Cosmic Consciousness // Konrad Krawczyk

Since the ancient times – and across different cultures, art has been intertwined with religion, spirituality, and human aspiration to the higher dimension. In ancient Greece, art was closely associated with worship of divine entities, and it gave inspiration to groundbreaking achievements in many areas of expression. This relationship, however, has not been consistent across cultures – and sometimes it was an outright conflict. In more puritanical religious communities art was often considered a profane advance of fallible human skill into the perfect beauty of God.

Nevertheless, the pursuit of the sublime is one of the main purposes of art, whether or not the art itself draws from religious or irreligious communities.


Rothko Chapel – Texas

This is, in my opinion, the underlying pursuit that links not only the synaesthetic experiences of Brakhage, Belson, and the Whitneys, but also the larger artistic context of the mid-20th century, including abstract art, abstract expressionism, speculative fiction, and more. The artists of that period rejected expression of ephemeral feelings and opted for radically non-symbolic concepts – an attempt to distill the ultimate art form that would bring the viewer to an otherworldly, almost “divine” (not necessarily religious!) state.

This level of abstraction is apparent in the work of Whitneys, who utilised the “distance between the viewer and the art object”. The intricate relationships between musical and visual structure of their films signifies the possibility of synthetic, almost psychedelic experiences for the viewers. This is accomplished in the work of Brakhage and Belson as well, although with different aesthetic methods – using less of the “sacred geometry” and more organic shapes that cannot be clearly defined.

The Church nightclub, Denver

It is difficult to define the relationship between these early sound-vision experiments and the modern forms of entertainment, such as mass concerts, festivals and rave parties. Many of the processes that enabled that, such as the decline of religion or advances in digital technology, happened at roughly the same time. However, there’s an interesting aesthetic link. Abstract films and sound-vision shows are often using bright visuals and strobe-light effects within a relatively dark background. This is very similar to how modern dance parties, bars and clubs are creating their atmospheres. These seem like places where people socialise, but many of us come there more to dissociate, to lose control, to “leave our bodies” and encounter an almost spiritual (and often far from religious) experience.

Although abstract film became less of a groundbreaking art practice, it paved the new way for pursuit of elevated experiences through immersion in subjective realms – be it in cinemas, clubs, festivals, or more recently virtual reality.

Week6: Response to Visual Music – Miki Bin

The visual music evolves gradually with the pioneers like Stan Brakhage, John and James Whitney, and Jordan Belson. Their continuing exploration of the possibility of audio and visual relationship not only pushed forward the art field but also propelled the pop culture where we enjoy today.

However, even though all these artists are interested in the synesthete effect, they approach the subject differently. Stan Brakhage as a synesthete himself, prefer silent works where he was inspired by audio motion. These inspirations were reflected in the continuous optical motion in his piece, as well as the hallucinogenic atmosphere he created. Brakhage uses a lot of color, pulse, and vibration. Instead of classical symmetry and form, he works with raw materials.

Unlike working with basic means, the John and James brothers opened a new field for audiovisual performance through inventing technology and engineering. Their method to use motor motion to create sound through a pendulum, give them the opportunity to produce sound to images that were perfectly related. Inspired not only by the audiovisual relationship itself, the John and James brothers also root their works in Eastern metaphysics, a scientific curiosity about atomic energy, as well as an overt interest in new technologies. To them, only the musical motion can lead towards the ultimate beauty of visual motion. Their work plucks at the musical inner mind and allow the viewer to become a synaesthete.

Similar to the John and James brothers, Jordan Belson also tries to create a cosmic world with his work. He approaches this idea with Asian metaphysics, without using any images, but draws inspirations from the natural phenomena.

Later, the Vortex Concert series and light shows emerge. The Vortex Concert combines electronic music with projections, and diminish the boundary between screen and space The viewers in the concert can internalize the audiovisual performance to a personal experience. Meanwhile, the light shows are more widely used in the live performances like rock concerts across London, New York, and San Fransisco.  It blends high art and pop culture. Even though these evolve into performances that are more controlled in a confined space, but they open the door for audiovisual performances to the public and gained huge popularity.

