Director: Erkki Kurenniemi
Year: 1964
Time: 5 mins
Music: Erkki Kurenniemi
Eye of Sound: Erkki Kurenniemi was arguably one of the first artists to propose or fantasise about a complete cultural surrender to cyber existence, and his entire career, covering such diverse fields as artificial intelligence, music, engineering, film, dance or rhetorics, testifies to this desire to escape the limits of the human body and transgress into a different dimension, bordering on techno-fetishism. In his 1964 short Electronics in the World of Tomorrow, Kurenniemi presents a slideshow of the most aseptic signs of technological  imagination: diagrams, chips, machines, cold surfaces. But footage of human warmth also comes up - mostly in black and white, as if to give humans the status of a memory. Originally silent, the film was in this version endowed with a electronic music piece by Kurenneimi himself: a cold, aggressive soundtrack that could be said to present technology as a potentially menacing affair, although this is a reading that the director would certainly refute.


Camera: Cerith Wyn-Evans
Year: 1983
Time: 24 mins
Music: Peter Christopherson
Eye of Sound: To celebrate the news of Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson's demise yesterday, a recording of Coil's performance at the Air Gallery in London in 1983. Entitled A Slow Fade to Total Transparency (How To Destroy Angels), it features John Gosling, John Balance and Marc Almond, while Christopherson provides the sound input on tapes. Samples from Pasolini's Salò set the tone for Almond's reading of a bitter-violent text apparently addressed to an ex-lover and for Balance's and Gosling's disturbing ritual of self-mutilation. As an esoteric ritual performance, the procedures elude the understanding of the non-initiate, and, much like in TPY's First Transmissions act, we are only allowed to know that it is located at the intersection of pain, sacrifice, control, art and magic. If the abundance of blood, smear and dejects is reminiscent of Muehl and the Aktionist posse, the slow, pseudo-ritualized gestures of the performers lend it a different, possibly more deranging effect, and certainly carry a different signification for the artists and their followers.


Director: Patrick Bokanowski
Year: 1972
Time: 16 mins
Music: Michèle Bokanowski
Eye of Sound: A woman powdering herself, while someone who seems to incarnate death patiently observes her, is probably one of the few immediately intelligible scenes in Bokanowki's 1972 debut film. She wears a mask that apparently hides the blisters covering the faces around her and, by powdering herself, she seems to entice the march of another creature who is later seen to attack a woman, perhaps the powdered woman, with the help of a raging mob. The film's narrative is cryptic enough to have elicited all sorts of exegetical discoveries: from discourses on beauty, masks and the objectification of desire to comments on the French Revolution, critics seem to have found different keys to the mystery of La Femme. In fact, the film's baffling combination of expressive action and onirical sequence should perhaps make us weary of the attempt to locate linear narration units in it. It is tempting to say that La Femme, Bokanowski's first short, contains all the elements that would the director would mature in the following decades: opaque screen compositions are loaded with painted superpositions, although the result here sometimes verges on a tribute to expressionism; the sometimes imperceptible slow gestures are familiar to admirers of L'Ange, while the run across the fields is thematically reminiscent of Déjeuner; and, above all, the deformity of objects and plans, associated with a perverse use of light and shadow contours, enhances the opacity of the images. Michèle Bokanowski, the director's wife and lifetime collaborator, offers a beautiful, if somewhat cold and deranging, electroacoustic soundtrack that punctuates, through its contrasting modes, La Femme in oblique ways: although woven into the film, the composer's score is delicately synched with the screen in telescopic ways, compounding moments rather than providing, as usual, a steady throbbing cadence.

