A few weeks ago, we told you about Stephen Malinowski and the Music Animation Machine, a popular and pretty expansive YouTube channel that features scrolling, color-coordinated animated “scores” for classical works from Debussy to Bach and Stravinsky.
But what if there was a version of this, somewhere somehow, for electronic music?
Ask the question of the Internet, dear reader, and the gods will provide. For just over a year motion graphics designer Johannes Lampert has been working in a similar style to interpret the work of electronic, post-punk, and modern composers like Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt in which every sound is represented by a different animated symbol.
In the above video, Lampert takes on Talking Heads’ multilayered, Fela Kuti-inspired “The Great Curve” from Remain in Light. The video gives us jagged lines for Tina Weymouth’s bass, a steady border of dots for Chris Frantz’ propulsive drum tracks, and several gaps into which the three vocal lines of the song—David Byrne’s lead, and Nona Hendryx and the band's multitracked call-and-response backing vocals—drop and pulse. Add to that an unbroken jagged line that replicates Adrian Belew’s searing and soaring solo.
Currently there are 12 tracks available on Anatomy of a Track’s Youtube channel, with a posting record that suggests Johannes Lampert is working on one every two months.
Lampert experiments with the layout and graphics of his animations, making their design complement the music. Hence "The Great Curve" looking like African textiles, Gil-Scott Heron’s “New York Is Killing Me” aping the New York Subway map, and Photek’s “The Rain” as a puddle filled with pulsing raindrops.
Maybe the most complex video so far is for Radiohead’s “Bloom,” which is just as chaotic as the band's tumbling drum machine. But it does uncover how steady the bass is in this track while all around the other instruments are shimmering and ethereal. And for just a good time, Justice’s “Phantom” is turned into a dynamic light show that looks like a night drive down a Japanese expressway.
I would put it to you that modern electronic artists think about their music much like these animations. I mean, what are music editing programs like ProTools or Logic Pro but horizontal scrolls of dots and sound waves?
No doubt Lampert has more tricks up his sleeve and more tracks to animate. Stay tuned.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.