Visuals first, music optional *

In space, they can only see you play.

No sound, all fury, signifying everything.

All visual music approaches here as a limit, so we just sat down to wait.

David Tristram coined this brilliant phrase*, and I think it captures an important aspect of performing graphics.

“Music optional” serves to open our minds to a graphics performance with its own visual rhythms and structures, not merely serving as vuzak in a dance club while playing second fiddle to the techno beat.

Performing graphics silentio in Literature.

… and then the music started — music without sound! The Mahars cannot hear, so the drums and fifes and horns of earthly bands are unknown among them. The “band” consists of a score or more Mahars. It filed out in the center of the arena where the creatures upon the rocks might see it, and there it performed for fifteen or twenty minutes.

Their technic consisted in waving their tails and moving their heads in a regular succession of measured movements resulting in a cadence which evidently pleased the eye of the Mahar as the cadence of our own instrumental music pleases our ears. Sometimes the band took measured steps in unison to one side or the other, or backward and again forward — it all seemed very silly and meaningless to me, but at the end of the first piece the Mahars upon the rocks showed the first indications of enthusiasm that I had seen displayed by the dominant race of Pellucidar. They beat their great wings up and down, and smote their rocky perches with their mighty tails until the ground shook. Then the band started another piece, and all was again as silent as the grave. That was one great beauty about Mahar music — if you didn’t happen to like a piece that was being played all you had to do was shut your eyes.

       — Edgard Rice Burroughs, Pellucidar (1923)

Mo works silent, for God’s sake! He’s the only artist currently performing at Veli’s who does so, and one of only a handful of graphicists running silentio in the whole SF Bay area.

What the audience sees right now in rhythmic imaging splendor is a whole field of the sproinging slinky-spirals. Distant ancestors of the originals from the beginning of the piece, the spirals have at this point multiplied and become rainbow hued, colors pulsing as they bounce to the infectious visual beat. And hey at the back of the club I see a few humans moving to that beat themselves. Yeah, in fact, you can dance to it! Go Mo.

I think the Oskar Fishinger would dig Mo’s performance too. Following the Fish’s lead, this homie is doing it all. He’s painting motion, he’s sharing process, he’s flying at the speed of visual creation. With the audience totally on board for the flight, clapping hot to the graphic cadence Mo is laying down.

From the Glossary:
silentio — “Under silence, ” said of a graphic performer who works noiselessly, without accompany audio of any kind. The silentio style is both rare and exceedingly difficult. Most graphicists need and use rhythmic sounds to emphasize the visual rhythms in their imaging.

       — Lakin, Live Graphics Nightly (2007)

ERB and the Mahars bring up a great point about Visuals First, Music Optional. Just google on “dancing without music” (here, let me) and you’ll find that the deaf community has embraced the idea, the slogan, and the practical exercise for years.

Cool, text-graphic dance by and for the hearing impaired.

Every performing graphicist should do an internship in that culture.


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