Norman McLaren (1971)

Synchromy is a 1971¬†National Film Board of Canada¬†visual music¬†film by¬†Norman McLaren¬†utilizing¬†graphical sound. To produce the film’s musical¬†soundtrack, McLaren photographed rectangular cards with lines on them. He arranged these shapes in sequences on the analog¬†optical sound¬†track to produce notes and chords. He then reproduced the sequence of shapes,¬†colorized, in the image portion of the¬†film, so that audiences see the shapes that they are also hearing, as sound.

McLaren had experimented with this technique for creating notes through patterns of stripes on the soundtrack area of the film in the 1950s, working with Evelyn Lambart. Their technique was based on earlier work in graphical sound by German pioneer Rudolf Pfenninger and Russian Nikolai Voinov.

The creation of¬†Synchromy¬†was documented by¬†Gavin Millar¬†in 1970 in a film called¬†The Eye Hears, The Ear Sees. In McLaren’s production notes, he stated that “Apart from planning and executing the music, the only creative aspect of the film was the ‘choreographing’ of the striations in the columns and deciding on the sequence and combinations of colours.”
The film received eight awards, including a Special Jury Mention at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Norman McLaren (1940)

Boogie-Doodle is a 1940 drawn-on-film visual music short by Norman McLaren, set to the boogie-woogie music of African-American jazz pianist Albert Ammons.

Though released by the¬†National Film Board of Canada¬†(NFB) in 1941,¬†Boogie-Doodle¬†was actually made by McLaren in¬†New York City¬†in 1940, a year before he was invited by¬†John Grierson¬†to Canada to found the NFB’s animation unit. McLaren, who had been influenced by the hand-painted films of¬†Len Lye, was in New York exploring the technique on a grant from the¬†Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, creating¬†Boogie-Doodle¬†along with three other cameraless films:¬†Dots,¬†Loops¬†and¬†Stars and Stripes.

The animation in Boogie-Doodle coincides exactly with Ammon’s musical piece, with McLaren’s animation beginning at the very first bar and concluding at the final note.