From the Explanatory Notes of Visual Music Studies, Volume 1 - Pythagoras & Pellegrino In Petaluma - of the Visual Music Studies DVD Series by Ron Pellegrino, composer:
What struck me in the late 1960s when the oscillographic images of harmonious sound first presented themselves to me was that here was a special case of a notion of beauty that appeals to theoretical scientists and at the same time is highly seductive to just about anyone who witnesses the light and sound results. What scientists often consider beautiful is born of a special kind of internal logic in the connections between their theories and what their experiments in physical reality demonstrate. Since the late 1960s I've worked to find connections between sound and sight that work aesthetically for both the ear and the eye. That collection of sound/light connections constitutes the common ground shared by the ear and the eye. This is an emerging area of psycho-physics full of practical as well as aesthetic applications. The virtual reality researchers are busy cashing in on the practical applications and these DVDs represent some aesthetic and didactic applications.
No map exists for this research. And that's because the eye and the ear, that is seeing and hearing, have evolved over the eons for different evolutionary purposes. Searching for common ground between the ear and the eye is one of the electronic art games I play. An area of research I've found most fruitful is the exploration of the interaction of wavetrains with frequencies that have integer ratios. And, once again, that area is the subject of this volume of visual music studies.
I've used the sort of material found on these DVDs in a variety of applications including discovering for myself and teaching others to hear and to see more deeply and with greater detail; in other words, using vision to guide hearing and hearing to guide vision.
Every sound creates a virtual space, a spectrum, populated by related vibrations which may be integer ratios called harmonics or non-integer ratios called inharmonics. The harmonics and inharmonics taken together are considered spectral components. Spectral components unfold and ebb and flow over time. If one's perception is sufficiently finely honed the action of those spectral components can be perceived as a living multidimensional matrix. Spectral components are shaped over time in terms of their envelopes which are defined as descriptions of what happens at the beginning, over the duration, and at the end of a spectral component's unfolding, and that includes onsets, rises, falls, relatively steady states, and final decays in the amplitude and the frequency. The lives of the amplitude and frequency envelopes of those spectral components give form and substance to the dimensions that give a particular sound its special sonic flavor as well as its special visual flavor. A good part of the value of the material on these DVDs is that you can practice and develop a facility to use the ear to lead the eye or the eye to lead the ear or to develop balanced attention and ride along with the integrated linking of the ear and the eye.
The key to accessing one of the highest levels of listening is to learn to free the ear to play in that special virtual space that every sound creates. Another aspect of that highest listening level is to steer the ear in a disciplined way to scan and to parse the dimensions inherent in that sound's virtual space. With the material on these DVDs it's also possible to learn to free your eye in a similar way. What has kept me over the decades fascinated in this particular visual music system is that I find myself each time hearing and seeing the material differently despite the many years of development, practice, testing, and performance that went into creating it. I've found it to be highly beneficial for both fundamental ear training and fundamental eye training. What makes it especially attractive for psycho-physical theoretical studies is that it is divorced from a focus on any particular historical body of materials. It's about the nature of the ear and the eye as they are rather than what someone at some point in history thought they should be. There's nothing quite like working with this kind of material for refining the tuning skills of the ear and eye.
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