FOE (2007)

Director: Mustafa Emek Gül
Year: 2007
Time: 9 mins
Music: Barkin Engin
Eye of Sound: Winner of the Best Experimental Film Award at the Naoussa Short Film Festival, Emek Gül's Foe is a film-essay that aims to explore issues of human displacement, challenging the construction of abnormality and the accommodation of monstrosity both within the self and the social body. According to the director, a metaphorical monster is seen to bridge gaps between the categories of normal and abnormal, a creature who also mimics traits of (normatively) pathological behaviour, namely "somatoform and dissociative disorders". This "overdramatic" creature also aims, Gül says, to act the out freudian theory of the child's psychosexual stages in several sequences: the "I am Defiant" section, for instance, purports to explore the anal retention phase, while the "I am Unique" sequence deals with the effects of the phallic phase on the construction of narcissism. While it is not clear whether such complex problematics flow through Foe's elusive narrative, even to viewers reasonably acquainted with classic psychoanalitic theory, the film's stark, sometimes brutal design, supported by cirurgical computer graphics and an impressive physical performance by Cenk Kurt, offers an intense viewing experience, heightened by a diverse and carefully composed soundtrack that weaves together hiss, grain, frequency and drone.


Director: Georges Schwizgebel
Year: 1982
Time: 9 mins
Music: Michael Horowitz & Rainer Boesch
Eye of Sound: Schwizgebel once commented that Le Ravissement of Frank N. Stein was born of the desire to work intimately with a composer. By teaming up with Michael Horowitz and Rainer Boesch, two electroacoustic and electronic composers that create music by forging unity out of fragmentary sources, Schwizgebel was perhaps offering one of the keys to this immensely rich Frank N Stein edifice - especially if we notice that the soundtrack is built on cycles of crescendos rather than contrasting disparate sound objects. External references abound, Marguerite Duras' Le Ravissement de Vol N. Stein and James Whale's 1935 The Bride of Frankenstein being the most obvious. Duras' novel is acted out, after a brief insight into the monster's inform interiority and laboratorial gestation, in the apparently motionless traversing of endless rooms that are progressively filled out with objects and persons. But this is not an external museum, and we are soon lead to believe that we are crossing the internal landscape of a fragmented being who bears the marks of discontinuity both on his body and in his name. The filling out of such halls is equated with the construction of his selfhood: from the repetition of nothingness, through spaces of complete darkness, to a stage of apparent excess, an illusory surplus of inhabitants blooms out of the original void that predicated the creature's mind - illusory because we are shown that the multiplicity of figures is a guise for the repetition of a mind-cell, one in which only the monster and his fearful bride exist. By the time we reach the final chamber, that of his unified selfhood, we are thrown into The Bride referential territory. And, paradoxically or not, it is, as Amy Lawrence pointed out, when seeing his bride that the monster acquires a self - a self, we may assume, that is immediately shattered by her hysterical rejection of her own male-counterpart. It is also at this moment that we are detached from the monster's vision, but the supplementary distance created by the final scene, in which all is shown to be film and fiction, only temporarily reassures us of our status as spectators: for by allowing us to read the monster as fiction for a few seconds but then placing our theatre seats as part of the film, Schwizgebel immediately relocates us in the fabric of fiction from which our selves had just been rescued from. 


Year: 1973/2004
Time: 63 mins
George Crumb
Margaret Leng Tan
Alex Nowitz
Eye of Sound: Notation naturally underwent the same ruptures that its signified did throughout the 20th century, not only in the attempt to find technically suitable illustrations for unprecedented forms of sonic expression, but also, as it was often the case, as a deliberate attack on the conventions of the graphic representation of sound. In the process, scores became increasingly idiosyncratic, more conscious about their arbitrary (i.e. semiotic) nature, and concomitantly assumed the status of art objects in themselves. Crumb once said that he tries to make scores "as simple and conventional as possible", pointing out that economy and clarity are vital to the performer's understanding of the composer's work; and, when asked to comment on his well-known penchant for elaborate notation designs, the composer simply justified them as "flights of whimsy". There is much more than whimsy to his scores, however, and besides their immense beauty and obvious symbolic import, they are complex enough to have inspired several research essays by well-known musicologists and art historians, not to mention modern mystics of different sorts. As a companion to Leng Tan's performance of George Crumb's zodiacal Makrokosmos I & II, we are lucky enough to be offered the possibility of watching the piece's original scores unfold as the music progresses, allowing us a few glimpses of the composer's aural graphism as well as insights into his verbal understandings of his own compositions ("as if suspended in time" in Agnus Dei/Capricorn, "like a cosmic clockwork" in Magic Circle/Leo); precise indications ("depress white keys silently" in Prophecy/Aries); corrections; dedications (for David Burge and Robert Miller); and humorous remarks ("excellent first piece!" in Primeval/Cancer). A beautiful and enlightening experience in the art of augenmusik, as fascinating as watching Tan and Nowitz play.


