A Visual Music Manifesto

I acted on Dr Felicity Colman’s suggestion to develop a personal artistic manifesto that answered the question “Why am I doing this?”

So I looked to early examples of C20th art manifestos – The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism by F. T. Marinetti, 1909 and the Dada Manifesto by Tristan Tzara, 1918 – for inspiration.

I subsequently came across  Lee Scrivner’s (2006) How to Write an Avant-Garde Manifesto (a Manifesto), “An avant-garde manifesto that reviews avant-garde manifestos of the past hundred years, it was taped to the front door of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in April 2006. It was later published online by ICA residents, the London Consortium.”  Scrivner’s citation from Tristan Tzara seemed suitable advice.

So I started to develop my own modest manifesto for Understanding Visual Music 11 but presented it for the first time to an audience at Seeing Sound 2, Bath Spa University, UK on 29th and 30th October 2011. Somewhat to my surprise I received a round of applause after my fulmination!


A Visual Music Manifesto
The Augmented Tonoscope by Lewis Sykes

In order to crystallise and communicate the ‘Why’ of my postgraduate research project, my imaginary comrades and I have been up quite late drafting an artistic manifesto, inspired by the sentiments of Tristan Tzara – one of the founders and central figures of the Dada movement.

“To launch a manifesto you have to want: A. B. C., and fulminate against 1,2, & 3.”
Tristan Tzara, Dadaist Manifesto, 1918


I declare that the greater part of contemporary audiovisual culture is in a tired and sorry state. Caught in a swirling morass of audiovisual static fed incessantly by: the crass product placement and pouting lips/thrusting hips of MTV music videos; the endless conveyer belt of up-to-the-minute imaging methods and earworm soundtracks sponsored by TV and film advertisers misguidedly pursuing the novel; the anti-aesthetic iVideotics of Youtube; the bland visual wallpapering of countless clubs worldwide by bored, underpaid VJs (video jockeys) with too much time to fill and too little material/skill to do it; and overly earnest, audiovisual artworks that celebrate form over content through a techno-fetishism of ‘cutting-edge’ audiovisual techniques and technologies.

What we deserve is thoughtful and inventive exploration of the interplay between sound and image.

A re-capturing of the imagination, a re-inspiring of awe and wonder and a re-engagement in deep and significant ways.

We should strive to make Visual Music that transcends the background noise and offers unique and profound insights into the relationship between things and the nature of the world around us.

Not that many will care…

So I want to design, test and refine a methodology and approach that generates new Visual Music of a rare and altogether different quality.

I want the relationship between the audio and the visual to be direct and elementary – analogs of each other in aural and visual form – and to occur in real-time.

Through the instrumentation of the Augmented Tonoscope, I want to create a means and a process whereby audio and visual composition occurs simultaneously. By merging the usually separate strands of audio and visual (post) production into a single workflow I hope that sounds and images will interact with, influence and shape each other from the outset and then throughout all stages of composition, arrangement and mixing.

I want to find an amalgam of sound and image that engages the viewer in a subtlety shifted way – a synchronisation between the senses of sight and hearing that results in a ‘co-sensing’ of a ‘co-expressiveness’ – where the mind is not doing two separate things, it’s doing the same thing in two ways. Akin to that by which Moritz (1976) critiques Oskar Fischinger’s synthetic sound production experiments, “Ah, but those visuals contain formulas and gestures that communicate with us subconsciously, directly, without being appreciated or evaluated.”

I expect this will be a hard thing to do… but then I’m not doing this because it is easy.


Download the PDF , browse my public Webdisk or view via Scribd…