Yesterday we featured videos visualizing Igor Stravinsky's now hundred-year-old The Rite of Spring. They came from acknowledged master of music visualization Stephen Malinowski, inventor of the Music Animation Machine. Have a look at Malinowski's Youtube page and you'll find other videos showcasing how his software, by translating musical sounds into instinctively understandable graphics, allows us to better grasp the intricate workings of famous pieces. Today, let's go back not just one hundred but about three hundred years, to Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, the ingenious intricacy of which has, since the Baroque period, only won more and more devotion from musical scholars.
At the top, you can hear, and more importantly see, the first movement of Bach's fourth Brandenburg concerto. Just above, you'll find its second movement, below, its third. (This video presents the movement whole.) Watch as you listen, and you can experience through shape and color (I can only imagine the kick synesthetes get out of this sort of thing) the way that the concerto's various voices, meant for violins, viola, cello, violone, and basso continuo, trade off, overlap, interact, giving each movement, and the whole piece, its shape. Though Bach's musical accomplishments can sometimes seem impressive to the point of feeling forbidding, Malinowski's graphical scores offer a way into comprehension, especially for the visually inclined.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.