Animated Laser Visual Music Meditations
Ron Pellegrino, 11/97
The Root Idea
- Playing with visual music/sonification, a focused multimedia approach
based on natural and invented visual connections, reflections,
translations, mappings, and embodiments of music
- Exploring dynamical wavetrains/datatrains that work aesthetically
for both the ear and the eye.
- Searching for a common ground for the ear and the eye.
- I've been exploring the audio-visual cross-modal electronic arts
field since 1967 when (as part of a doctoral project at the University
of Wisconsin) I hung an oscilloscope on the end of the wavetrains
emerging from a Moog synthesizer to begin to understand the connections
between the Moog's electronic transfer functions and what I was
hearing from the speakers. My career in visualizing music had
an unintentional beginning; because there were no instructional
materials available in 1967 for the Moog synthesizer I was forced
to learn the instrument by my own devices which happened to include
speakers for listening and an oscilloscope for looking. Instruments
soon to follow were four-channel oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers,
film cameras, video cameras, audio and video synthesizers, laser
animation systems, video and data projectors, special purpose
computers, general purpose computers, and the complete range of
- My focus is ongoing research in the electronic arts of sound and
light with applications in multimedia performance art, communications,
- The process includes real-time performance-multimedia events based
on my continuing experiments in the integration of the physics,
psychophysics, and metaphysics of sound, light, form, and movement.
- Public performance-multimedia events in universities, art museums,
science museums, and cultural centers for the purpose of scattering
idea seeds for visual music and sonification.
- Demonstrations and publications for professional groups.
- Expositions on this website.
One of the Systems for Realizing the Idea:
The System for Animated Laser Visual Music Meditations
- Stereo wavetrains/datatrains are generated by a hybrid stereo
synthesizer capable of real-time control of frequency modulation,
amplitude modulation, waveshape modulation, ring modulation, and
- One branch of the stereo wavetrains/datatrains is 1) routed through
an affordable stereo amplifier that drives an xy laser deflection/projection
system producing performable laser animations on a projection
surface and 2) simultaneously a second branch is routed downline
directly to an audio mixer and 3) simultaneously a third branch
is routed to the Fairlight Voicetracker.
- The laser animations are picked up by a S-VHS video camera that
is connected to an Amiga computer which digitizes and processes
the video for recording to a S-VHS video deck in synchrony with
the audio manifestations of the wavetrains/datatrains that produced
the laser animations.
- One audio leg is routed to a Fairlight Voicetracker, a special
purpose computer for analyzing and converting audio frequency,
amplitude, waveshape, and duration to MIDI signals.
- The MIDI signals control and conduct a networked orchestra of
MIDI synthesizers programmed to respond to the MIDI signals that
pass through adjustable response windows defined by upper and
lower thresholds for frequency, amplitude, and duration.
- The second stereo audio leg is routed to a mixer to be mixed with
the audio outputs of the MIDI orchestra and displayed in real-time
projections or recorded to S-VHS tape in synchrony with the video
of the laser animations.
The Systems Game
If used alone, all instruments, including synthesizers (nowithstanding
all that marketing hand-waving about infinite possibilities),
impart their inherent sound and light signatures on the work created
with them. The only way an electronic artist can create a truly
unique voice with commercial or custom products is to combine
instruments into one-of-a-kind performance/production systems.
Such a performance/production system is, in fact, a higher level
instrument much like the traditional orchestra and can be used
for a variety of pieces with very different results. The system
described in the flowchart above was recently used in a piece,
Air Time, that featured four young girls playing on a trampoline functioning
as the animation and audio generators instead of the synthesizer.
A project in process, Nonstop, uses the same system with the nonstop action of a kid's soccer
match as the input.
Unique systems design is the principle at the foundation of the
facilities of my company, Electronic Arts Productions; my collection
includes a wide-range of affordable electronic arts instruments
with release dates from up-to-the-minute to the late 1960s. Based
on a music performance background that goes back to my ninth year,
I approach all my electronic arts tools as expressive instruments.
Since it takes years to build a subtle performance technique,
I leverage that time investment by integrating older instruments
with newer instruments in ever-changing systems configurations
so as to create unique higher level systems for performance-multimedia.
The instruments behind the flowchart cover an acquisition period
of 26 years from 1971 through late 1997 including 1975, 1981,
1983, 1985, 1988, 1992, 1995, and 1996; the point is that it makes
good sense to keep and use the tools in which you've made a life
investment. Just figure out how to integrate them into your current
thinking. Bring all of your history to bear on the moment.
The images above are video frames grabbed from the animations
created by the system and process described above. Click on any
thumbnail to see a larger more detailed version of that image.
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©1996-2004 Ron Pellegrino and Electronic Arts Productions. All