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The Eye and the Ear

Stefan and Franciszka Themerson
1944/5
10 mins Colour 35mm

The Eye and the Ear

'Rhythm is not the only sort of structural pattern common both to visual and to musical phenomena'.

'It is perhaps significant that some notes are called high (which is a 'visual' term) and some others low. We say light, clear, limpid sound, and we say dark, thick, turgid. We often speak about melodic line, a gentle, undulating line, or a violent and angular; it may be a line of simple design, or decorated with an arabesque of notes.'
Stefan Themerson, quoted in PIX No 1, 1993/4, p. 109.

1. Green Words
The vocal part replaced by a solo violin and the words replaced by the corresponding visual images (woods, leaves, lights, water) synchronised with music. Lyrical, emotional, 'impressionistic' interpretation.

2. St Francis
The score — more closely analysed. Geometrical shapes synchronised with the melodic line (the vocal part), superimposed on 'thematic' images (Della Francesca's Nativity, starry sky) synchronised with the instrumentation.

3. Rowan Towers
Each instrument of the orchestra represented by a simple geometrical form which changes its shape up and down according to the pitch of the note. Shapes representing different instruments were superimposed by multi-exposure, frame by frame. Crescendo, diminuendo, staccato, pizzicato, all had their visual counterpart. The vocal part was in 'unison' with a horizontal line in which a 'wrinkle', whose position depended on the pitch of the corresponding note, spread symmetrically to left and right.

4. Wanda
Perfectly circular photogram-waves, aroused from the centre of the screen by each note of the music, moving both outwards and inward, satisfy 3 motifs at once: the melancholy mood of the song (rhythm) + shapes found in nature (waves) + artifice of geometry (photogramatic treatment of waves in water).

Music: four songs by Karol Szymanowski to Julian Tuwim's Słopiewnie translated by Jan Śliwiński and sung by Sophie Wyss, orchestra conducted by Ronald Biggs.

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