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Themesicon: navigation pathSound and Imageicon: navigation pathEmotion Machine
Granular Synthesis
Ulf Langheinrich
Sweetheart (Granular Synthesis), 1996


I am going to use some productions by Granular Synthesis [1] , in other words my colleague Kurt Hentschläger and I, to demonstrate various strategies for working with sound and images.


Granular Synthesis' work «SWEETHEART» (1996) provides an excellent illustration of some problems arising from sampling sound and images. When working with scanned and sampled material, there is inevitably a connection between sound and image within a recording. The coherence and causality that emerged in the original context of the scanned continuum are broken by cutting. This cutting is the only intervention. One particularly interesting feature here is the contrast between the causality the editing cancels out and the image and sound material that is entirely coherent in every time unit (in every ‹grain›). This is because the micro-cuts create a unique mixture in the border zone between morphing and cutting: a new synthesis that masks the cut again. This pseudo-organic situation asserts coherence. The interventions we make are actually laid open to


experience through the face portrayed, the viewer's mirror, his alter ego, as it were. By witnessing our inquisitive zooming into a few frames, the viewer's eye becomes more that of a voyeur. He becomes involved in those vehemently asserted, but groundless and meaninglessly painful conditions. These are read on to the manipulations by the ‹person› portrayed, as appropriate emotional and physical reaction. So the granular re-synthesis seems to cause the violent emotion, and triggers—now very causally—an emotional reaction in the viewer. «SWEETHEART» is the portrait of an emotion machine.

In comparison with the pictorial material, the sound material was manipulated much more extensively: the original sound was heavily compressed, so that a sensible quantity of sound is available within each 25th-of-a-second frame. The sound-picture does cite a techno-aesthetic, but is on the whole much more three-dimensional than the image tableau suggests. One essential element in the work is a seductive quality, a lack of distance in the encounter.

This also applies to the typical large installations and performances we have produced over the years,

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