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Music at the NFB: Early electronic music and experimental film

As part of Suoni Per Il Popolo

Synchromy by Norman McLaren ⎮ 1971 ⎮ 7 min

This animated short by Norman McLaren features synchronization of image and sound in the truest sense of the word. To make this film, McLaren employed novel optical techniques to compose the piano rhythms of the sound track, which he then moved, in multicolor, onto the picture area of the screen so that, in effect, you see what you hear.

Mosaic by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambert ⎮ 1965 ⎮ 5 min

This short experimental animation tempts the eye with gradually unfolding yet increasingly complex movement, colour and sound. Reminiscent of the mid-20th-century style of “op art,” McLaren and Lambart’s film follows a single tiny square as it divides and multiplies, eventually forming a colourful, hypnotic mosaic set to the animators’ precise and deliberate musical orchestration.

Around Perception by Pierre Hébert ⎮ 1968 ⎮ 16 min

Watch an early experiment using computers to animate film. The result is a dazzling vibration of geometric forms in vivid colour, an effect achieved by varying the speed at which alternate colours change, so producing optical illusions. In between these screen pyrotechnics there appears a simple line form gyrating in smooth rhythm. Sound effects are created by registering sound shapes directly on the soundtrack of the film.

Op Hop – Hop Op by Pierre Hébert ⎮ 1966 ⎮ 3 min

A hand-made, scratched-on film experiment in intermittent animation. The images are a group of twenty-four visuals, all non-representational, which arrange and rearrange on the screen in many combinations. The result is a changing pattern of sound and image that has its own rhythm for eye and ear.

Opus 3 by Pierre Hébert ⎮ 1967 ⎮ 6 min

A film in which both sound and image were created with a minimum of photographic or electronic equipment. The images are a few simple geometric forms–squares, circles, lines, ellipses–arranged and counter-arranged to generate an increasing number of perceived images. Their appearance on the screen is as percussive as the sound that accompanies them.

Dimensions soleils by Raymond Brousseau and Bernard Longpré ⎮ 1970 ⎮ 4 min

Artistic and mathematical at the same time, Dimensions soleils proves once again that beauty often goes hand in hand with essential structures of being.

Test 0558 by Bernard Longré⎮ 1965 ⎮ 5 min

Short film exploring some notions linked to artificial creativity. In 1967, a filmmaker decides to collaborate with an electronic calculator. The machine directs the artist in a geometric and psychedelic adventure.

Metadata by Peter Foldès⎮ 1971 ⎮ 8 min

This short experimental film from Peter Foldès (Hunger) hails from the very early days of computer animation. Created entirely on a computer belonging to the National Research Council of Canada, it registered hundreds of movements to produce a fluid, evolving effect with images seamlessly morphing into one another.