Director: Evans Chan
Year: 2004
Time: 63 mins
George Crumb
Margaret Leng Tan
Alex Nowitz
Eye of Sound: Perhaps downplaying their obvious esoteric dimension, Crumb once commented on his two Makrokosmos "books" as an attempt to survey and catalogue all playing techniques and possibilities for the piano. And while no single work can claim to exhaust possibilities in any given domain, Makrokosmos undoubtedly stands out as an impressive survey of the acoustic capabilities of the instrument and the myriad approaches a player can resort to when trying to go beyond conventional playing techniques. Crumb's most notorious compositional trait, his concern with timbral dynamics, is perhaps nowhere else as evident as here; by combining amplification and pedals, Makrokosmos ranges from the barely audible to the dangerously loud, perhaps evoking the creational dynamics implicit in its zodiac-like score design. This chromatic palette is widened by the introduction of foreign objects and the extension of the playing arena: metal chains, drum brushes, paper sheets or simple whistle blows are thrown into the piano to further expand and pervert the instrument's conventional possibilities. Margaret Tan, one of Cage's most renowned performers, delivers the piece with a combination of musical rigour and theatrical performance which seems appropriate for Crumb's choreographic leanings. Finally, Alex Nowitz's contribution is mostly centred on a powerful whistling technique. Despite its apparent freedom and de-structuredness, Makrokosmos is  a work of tight compositional design whose immense rigour surfaces only after repeated listenings, and the fact that Tan's performance is the only one that can boast of having been supervised by Crumb himself has lead critics to consider it  definitive. Otherworldly, radiating with vitality, at times nocturnal and quasi-lyrical, it is a tapestry of intricate modes and colours as diverse and contradictory as life itself.

SWAY (1985)

Director: Toshio Matsumoto
Year: 1985
Time: 8 mins
Music: Takashi Inagaki
Eye of Sound: Perhaps as close to an ethnographic documentary as Matsumoto ever got, Sway seems to explore a persistent, if not entirely explicit, concern in the director's filmography. If Everything Visible, Atman, Ki and even Dongure, among others, were entirely or partly concerned with metaphysics, Sway offers an openly subjective look at a religious cult site in Japan, its ritual routines and the apparent willingness of followers to be taken by a vocabulary of gestures that may or not contradict the implicit néant of those doctrines. In any case, Matsumoto proposes a more generous glance at both the site, which is made to vibrate as if possessed by a radiant energy of some sort, and its practitioners, who are at most points made to carry a visual aura, as if accompanied by something other than themselves, or to become translucent when circumambulating the object of devotion. An usual collaborator of Matsumoto, Inagaki offers a soundtrack reminiscent of Verghya's early works: percussion movements and diluted bells chimes, perhaps alluding to local religious music traditions, are abruptly interjected within atmospheric quasi-drones and rhythmical snaps, providing the visuals with diverse sonic settings that oscillate between introspection and frenzy.


