Visual Music and The Harmony Channel
Harmony Channel is a visual music television network. However, there are many definitions of visual music. In order to guide program development, we created the following working definition of visual music:
Visual Music is an art form with a primary objective of intentionally activating the mind’s ability to fuse visuals and music into a “synaesthetic experience” - not synaesthesia in the clinical sense, but the experience of something more than either the music or visuals alone could deliver.
This is a broad definition resulting in many “flavors” of visual music. For instance, the visual music label belongs to films such as Baraka, Chronos, the Koyaanisqatsi trilogy, and others that substantially rely upon the synaesthesia effect rather than narrative to carry the film. Such films may be purely non-representational (abstract) – leaning towards the traditional definition of visual music – or a representational live-action film that relies almost solely on the synaesthesia effect (i.e. non-narrative). While Disney’s Fantasia has a narrative thread, the non-narrative synaesthetic experiences largely carries the film, so we consider this film to generally fall within our broader definition of the visual music genre.
While many Hollywood films utilize visual music effects, its use is secondary in support of a narrative (drama, action, horror, etc.), so most films do not fit our definition of a visual music art piece. Films such as The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and March of the Penguins make heavy use of visual music devices, but the visual music devices are secondary to the story being told.
There are, of course, alternate and historical definitions of visual music as pointed out in Cindy Keefer’s VM Introduction, including silent visuals that mimic musical properties including rhythm and counterpoint. Some traditional visual music pieces also use avant garde music that stretches common definitions of music altogether.
Journey into your own Mind
Visual music art recognizes that the synaesthetic effect is entertaining in its own right and requires nothing more to support it. In this sense, abstract (non-representational) visual music might be thought of as “pure” visual music, since it is unfettered by recognizable forms – i.e. concerts, narrative, character animation, visual storytelling and other devices that are not essential to the synaesthetic experience. Other examples of “pure” visual music include colored water fountains, synchronized musical fireworks performances, and abstract laser light shows.
Art forms that incorporate principles of visual music (but that include other artistic elements, as well) include opera, ballet and nearly all forms of dance, many live musical performances, and musicals. Even synchronized swimming incorporates principles of visual music.
How is it possible that visual music takes you on a compelling journey without representational imagery? In a sense, the journey is within your own mind. The brain is a powerful correlator and pattern recognizer, and is constantly seeking correlations between visual and auditory stimuli. Some of the best visual music teases the brain with synchronicities between sight and sound, some obvious, some more hidden. The brain is also constantly seeking patterns in visual stimuli, even random noise. Some of the best visual music also teases the brain’s need to find images in abstract imagery. The result is an entertaining dance provided by your brain’s attempts to interpret the visual music imagery flooding your senses.
Harmony’s Visual Music Spectrum
Harmony Channel presents a broad spectrum of Visual Music. We embrace a wide range of visual and musical genres, including both representational (edited cinematography and animation) and non-representational visuals (lumia, kaleidoscopic effects and abstract computer graphics). At the same time, Harmony content stands alone without the use of storytelling, personality worship or other contextual devices typically found in popular media, thereby warranting the visual music label. Harmony Channel honors the visual music moniker by equally crediting the visual artist (director) and musical artist (composer).
While Harmony Channel respects the entire field of visual music and its many talented artists, we also must be true to the Harmony Channel brand. For this reason, we currently limit our selections to those pieces that support the positive, mood-elevating effects promised by Harmony’s seven MoodZones. There is a substantial body of visual music works that do not fit into one of our seven “flavors.” For this reason, we some day hope to create a vintage visual music category, as well as an avant garde category, to better support the history and future development of visual music art.
- Ed Lantz