Musical Gifs: About

About the MUSICAL GIF project:

The Musical Gif project is the first expression in what I’ve started to think about as Visual Music. That is, a type of musical expression meant primarily as a visual medium, yet one that is by necessity still married to and intertwined with some sort of auditory meaning.

Who is the intended audiences for this project?

1) Everybody. Like music itself, they work for a general audience. Since these gifs exist purely on a visual level, anybody can enjoy their playfulness and anyone can appreciate the experimentation involved. This general audience may have some familiarity with the system of symbols employed but it’s certainly not a prerequisite.

2) A more specialized audience is individuals who are musically literate and can audiate. Audiation is the ability to hear music in one’s head. And, yes, everybody can do this to a certain extent but those musicians who have cultivated good musicianship and musical literacy can imagine music they’ve never heard before simply by looking at the visual page of music. This includes most trained musicians, each to their own varying degree.

Whichever audience you might fall into, I invite to you compose your own realization of how each of these gifs might work in your own mind. Ask yourself: What meaning does the given notation imply? Try to sonically imagine the results in your mind.

With that said, I consider each of these gifs to be its own little piece, each one a miniature of sorts.Without getting into too much idiosyncratic music history detail, some of the work that influenced me were John Cage’s notation practices, Cardew’s Treatise, text pieces—especially those of the fluxus movements and those by Pauline Oliveros—and Larry Polansky’s tooaytood pieces, to name just a few.

Combine that with a strangely found appreciation of the possibilities of gifs as a medium. Now, obviously, gifs are, almost entirely, internet trash. Just pure electronic garbage of the kind the internet was born of to create. They passed out of fashion for a time (deservedly so) but have recently started to regain popularity. Today’s richer and more populated Internet culture has proved more capable of using the medium to create genuinely valuable expressions (even as it acknowledges that this resurgence of the gif is highly fueled by nostalgia). I experienced gifs that presented a unique experience custom fit to that medium’s expression. Here, here, here, here, and here are a few examples of what I mean.

Now, obviously all that over examines and blows the whole situation out of proportion a bit, but that’s just to say that I found a microbe of possibility in this format, and decided to start drilling down as deep as my own expression (and patience) would take me.

With this project, I am looking at the ambiguity of Western musical notation. I’m having fun with the symbols and shapes that comprise the system, sometimes riffing on their inherent meaning, often intentionally ignoring the association that symbol brings with it. The looped nature of a gif offers a very particular compositional challenge, and I often (though not always) choose a standard treble clef and five-lined staff as a framing device and reference point.

And lastly, at the end of the day, I realize that this is way, way too much thought to be putting into trivial little internet animations. So, please… just enjoy.

Back to gifs.