Multimedium, Then and now

Multimedium 1974, revised 1978, 41 minutes for electronic and musique concrete four-channel sounds and 1100 visual projections .
First performances at Indiana University South Bend in April, 1974. Later performance at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.

I intended Multimedium  to be a visual symphony, cast in four movements, with movement II being the slow movement and movement III being the dance scherzo movement. The audio track was a four-channel surround score, in the tradition of tape-sound collage, with composed electronic sounds and many appropriated and collected music and verbal excerpts. The visuals were still slides, again appropriated from many sources, and some shot anew. The visuals from the original production do not exist.

I was, and still am, very happy with the soundtrack. It is the best of my work from back then. In 1978 I cut the soundtrack down from 41 minutes to 35 minutes, which helped the pacing. (The third movement, Ann Dunn's poem, required no trimming. It was perfectly paced.) Recently I found someone with the appropriate antique equipment to transfer the quadraphonic master mix tapes (which I have carried around for 40 years) to digital format. I plan to do some restoration work and perhaps add some more modern sounds.

Visually I was never satisfied. We used slide projectors with programmed faders to produce the visuals on three or four screens. But the frames were static, and while I could cross-fade and superimpose images, there was no movement within the frame. It simply wasn’t possible given the equipment we had at the time. It was a slide show.

Now we have high-resolution digital video and many archival sources of visual material. It calls to me to redo Multimedium, so that’s what I’m planning.

Visual style for the new version, by movement:

I. Ode to McLuhan (Play MP3) 7:31  
Movements 1 and 4 are based loosely around the Apollo 11 trip to the moon, with movement 1 being the outbound journey. There are many sounds from radio and television media, and many quotations from McLuhan and others. It’s about starting out, the journey, and the artifacts of media coverage.

NASA has recently released all of the photos from that voyage, along with much other material in high-res digital form. I have many other sources as well for both still and motion materials.

II. Museum Music (Play MP3) 6:43 
The slow movement is about opera, and stage performance of old exalted works. The soundtrack is highly modified Puccini and Verdi excerpts. Visually, many archives of opera performance photos and posters, and other stage works from the 19th century are available. Think stills with the Ken Burns effect. I may enhance the soundtrack of this movement a bit. 

III. Homage to Berio (Play MP3) 9:35
My favorite, the dance movement. I see this as all movement, and blur, and color. Ann Dunn's poem is about Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia, which is a collage of many symphonic sources and 20th century writings. My third movement is based on the third movement of Sinfonia, which is based on the third movement of Mahler’s 2nd and many others. So I used Berio and Mahler in this movement. Sinfonia was one of my great influences, along with the music of Iannis Xenakis, with whom I had studied prior to writing this piece.

I have many ideas visually…dancers...merry-go-rounds…color…light…movement. Think Degas’ ballet paintings, in motion, lots of 4K video. See below.

IV. Da Capo (Play MP3) 11:00
This is about the contrast between motion and stasis, and closes the loop with the return of Apollo 11 from the moon. It uses quotations from Joyce and Becket (The Unnamable), and many excerpts from endings of Beethoven and Handel and others, as well as sounds of travel means. Visuals are from NASA, and travel of all types, and photos of urns outside Irish pubs.

I see the final form as a triple-screen 4K video projection, with surround sound, intended for gallery or museum presentation. At least the outer movements may also contain live-streams from the internet in real time.