Jazz in Animation – Experimental

It is possible to get a lot of spirals and curvilinear designs which I was never able to get by cutting off the masking tape; then spraying bleach into the place where the groove was. I made short samples of that sort of material. As I say, less than half of all that stuff is in my possession at this point. I also made alternate versions of a great number of scenes. Sometimes, in order to demonstrate how it was done, I made up special reels that partially had the masking tape still left on, and partially the first… Anyway, there are thousands of feet that were never printed and several entire very long films. Many of those films are missing totally. I never edited at all, except to cut them down – except that second one, which shows the balls falling. Like I say, it was at least 1,200 feet long originally. It was then cut down to a hundred feet to make it match ‘Guacha Guero’.

Begone Dull Care

What Jonas Mekas calls ‘The Magic Feature’ (Number 12) was originally about six hours long, and then it was edited down, first to a two-hour version, and then down to a one-hour version. There was also an enormous amount of material made for that picture. None of the really good material that was constructed for that film was ever photographed. There was a Noah’s ark scene with really fantastic animals. I started out with the poorer stuff. The really good things were supposed to be toward the end of the film, but, being as the end of the film was never made.”

He then continued to talk about a black and white film, Number 4, which begins with “- a painting. It is a painting of a tune by Dizzy Gillespie called “Manteca”. Each stroke in that painting represents a certain note on the recording. If I had the record, I could project the painting as a slide and point to a certain things. This is the main theme in there, which is a-doot-dootdoot-doot-doottadoot-dot; those curved lines up there. See, ta-doot-doot-doot-doot-dootaloot-dootaloot, and so forth. Each note is on there. The most complex one of these is this one, one of Charlie Parker’s records; I don’t remember the name of it. That’s a really complex painting. That took five years. Just like I gave up making films after that last hand-drawn one took a number of years, I gave up painting. After that took a number of years to make; it was just too exhausting.

Norman McLaren was one of the first to combine jazz and abstract form.

In a number of cases I’ve made special screens to project films on. All those so-called early abstract films had special painted screens for them. They were made of dots and lines. All those things disappeared.”

John Whitney is another pioneer of experimental techniques whose work has been influenced by jazz. Talking to Austin Lamont (in ‘Film Comment’ 1970) he discusses his early period when he was making Five Abstract Film Exercises in the 1940s. “I was working with jazz,” he says, “music that had no pretensions or none of the complexity and subtlety of structure of traditional western music. I was finding ways of generating a visual motion by ways that avoided the tedium and the restrictions that you get by any cel animation or any conventional techniques.

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