Film/musical composition ; 2005 ; Duration 5:16

Composer: Allan Schindler
Filmmakers: Stephanie Maxwell and Peter Byrne

    Preferred performance formats:
  1. DV CAM
  2. Mini DV
    Lower quality alternative performance formats:
  1. Beta SP
  2. DVD video
  3. S-VHS tape (lowest quality; for audition purposes only; not for performance)

This work presents a passage through a mist -- one that ultimately clarifies and sharpens (rather than obscures) perception. The visuals combine direct animation techniques (painting and etching directly on 35mm motion picture film) with animated electronic compositions and pen-on-paper drawings. The computer-generated music features cyclical returns of a nucleus of core ideas, which alternate with a continuous progression of new ideas and excursions. Among the principal defining sounds of the work are:

  1. a swishing, high-pitched gong-like sonority (perhaps reminiscent of vibraphone bars stroked vigorously and simultaneously with seven or eight cello bows)
  2. synthetic bagpipes, which become associated with a succession of companion tone colors that include a hurdy gurdy and a duduk
  3. a "metallic harp"
  4. an assemblage of rapid shaking, hissing and stuttering or "throat-clearing" types of percussive sounds.
  5. widely spaced chords of long, pulsating vocal-like tones that surge and recede in wave-like ripples

Perhaps the musical element within this piece in which I take the most satisfaction (doubtless because it was the element that gave me the most trouble) is melodic phrasing. Some thoughts on The Problem of Melody in Electroacoustic Music, with illustrations and audio examples drawn from Second Sight, are contained in this essay.

A prominent and recurring component of the visual imagery in Second Sight consists of short looped segments, in which abstract images twirl, spin or tumble, sometimes in rapid succession. The music, too, includes loop-like segments, but these passages sometimes do not coincide with the visual loops, and they have little in common with the hypnotic iterative procedures heard in much loop-based pop and commercial music. Rather, the loop-based musical passages in Second Sight employ modified repetitions of interlocking motivic ideas, incorporate gradual transformations in pitch and intervallic sets and also incorporate the continuous introduction of new but related timbres as well as irregular cross-accents.

JPG stills

Quicktime audio/video clips

MP3 audio excerpt
Duration : 1 minute 50 seconds ; size 3.4 MB ; encoding 256 kBit stereo

I dislike musical timelines and analytical roadmaps that prescriptively instruct listeners on what they should be hearing at each moment during the course of a musical work. That said, I am providing a didactic timeline here anyway to relate this excerpt, which begins 85 seconds into the piece, to the discussion above. So grab a stopwatch -- or, better yet, simply ignore this prospectus and listen to the music.

  • 0:00 - 0:04 : swishing, high-pitched gong-like sonority (defining sound 1 above)
  • 0:04 - 0:15 : loop segment 1 : woodwind-like riffs and percussion
  • 0:15 - 0:22 : overlap of loop segments 1 and 2
  • 0:22 - 0:55 : loop segment 2 : metallic harp (defining sound 3 above), segmented duduk melody and vocal percussion (defining sound 4 above)
  • 0:55 - 1:02 : loop segment 3 : "woodwinds" and percussion again, this time playing cascading, descending riffs
  • 1:02 - 1:36 : oboe-like and string-like melodic lines over pulsating vocal-like sonorities (defining sound 5 above)
  • 1:36 - 1:50 : subdued variant of swishing, high-pitched gong-like sonorities

Stephanie Maxwell teaches film, video and animation courses at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her experimental animated films have been exhibited in film festivals and on television internationally, and collected as works of art by European and American museums.

Peter Byrne is a graphic artist and educator whose works have been shown in numerous international exhibitions. Peter presently teaches and serves as Program Chair in the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Second Sight was premiered on the April 2 and 9 programs of the 2005 ImageMovementSound festival in Rochester and Brockport New York. Other screenings have included:

    2006: Park City Film Music Festival, Utah (2 Director's Choice awards, ); Johns Hopkins Film Festival; Aarhus Festival of Independent Arts, Aarhus, Denmark; Maryland Film Festival; Syracuse University;

    2005: Boston Underground Festival; Boston Cyberarts Festival; Moving Target new media series, Boston; University of Texas, San Antonio; Auch Animation festival, Auch, France; Rochester International Film festival; Cincinnati International Film festival; Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia; Palouse Film Festival, Washington; Atlanta Underground Film Festival; International Kansk Video festival, Kansk, Russia; Antimatter Underground Film Festival, Victoria, B.C.; Not Still Art Festival, Micro Museum, Brooklyn; New Hampshire Film Expo 05, Portsmouth. NH; Mill Valley Festival, Mill Valley, CA; (Im)Permanence conference, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh; Syracuse University; INVIDEO Festival Milan, Italy; Anchorage International Film Festival; Art Nuevo InteractivA '05, Merida, MX; Unitec School, Auckland, NZ; Moving Image Centre, Auckland; Waikato University, Hamilton, NZ; Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, NZ; Victoria University, Wellington NZ; Christchurch, NZ

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