Director: Andrew Pekler
Year: 2010
Time: 6 mins
Music: Andrew Pekler
Eye of Sound: In his classic piece on screamscapes, Gregory Whitehead defined the scream as a primal outburst of the "pressures of the unspeakable" within an individual body. But the way this manifestation of the unfathomable has been represented in cinema follows a strictly codified language in which invention is replaced by convention, therefore stripping it of its potential for derangement. Andrew Pekler's Horror Salvage perhaps doesn't go as far as presenting an exhaustive "taxonomy of screams" in cinematic forms, but by editing a collection of such disruptive events out of context and sequencing them according to a rhythmical and "grammatical" design, it exposes both their syntagmatic void and part of their paradigmatic logic. Pekler thus divides his study in three short sections that reflect the internal organisation of the kino-scream: intensification and acceleration, followed by a "reflection punctuated by shocks" and concluded with deceleration and/or relief. The piece is accompanied by left-over fragments from Pekler's last album, craftily editing different electroacoustic soundscapes to great effect. While it is unlikely that Horror Salvage will prompt viewers to track down all the horror and sci-fi films from which it was made,  it will at least relieve them, as Pekler himself says, of the task of watching the 100 sub-B flicks it condenses. 


Director: Lis Rhodes
Year: 1971
Time: 5 mins
Music: Lis Rhodes
Eye of Sound: A classic in the art of optical sound, Dresden Dynamo apparently resulted of an accidental discovery. When applying Letratone to a blank 16mm film soundtrack, Rhodes noticed that it produced a C note; she then composed several images with Letraset, of which she developed positive and negative copies, and later applied color filters in order to develop two-color contrasts. By allowing these compositions to encroach into the soundtrack, Rhodes creates relatively stable sound drawings that are an aural translation of the printed screen, thus expanding on earlier experiments by McLaren and Hébert, among others. The result is a mind-bending experiment in which the interaction between simple geometrical, aural and chromatic patterns generates infinite illusory events and in which colour and shape subtly pervert one another, forcing foreground and background to constantly change positions in order to conjure depth and movement.


Director: Dan Agnew
Year: 1968
Time: 5 mins
Music: Duane Hitchings
Eye of Sound: A sequel of his previous 1967 homonymous experiment, Doppler Effect II moves one step forward in the mission of organising seemingly random stock footage along a rhythmical axis. By using found footage of diverse origin - political announcements, animal life, porn - and intertwining it with images recorded by Agnew himself - cityscapes, abstract light essays -, the film abandons any attempt of evoking meaning of any sort and focuses on a strictly formal exercise centred on time intervals and micro-relations between small sets of images. The soundtrack, recorded by Duane Hitchings (known for his collaborations with Miles Davis and Hendrix, but also for his Flashdance OST) on a Moog synth, is an engaging exercise in abstract sonic dynamics and an essential part of the Doppler experiment in that it not only provides different aural settings for the diverse footage presented throughout the film, but also aptly sets the pace for the fast succession of synched images.

ONAN (1963)

Director: Takahiko Iimura
Year: 1963
Time: 8 mins
Music: Yasunao Tone
Eye of Sound: Apparently Iimura's first experiment with 16mm film, Onan was also his first work to receive wider international attention. A tale of auto-erotic imprisonment, it elegantly explores the violent relationship  between a young man and the images he brings to life through his unbridled desire. This deranging and unbalanced relationship, ultimately predicated on isolation and an inability to communicate, implies the destruction of these images and eventually results in the delivery of a strange oval form that seems to have been born from, or stand for, his seed.  Knowing not what to do with this form of himself, he hands it over to a young girl who, like Tamar, drops it to the ground. The noise layers that accompanied the young man's self-exertion, created by Yasunao Tone (member of the original Fluxus crew and co-founder of Group Ongaku but mostly known for his later works with CDs), are then suspended and he is left, alone and exhausted, in the open, abandoning us with a silent and poignant commentary on the aporias of the myths of self-sufficiency and sexual liberation.
Just click to watch or right-click to download


