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Themesicon: navigation pathSound and Imageicon: navigation pathEditorial
Sound and Image
Dieter Daniels, Inke Arns

Ahhh… / Ahhh… Doo, doo, doo, do-doh / Doo, doo, doo, doo doo do-doh Don't you wonder sometimes / About sound and vision Blue, blue, electric blue / That's the colour of my room / Where I will live / Blue, blue Pale blinds drawn all day / Nothing to do, nothing to say / Blue, blue I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision Drifting into my solitude, over my head Don't you wonder sometimes / About sound and vision

(David Bowie, Sound & Vision, 1977)

David Bowie calls sound and vision a «gift» in his 1970s song, written in Berlin. It was anticipated with pleasure then, but now it has become an almost everyday phenomenon in contemporary (media) art and in pop culture. Current examples include video clips, techno-visuals, video/audio art and sampling techniques used by DJs and VJs. Given the enormous current range of linked sound and vision, this module takes stock of recent artistic projects and academic approaches in this field, after pioneering exhibitions like «Für Augen und Ohren. Von der Spieluhr zumakustischen Environment» (Akademie der Künste Berlin, 1980) or «Vom Klang der Bilder. Die Musik in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts» (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1985).

The «Sound and Image» module takes the striking presence of audio-visual strategies in current (media) art projects as an opportunity to clarify concrete links with historical developments and thus reveal similarities with and differences from conceptual predecessors. This applies particularly to examples of abstract film («visual music») and early forms of radio play («radio film without vision») in the 1920s, anticipating the far-reaching perspectives of an artistic synthesis right at the beginning of the century. It is precisely this conceptual linking of current positions back to historical forerunners and showing them in the context of present-day (media-) artistic developments that makes «Sound-vision relations» different from most previous publications on this subject.


While most of these have been either purely historical in their approach, or have simply brought current positions together, the present publication aims to allow both present and past to question each

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other. Thus it is possible to view historical positions in sharper focus through the lens of the present situation, allowing them to be displayed in a fitting present-day context. The connection between the visual world and the acoustic world is now so close and so varied that it is difficult for us to imagine how widely separated these spheres were at the beginning of the media age. This division lay in both the cultural evaluation of music and fine art and also in the physical and material presentation of images and sounds. Music has been seen as an intellectual art related to mathematics since ancient times, but until the Middle Ages painting and sculpture were judged to be crafts. What we would now call a ‹performative› connection could only be established temporarily, if at all, between the fleeting sounds of music and durable images. It is only since the 19th century that the audio-visual media have made it possible to capture flowing sound-time and that pictures have learned to walk; hence their synthesis seems the most natural thing in the world to the modern mind. This is why the question of the relationship between vision and sound arose in all media art from the outset, from both atechnical and an aesthetic point of view. The history of art and literature coined the term «intermediality» to address this, and it was increasingly used in this context from the early 1990s. It indicates that attention is increasingly being paid to the fact that media are always involved in complex configurations. But here intermedial relations are seen less as explicitly intended connections between the arts and more as fundamental phenomena.

In the early stages, the media forced a technical separation (silent film, gramophone record), and the pioneers of sound-art, light-music and the «absolute film» worked like slaves when trying to overcome this in the early 20th century. In contrast with this, once the digital audio-visual formats came along, any barriers to synthesizing and transforming sounds and images simply fell away. The fact that we are increasingly less prepared to be addressed through one of our senses alone is proved by a product like the current Windows Media Player, which creates images to accompany any audio data from the Internet, automatically and unasked. Hence euphoria about sound-vision synthesis from the early days of the media and Modernism since

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Wagner's «Gesamtkunstwerk» may well sometimes seem a little antiquated today. The success of cultural products that deliberately go for separation again today (audio books, Derek Jarman's film «Blue») are signs of a counter-trend to compulsory audio-visual fusion. But the persistent popularity of videoclips, VJs and any sort of music visual indicates that there is still some audio-visual hunger left unsatisfied.

The kind of sound-image coupling that media technology makes possible is not simply an offshoot of the logic of the apparatuses, but a primal need for synaesthesia that is firmly anchored in human culture. This is expressed by phenomena ranging from the torch dance to the sound of drums in prehistoric caves via organ music to the light of Gothic church windows to the Techno clubs of today. Ecstatic and spiritual experiences often have a part to play here. The range of contributions in the «Sound and Image» module thus goes beyond the narrow thematic field of media art. Its content [2] extends from art and music history via questions of media technology and perception to pop theory, reaching back historically from current media art to well into prehistory. Barbara John's contribution«The Sounding Image. On the relationship between art and music—an art-historical retrospective» examines the history of the relationship between art and music since ancient times and the Middle Ages via Renaissance paragons to Modernism and early attempts to create a new ‹visual music› or ‹painting with time› at the start of the 20th century. Following on from this, Dieter Daniels's contribution «Sound & Vision in Avantgarde & Mainstream» (also printed in the present book) addresses the threefold interplay between arts and media techniques, between music and pictorial art and between popular and high culture from Wagner's time to the present day. Diedrich Diederichsen's essay «Montage/Sampling/ Morphing. On the Triad of Aesthetics / Technology / Politics» looks at the utopian, social potential of these media techniques. He also shows how they have been normalized and standardized by the culture industry, and the loss of utopian quality associated with this process. The contribution «Audiovisions. Music as an intermedia art form» by Golo Föllmer and Julia Gerlach starts as it were from the ‹nature-given› intermediality of all music that is performed and experienced, and pursues this

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further to the advanced media possibilities of networking and interactivity.

Four contributions by artists let the vision-sound relation practice have a say, alongside theory. Markus Popp (Oval), Ulf Langheinrich (Granular Synthesis), Robert Lippok (to rococo rot) and Stephen Vitiello talk about their own work, about the general cultural and technical conditions and co-operation with other artists and art forms. They represent various sound-vision relation models: for Popp, the pathway leads from electronic music via his digital tools to the visual element; he also looks at linking questions about user ergonomics and the influence of software on creative processes. Lippok is also really a musician but also produces visual artworks and installations whose minimalism questions the all too easy combination of sound and vision. Langheinrich works on complex, sensory-technical interplay between optics and acoustics in audio-visual installations that are often overwhelmingly intensive. Vitiello started off by working as a musician with a large number of video artists, and thus found a way to his own audio art. This in fact remains purely acoustic, but always relates to innerimages. These artists' contributions emerged from the series of events at the HGB Leipzig [3] or from the «Son-Image» conference in Mexico City. Hence they are also part of «Media Art Net's» overall strategy, which is to achieve crossover between real and virtual space. What is so far the most advanced approach to this was developed in co-operation with the netzspannung platform in the ‹virtual studio›: an Online-Videolecture and a Hypermedia Tele-Lecture on Dieter Daniels' text «Sound & Vision in Avantgarde & Mainstream» as models for a possible further multi-media development of «Media Art Net.»

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