Cosmic Consciousness Response

Brakhage, Belson, and the Whitneys were all trying to combine technology and art to create visual music, but their focuses were different.

Brakhage was the least involved in technology, and he rarely used music. The Whitneys focused more on new technology. They built their own pendulum system, which allowed them to create more visual effects. And Belson used both new and old technologies including standard animation, optical printing, lasers, and liquid crystals. And he never used an image that bespoke its origin.

Vortex Concert series and the light shows by other groups have a large influence on pop concerts and dance music events. The light shows combined film, painting, animation, music and technology together to create an immersive experience for the audience. Now, most of the concerts still apply this method to create a better experience for the audience.  They use a lot of light and visual effects, which usually intonate the music well. And some singers will also have dancers to move behind them. Besides, many dance events are also inspired by the Vortex Concert series and the light shows. Many dancers begin to combine film, animation, motion capture and projection mapping together to create an immersive dance experience.

RAPS: Cosmic Consciousness – Reflection

Cosmic Consciousness – Reflection

Although all of these artists were interested in provoking a sense of synesthesia through their work, Brakhage’s work is quite different from that of the Whitney brothers and of Jordan Belson, at least in terms of the visual component of it. In contrast to the Whitney brothers, Brakhage did not use new technologies to create his work. However, Brakhage’s work seems very innovative for the period when it was made, even if it was just through the use of recorded films and paint. The Whitney brothers’ work relied very heavily on the science and technology they used. They built their own machine to create beautiful abstract patterns which they animated. It is obvious that their work was very shocking and inspiring considering how many special-effect artists had them as reference for their work. Jordan Belson was, like the Whitney brothers, very interested in Eastern metaphysics, and in his case, yoga was very influential for his art. But in contrast to the Whitney brothers, he used both old and new technology. He also did very abstract films with many patterns.

With the work that theses artists made and the developments that followed, there was a much bigger emphasis put on the immersiveness of the audience. As the author says, the interest in abstract and psychedelic films “flowed into a sea of mass culture” (159) to the point where bands such as Pink Floyd and the Who had this type of films projected while performing. I think that the fact that some following artists did not have the skills to create such complicated works made the rely on simpler methods, such as mainly working with liquid onto plates. However, Vortex did also use technology to create their films. Where the previous artists’ works seemed to be more intimate in a sense, Vortex seemed to be more our in the public. For me, it is as though the following works moved a little bit away from the spirituality of Belson and the Whitney brothers and more into the psychedelic side of the abstract films.

Cosmic consciousness readings


In Brakhage’s synaesthesia, hearing was tied up to nervous system and the internal pulses of the body. He also used color to create impulses in order to give sounds for the film. And in one of his last films, he implied music that depicts his personal problems.

Whitneys brought three vectors together in order to create visual music. They also used comtemporary technology to push visual music.

In comparison to the Whitneys and Brakhage, Belson used both old and new technology, such as standard animation, optical printing, lasers, and liquid crystals.

All of their works shared one similarity—“a similar trajectory of breaking down the conventional restrictions of painting” (Brougher, 158).

Brakhage, Belson, and the Whitneys

The four artists – Jordan Belson, Stan Brakhage, and John and James Whitney- are all dedicated to pushing visual music into a new cosmic consciousness. All of the artists are experimenting with technology to create visual music by their own unique understandings.

Although all artists focused on creating visual music, the methods of creation are different. Brakhage mainly focused on using film in a way no one ever thought of. Brakhage’s films, according to the text, are in constant motion, a barrage of exploding, flickering, trembling superimpositions. The films also have no sound.  In Brakhage believed This created an overwhelming hallucinogenic effect for the audience. Unlike Brakhage, the Whitneys focused on newer technology in terms of visual music. John created an intricate synthetic-sound system called the pendulum. Using this system, the Whitneys were able to create four octaves of electronically produced tones. However, Belson’s approach was to combine old and new technologies, including standard animation, optical printing, lasers, and liquid crystals.

