John Whitney published his seminal book “Digital Harmony: On the Complementarity of Music and Visual Art” in 1980, just as the computer industry was beginning to move into full swing. While computing at that time was new to most of us, Whitney, long regarded as the father of computational motion graphics, had already spent decades honing his craft. Digital Harmony was as much a proposal and an invitation as it was a documentation of technique and process. It was one of the first books to consider the intersection of Technology and The Arts, and, not surprisingly was as rich and stimulating in its graphic content as it was in information.
But a lot of time has passed since then. The generations that drew inspiration and influence from Whitney’s book, and ultimately, from his film work, have invented and integrated their own technologies and methods, and we are now, some thirty-odd years later, able to do many of the things that Whitney had imagined. There is an emerging demand for what is popularly being called “Visual Music”, most evidently in Electronic Music culture at venues like Sonar, Punta y Raya, and Clickfest, with an observable parallel growth in the VJ market. Similarly, there has been a renewed, if not continued, interest in Whitney himself, most recently seen in the Manchester-based conference called “Whitney Evolved.”
All of this to say that the time is ripe for a thorough reflection on the original text, which has been out of print for quite some time (and copies that can be found in decent shape are fetching upwards of $200 on Amazon and eBay). And given the current technoscape, we would be remiss to simply create a read-only book, steeped in dry research. On the contrary, Digital Harmony Extended will consist not just of clear explanations and analyses of Whitney’s original theories, but will, in the format of a tablet app, use all relevant and available technologies to reach beyond and realize Whitney’s vision.
And so, as Chapter One was so aptly titled, we say again:
On With The Revolution.
- Theories on Visual Music
- Raw Materials: The Elements of Sight, The Elements of Sound
- Understanding Tuning, and How We Got Where We Are
- Why a Pitch Can't Be a Color
- From Polar Petals to Super Shapes
- Differential Dynamics
- Matrix III Interactive
- Permutations Interactive
- In-depth Analysis of Whitney's Stylistic Approach
- Dot / Line Circles
- Pure Points
- Use of Polar Geometry
- Perspectives and Interviews (Interviewees TBD)
During the course of producing DH-Ex, we will periodically share bits and pieces of experiments and research that we find particularly interesting. We not only want to give you a preview of what's coming, but are also interested in getting your feedback so that we can better shape the final product. Just follow any of the links below to see what we're up to.
Matrix III Interactive
Part of our discussion on Whitney's use of Differential Motion, which was critical to his overall approach, will focus on his 1972 experimental short animation "Matrix III". We are producing an interactive, performable version of the work, which we hope will facilitate the understanding of how Differential Motion works in specific contexts.
Exploring the SuperFormula
Whitney used Polar Equations to generate the shapes that became the hallmark of his work. Shortly after his death, a new "range" of shapes, derived from Polar Geometry, was discovered. These shapes were created with an equation called the SuperFormula, and not only extends Whitney's harmonic vocabulary, but blasts it forward. Follow the links below to see the results of our first round of experiments.