Bridget Riley & Steve Reich – Comparative Studies in Visual and Musical Art

Posted: April 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

Am I wrong?

  1. Uyen Hoang says:

    I don’t think I blinked for the entire 6 minutes 17 seconds of that video. It was nothing short of being completely mesmerising. Ironically, the visual began to strongly resemble an iris, upon which I knew mine were completely fixated upon. Having a very limited knowledge on the technicalities of music myself (I don’t play any instruments but did devote ten years to ballet of which I learned a different kind of musical understanding), I could not help, but be to be frank, be completely mind fucked by the visuals.
    My boyfriend is a very gifted musician who loves music the mainstream typically turns away from. He listens to music as many musicians always do, counting the beats and analyzing each layer of the song. He avidly geeks out about songs that are made up of beats on irregular and off beats. Being a visual learner myself, I have a had difficulty in always hearing the “off beats” he describes. This visual completely just made all the difference in how I now interpret such music and beats.
    So naturally, after watching this I pulled up Badbadnotgood songs and envisioned similar visuals. It was almost like if Remy from Ratatouille had the same synesthesia from eating food, only applied to music instead.
    I began the video having no expectations except for “oh this will be a cool illusion.” But instead I finished the video completely enlightened and could not be more pleasantly surprised by the difference this short video immediately made on my appreciation of music, shape, and art. I think I might just watch it a few more times throughout the night.

    • Glad you got so much out of that. I had not made this association before I posted earlier this evening. But it does make sense to me to equate Riley’s moiré interference patterns with Reich’s phase patterns. Most of my mental life is absorbed in locating and exploring such resonances. While I can do it on my own, I’m much better at it when doing it in response to the questions and observstions of others. That where students can really assist me, by offering opportunities to keep discovering and learning. Thanks for your help!

  2. Natalie Van Orden says:

    I wouldn’t have made the connection between the painting and the music without the visualization in the video. While I was listening to the music, I realized that without the visual I would’ve been imagining the sound heading in a straight line in front of me, like bars when reading music. With Bridget Riley’s art, her whole picture is laid out right in front of you when you lay eyes on it, and part of that is what makes your eyes trip out because they are trying to interpret so many conflicting visual signs at once.
    Steve Reich’s music, however, is experimenting with time, and if every note happened at once his experiment would produce a completely different effect. I enjoyed comparing how visual art and music have to use their mediums differently to produce similar effects.
    I haven’t seen many examples of visuals added to music, but this is something I’d like to see more of, because I would’ve missed an interesting connection otherwise.

    • Both artists are playing with interference patters. Though Riley’s art, as painting, must remain stationary, though nevertheless produced an optical ‘wow and flutter’ effect that might be seen as a kind of oscillation, which can only take place within time. If you go back and look at the painter admired by Michael Fried (Stella, Olitski, Noland, Lewis, etc.) you see that they’re work is decidedly stationary by comparison. You can’t properly call it Op-Art. These effects, as I’ve said, seem to proceed from Riley’s investigation of moiré patterns best exhibited by moving one patten over another. Reich, in the meantime, is playing the exact same pattern of tones over another, only staggering the timing to allow them to pass through every possible phase permutation. While the visual was not produced by Reich, it certainly lends clarity to his technique. The general interest in interference can be traced all the way back to the Impressionists’ experiments, in the late 19th century, with ‘simultaneous contrast’. In music, we might look beyond Arnold Schoenberg, back to the chromaticism and dissonance of Wagner. As we move later in the 20th century, such effects are radicalized by removing them from the realm of the physiological or expressive, and into the realm of the graphic and mechanical. In a word, the body, in this later art, is seen as a sensitive mechanism to be fully subjected to modification by machines.

      For another example of this general orientation, you might have another look at the video manipulation of Nam June Paik. It reads very differently when viewed in relation to these other artists.

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