Visual Music H79. 2760
Friday, 12:30 - 3:00pm
Instructor: Zach Layton

course website:

course blog:


week 1::
Intro, Syllabus, Synaesthesia


Discussion of early Colour Sound Instruments, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, Early Music Notation


read Heidegger: "Origin of the work of Art"
read Kandinsky: "Concerning the Spiritual in Art"
read William Moritz "The Dream of Color Music and the Machines that Made it Possible"


read "Serial Composition and Atonality" George Perle - Chapter 1

suggested: Tom DeWitt, “Visual Music: Searching for an aesthetic” Leonardo, 20(115-122)
suggested: Oliver sachs synaesthesia chapter in Musicophilia

week 2::
Klangfarbenmelodie (sound-color-melody), intro to serial composition (Anton Webern)


discuss 12 tone theory, total serialism (boulez)
listen and analysis: Messaien, Webern

read: Messiaen "Technique of My Musical Language"

read: Boulez "Technology and the Composer"

read: Tymoczko "Geometry of Music"

read: Sol Lewitt "Sentences on Conceptual Art"

read: Sol Lewitt "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art"

read: Morton Feldman and the Shape of Time


read: Straus: Intro to Post Tonal Theory


assignment: write short 12 tone piece for piano or electronics

check out this 12 tone row calculator


week 3::
Spectral Music & Sonification (Tristan Murail, Gerard Grisey, Kaija Saariaho)


listen and analysis

discussion of FFT, SPEAR, Spectrograms, FFT in Max/MSP

assignment: take 12 tone piece & stretch it out with FFT, do spectral analysis, make it a new piece

read: Curtis Roads, "Computer Music Tutorial" - Chapter 13 "Spectrum Analysis"


read: John Pierce: "Sine Waves and Sound Waves"











Take a look at MAX/MSP tutorials 25 and 26 (particularly the phase vocoder patch in tutorial 26)


suggested reading: Helmholtz, Hermann; On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music



week 4::


Spectrums continued...


Harmonic ratios + drones


discussion of pythagoras & Just Intonation


Listen - La Monte Young (dream syndicate, well tuned piano), Tony Conrad (early minimalism)


write drone music piece using just intervals


read: "Tuning and Temperment: Closing the Spiral"


read: James Tenney "Cage & Harmony"



suggested: Helmholtz, Hermann; On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music

suggested: Partch, Harry: "Genesis of A Music"



suggested: Pythagorean theory of music and color





week 5::
Graphic Notation (Cornelius Cardew, Morton Feldman, John Cage)


Listen and analysis (Ligeti, Penderecki, Stockhausen)

John Cage: Variations ii
Morton Feldman: Projections and Intersections


check out this nice online exhibit of graphic scores

assignment: take spectral piece and try to express it using original approach to graphic notation
OR make an original graphic score


study: John Cage: Fontana Mix

read: "The Music of John Cage" - James Pritchett - Chapter 3 & 4

read: "Sound, Code and Image" - Walters


read: "Morton Feldman" Paul Griffiths

check out: "Young Persons' Guide to Treatise"



week 6:: Presentations of Graphic Scores


assignment: take graphic notation and begin using the score as a basis for visual piece, animation, etc.

Read John Tilbury - Cornelius Cardew - A Life Unfinished- (re: Treatise)


Read NOISE - introduction - Jacques Attali




week 7::

Optical Poetry (Fischinger, Moritz, Len Lye, Harry Smith)





Read VISUAL MUSIC CULTURE - Kerry Brougher


read Gene Youngblood, Expanded cinema, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1970 (fwd, pt 1&2)



Short Introduction to Jitter (qt movies, timing control)





Oskar Fischinger
Len Lye
Harry Smith
Norman McLaren
Mary Ellen Bute
James Whitney
Jordan Belson
Stan Brakhage
Robert Breer

+ Bradley Eros
(Aerodynamics of the Black Sun)




JITTER example patch






week 8::
Experimental Film & Expanded Cinema (McCall, Brackage, Belson) (guest TBA)


Anthony Mc Call - Line Describing a Cone


read Gene Youngblood, Expanded cinema, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1970 - (3&4)


Geometry and vibration (James & John Whitney)


watch - James Whitney: Yantra(57), Lapis(66), John Whitney - Arabesque(75), Matrix III



Jitter workshop pt 2 (applying filters, color levels, keying)


John Stehura - Cybernetik 5.3

read: cybernetic cinema


check out: Whitney Music Box




week 9::
Color & Form (guest TBA)

read: Summer of Love "Joshua White and the Joshua Light Show", Pouncey, 2005



Newton & Goethe on Color:


read: John Gage: Color and Meaning: "The Fool's Paradise" chapter 8

read: John Gage: Color and Meaning: "Newton and Painting" chapter 9

read: wikipedia summary of Goethe's "Theory of Colors"


read Gene Youngblood, Expanded cinema, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1970 - (5,6 & 7)



Article: Thomas Wilfred, Light and the artist, The Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, 1947

The Dichromaccord: Reinventing the Elusive Color Organ - Daniel Conrad




Make a projected image display without computer...only light and other
means to diffract it

Jitter workshop pt 3 (Intro to Open GL, Geometry, Basis Function Generators)

week 10::

Movement, Flicker & Time (guest TBA)


paul sharits, warhol, bruce mcclure, conrad...

Read: Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990 (paul sharits, tony conrad)
pg. 542, 553, 591 (retrospect I, II, non-linear time)



week 11::

Oscilloscopes, Video & Analog Techniques (guest TBA)


Paik, Experimental TV center

Read: Buffalo Heads: Media Study, Media Practice, Media Pioneers, 1973-1990 (Vasulkas)
Read: Nam June Paik - Theories and Documents pg. 434


week 12::

Digital Techniques (advanced jitter workshop) (guest TBA)


watch: PaperRad P-Unit Mixtape 2005

watch: Christian Marclay - Video Quartet


week 13::

Ambient Topologies and Digital Architecture


Topography + physical harmony (cymatics)

week 14::

Critiques & Discussion
Final Performances @ ISSUE Project Room


resources / links


rhythmic light bibliography


Attendance / Participation 10%
Midterm Assignment 25%
weekly short assignments 20%
final performance 25%
class presentation 20%