last updated December 1st,
and is permanently morphing...
(9 Ik (Wind) / 0 Mak -
The Music of NT: The Man Who Invented The 20th
Ellen Bute was drawn into filmmaking by a collaboration with the musician
Joseph Schillinger, who had developed an elaborate theory about musical
structure, which reduced all music to a series of mathematical formulae.
Schillinger wanted to make a film to prove that his synchronization
system worked in illustrating music with visual images, and Mary Ellen
undertook the project of animating the visuals. The film was never completed,
and a still published with an article by Schillinger in the magazine Experimental
Cinema No. 5 (1934) makes it clear why: the intricate image, reminiscent
complex paintings, would have taken a single animator years to redraw thousands
His system of composition
found its way into movie soundtracks, synthesizer music and many other
musical forms. Schillinger's most famous student was George Gershwin
and even the physicist Albert
Einstein thought highly of Schillinger's system.
The most rigorous mathematical study of music
in more recent years would be the system formulated by Joseph Schillinger
in the 1920's and 1930's. Schillinger, a Russian-American music theorist,
was obsessed with developing a "scientification" of music through mathematics.
In 1941 he published The Schillinger System of Musical Composition, a massive
twelve-book work that was years ahead of its time.
This system has been described as "a sort of computer music before the
computer," since his work presaged many developments of algorithmic composition
which would not be expanded upon until decades later (Degazio).
One interesting sidenote
is the way Schillinger made a point about the multi-levelled character
"There are two sides to the
problem of melody: one deals with the sound wave itself and its physical
components and with physiological reactions to it. The other deals with
the structure of melody as a whole, and esthetic reactions to it.
Further analysis will show that this dualism is
an illusion and is due to considerable quantitative differences. The shore-line
of North America, for example, may be measured in astronomical, or in topographical,
or in microscopic values." (Schillinger 229).
This same argument was made
more than thirty years later by Benoit Mandelbrot, the founder of fractal
when describing the fractal nature of a coastline and how the length seems
to change depending on how finely it is measured. (Degazio)