Director: Darren Chesworth
Year: 2002
Time: 59 mins
Music: Harry Partch
Eye of Sound: His obsession with the subjective human voice and the musicality of speech; his partly relativistic deconstruction of the twelve-note scale as an arbitrary straitjacket; his ethnographic sensibility towards different modes of conceiving language, tuning and existence; his need to create channels suited for his new microtonal chromatic universe; his expansion into convergent fields of expression such as film, theatre and dance; and his desire to capture the vernacular as a locus for the textures of being - all these probably make Partch's the most encompassing of modern creative utopias. Such an overarching  project of existence and creation, obviously, could hardly be comprised in an one-hour documentary, and it would take a considerable amount of creativity and an unflinching focus to cast a shadow of justice over Partch's vision in such a short time. One aspect that could have been jettisoned is, as usual, the biographic mode, the linear movement from A to Z that suggests apparently logic explanations and connections for processes and objects that are far from logical and linear, supported by an invisible voice-over narration that simulates contextualization and sequence. Narrative becomes a form of containment and disambiguation: Partch's struggle with devitalized modes of composition and the 12-tone octave is all of a sudden brought into light by the reading of one single book, On the Sensation of Tone by H. Helmholtz, and his "discovery" of the arbitrary nature of the Western scale smoothly harmonised with his several inner and outer "deviances", sexuality included; inversely, Partch's long-celebrated and romanticised decision to follow a hobo trail for almost a decade is simply glossed as a reaction to the Great Depression and left strangely disconnected from the surrounding acts. There are the usual statements by friends, patrons and composers, such as Lou Harrison, Gavin Bryars, John Schneider, Phillip Blackburn, and Phillip Glass, adding very little to our understanding of Partch's universe, and it is from biographers and archivists that the most illuminating comments stem from. While the focus on the apparent eccentricity of the man seems to be a fruitless compromise with the conventions of current personality cults - including a minor polemic with Cage to boot -, it is not surprising that the most rewarding sections focus on the technical aspects of his work, microtonality being efficiently summarised bur perhaps not fully explored in its symbolic reach. The eclipse of "the truth of just intonation" was seen by Partch as a conspiracy in which "pure" musical structures had been corrupted and dilluted by a powerful but stifling hierarchical model, one that curtailed freedom and fostered forms of conformism. This supposedly pure tuning of ancient Greek tradition, which Partch tried to build into his microtonal edifice, and its promises of a wider access to the the truth that is supposed to inhere in the human voice, holds some of the keys for the composer's universe: a romantic search for a temps perdu, thought to be found both in ancient traditions and non-Western contemporary societies, guided, as ever, by a subversive desire to implode homeland strictures.  


Director: Robert O'Haire
Year: 2004 
Time: 50 mins
Music: Derek Bailey
Eye of Sound: The camera's movements are casual, and the post-production efforts meagre. But that is just part of the narrative strategy to convey the sense of intimacy implicit in the title: a small friendly circle of amicable ears and eyes, casually enjoying the music of someone who just happens to be the most celebrated guitar player in the history of adventurous music, but who behaves as if he were just playing a few chords while waiting for his dinner to cook. In between, a few funny stories about the man's past as a guitar teacher in London, some interactions with the "public", and even Django-like interludes and a Penthouse Serenade quote to boot. Both the performance and film-production were designed as an intimate portrait: of Bailey and his music, of course, but also of the DMG (Downtown Music Gallery) store in Downtown NY, where several such performances by avant and not-so-avant musicians have been hosted before. The camera effects used to spice up the film are absolutely superfluous and risible, but the sound capture is close to optimal: Bailey's surgical attacks on the strings sound as clear as in any other good recording you may have, and probably as close to the listening experience you'd have there as possible. Bailey's performance is unsurprisingly entrancing: twisting notions of tonal and atonal, at times hectic but also placid and meditative, his acoustic guitar playing covers the sometimes irreconcilable values of emotionality and artistic adventurousness. Of course, one may legitimately ask how free these improvisations actually are, given the unmistakeable "baileyness" of the performance; but I'd say that in view of this 2001 performance's impressive technique, passion and inventiveness, such issues sound like mere theoretical trifles.