Vortex concerts are concerts that featured electronic music, accompanied by color, film, and star effects. Although these are concerts from around 60 years ago, its traces can still be found in today’s pop concerts. For example, I went to see Jay Chou’s concert this may. His concert not only included his live performance of his music but also consisted laser and light performances and a big screen at the back of the stage which was constantly playing videos that sync with the music.

Cosmic Consciousness – Reflection from Alvin

The work of Brakhage, Belson, and the Whitneys all use images, or lines, or graphics, or color changes to reflect changes in music, while echoing music to form a unified whole.

The main difference is in the way they think. For example, how to introduce the image, how to control the rhythm gradient, whether to use the image line or color, how to control the gradient, whether to add new colors, or to zoom in or zoom out the image. These all give a different visual experience.

They are all impressions of posterity. The previous artists inspired the later artists, and the young artists improved and added new elements on the basis of their ideas and predecessors

They had an enlightening role for whirlpool music and later popular music, dance concerts, such as the sense of rhythm and rhythm he brought, as well as the publicity and passion of breaking through tradition. At the same time, other ideas, other senses and even other emotions (such as the youthful energy of pop music in the relaxation of classical music) are added to traditional music or pure music.

RAPS Homework due 10/18

The similarity among those three people is that they use cinematic equipment to evoke the state of the mind beyond the boundaries of mystery and rationalists thinking. They chose where they were. For Belson and Whitney, there are images derived from the philosophical and religious traditions of visualizing the deep state of meditation from the internal vision using images.



Week6 Cosmic Consciousness Reflection

In short, Brakhage, Belson and the Whitneys stand for a new generation of cosmic consciousness focusing on visual music. They synthesize several senses to provide a kind of mind-expanding experience for the audience who may feel like being surrounded by the digital atmosphere. Furthermore, other groups of innovative artists at that time did push us into a new world of heightened consciousness, which have influenced our current pop concerts and film making industry.

Despite the common conceptual basis, namely synesthesia, slight differences still exist among these three artists in the aspects of expressing methods and techniques used. Brakhage preferred the medium of film to create visionary works to new technologies, which displayed an intense, innovative and penetrating fashion through multiple superimposition and changeful imagery. However, he rarely used sound in films because he was affected by synaesthetic responses in childhood while hearing was related with inner pulses of the body. In contrast, the Whitneys were open-minded towards new technologies who created a four-octave range of electronically produced tones, linking the imaged and sound tightly. In their works, there are actually no obvious dividing line between different senses but a visual-music form. Speaking of Belson, he integrated both old and new technologies with animation, optical printing, lasers and liquid crystals. However, his works seem to be natural phenomena rather than the machine-made outputs.

Basically, these three artists started a new era when nonobjective works are presented in a kind of synthetic way and also the high-tech plays an increasingly important role in art works creating a supersensory environment.

In terms of the Vortex Concert, it creates a special light show through a combination of visual and sound experience. It weaken the distinctions between interior and exterior, sound and image. Similar to the Vortex, today’s pop concerts and dance music events can’t do a perfect performance without electronic music and light effects. With the mixture of multiple elements, the audience are guaranteed an immersed experience.

RAPS: BEAP + Vizzie Exercises

BEAP + Vizzie Exercises
Exercise 1

I used the virtual keyboard and connected it directly to the granular oscillator. The granular oscillator is then connected to an audio effect. The audio effect that I used at the end of the signal chain before sending it to Vizzie is the “returner”. The audio output is then separately sent to Vizzie in order to have each range of values affect either the brightness, the contrast, or the saturation of the video. Then, the “returner” and the gate, which is connected to the keyboard’s gate, are attached to the signal, which is then attached to the stereo output. The output of the signal is also connected to the audio splitter which is what allows different ranges of data to modify things in Vizzie. In order to make the amplitude of the audio output determine the visibility of the video, I used audio2vizzie to get the data and attached it to the video fader between the video and a black background.

Exercise 2

I used three separate sequencers for each drum track. These were then connected to an audio effect. The audio effects that I used are the returner, the frequency shifter and the classical vocoder. I then attached the audio effects to an audio mixer and finally to a stereo output. For the videos, I imported 3 different files and mixed them together with a video mixer. The audio data is what determines when each video will be displayed, since I used audio2vizzie to determine this.