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Essential Visual Music: Rare Classics

Thursday Jan 22, 2009 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM This is a past program

The Hammer Museum, the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Center for Visual Music (CVM) are pleased to present this program of rarely screened films from the CVM collection. This evening features a range of works, from experiments by German film pioneers to light show psychedelia, and highlights the evolving technology and artistic sophistication of visual music and experimental animation. Several of the works in the show were designed to be used in performance contexts, light shows and other expanded forms of cinema, often with independent musical accompaniment. Accordingly, one of the themes that emerges from this program is a dialogue between structure and spontaneity in visual music. A number of the films were made in Southern California, and include early experiments in computer graphics from UCLA in the 1960s and Cal Arts in the 1970s. Many of the prints in this show represent recent preservation work by CVM. 

A discussion with filmmakers Michael Scroggins, David Lebrun and Peter Mays will follow.

In person: Cindy Keefer, Center for Visual Music; Michael Scroggins; David Lebrun; Peter Mays.

List of Films

R-1, Ein Formspiel

Directed by Oskar Fischinger

This selection of Fischinger's abstract film experiments used in his 1920's multiple projector performances in Germany includes some Gasparcolor tests made by Fischinger in 1933 with the new three-strip color process he helped to invent. This Cinemascope recreation was done by William Moritz/Fischinger Archive with the support of The Deutsches Filmmuseum.

35mm, 1926-33, 18FPS, 7 min.

Komposition in Blau (Composition in Blue)

Directed by Oskar Fischinger

Whereas each of Fischinger's previous films had utilized only one basic animation technique, Composition in Blue bursts forth with half a dozen different new techniques—mostly involving pixilation of three-dimensional forms. —William Moritz

35mm, 1935, 4 min.

Dockum Mobilcolor Performance at the Guggenheim Museum

Directed by Charles Dockum

Made with the assistance of Ted Nemeth and Mary Ellen Bute. Preserved by CVM.

16mm, silent, 1952, 7 min.

Demonstration of Mobilcolor Projector

Directed by Charles Dockum

A short documentary explaining the operation and techniques behind Dockum's Mobilcolor Projector, his invention to compose and play colored light. Preserved with support from the NFPF.

16mm, 1966, 4 min.

Mobilcolor Performance Film

Directed by Charles Dockum

Footage of Dockum's performances using the Mobilcolor projector. Preserved with support from the NFPF.

16mm, silent, 1966, 3 min.

Muntz TV Commercial

Directed by Oskar Fischinger

An advertising film, painted in shades of black, white and grey using the same techniques as Fischinger's masterpiece, Motion Painting No. 1. Preserved by Academy Film Archive. "One can only wish that Fischinger had gone through with his plans to prepare a totally abstract version." —William Moritz, Optical Poetry

16mm, 1952, 1 min.

Mood Constrasts

Directed by Mary Ellen Bute

Premiered at Radio City Music Hall, New York. Advertised as "New Sensations in Our 'Seeing Sound' film series" and as "Pioneering Electronic Animation." A publicity flyer from Ted Nemeth Studios says this film "is electronically animated and represents the actual pictures of the music....It is a marvelous combination of science and art and is abreast with the great public excitement and enthusiasm over these fields of science. It combines many of the elements astute showmen are seeking today."

16mm, 1953, 7 min.

Cibernetik 5.3

Directed by John Stehura

John Stehura's spectacular film combines computer graphics with organic live-action photography to create a new reality, a Third World Reality, that is both haunting and extraordinarily beautiful. —Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema

DVD, 1960-65, 8 min.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Directed by Jud Yalkut

A kinetic alchemy of the light and electronic works of Nicolas Schoffer, Julio Le Parc, USCO, and Nam June Paik. Sound by USCO. Preserved with the support of the NFPF.

16mm, 1966, 10 min.

Single Wing Turquoise Bird Light Show Film

Film document of light show performance by Peter Mays, Jeffrey Perkins, Michael Scroggins, Jon Greene, Larry Janss and Rol Murrow, including film footage by David Lebrun, Pat O'Neill and John Stehura.

16mm, 1971, 5 min.


Directed by David Lebrun

Tanka means, literally, "a thing rolled up". Tanka, photographed from Tibetan scroll paintings of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, is a cyclical vision of ancient gods and demons, an animated journey through the image world of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Preserved with support from the NFPF.

16mm, 1976, 9 min.


Directed by Jules Engel

A dance of color and form. Engel wrote of his films: "The emphasis, then, is on the development of a visual dynamic language, independent of literature and theatrical traditions, demonstrating that pure graphic choreography is capable of its own wordless truth." Preserved with support from the The National Endowment for the Arts.

16mm, 1978, 4 min.

3 Arctic Flowers

Directed by Jules Engel

An elegantly choreographed, early computer-generated film from Engel's experiments at California Institute of the Arts. Preserved with the support of The NFPF.

16mm, 1978, 3 min.


Directed by Jules Engel

Abstract animation drawn and painted on paper. Preserved with support from the NFPF.

16mm, 1978, 3 min.

Total Running Time: 77 minutes

Funding for the preservation of many of the films was provided, in part, by the National Film Preservation Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Jules Engel Preservation Project, Deutsches Filmmuseum and private donors. Komposition in Blau was preserved by Academy Film Archive.