another, so as to reinforce a sense of rhythm and togetherness of each element of the musical piece.
But the one thing that bothers me about a lot of abstract animation work is the lack of thought for the background design. You either get in most cases black, or perhaps so as not to be so sombre, white.
Of course, regarding abstract animation, it is a little difficult to provide a background that’s interesting enough and yet doesn’t steal much attention from the foreground action.
I discovered Otome when looking through Wow Inc.’s productions. Its background design is inspiring in the sense that there is often a connection between it and the foreground.