There’s something wondrous about the power the motion graphics artist has to transfix an audience with simple shapes by marrying their movement to sound and music. For me, the simpler the base elements and the cleaner the design, the more likely I am to be taken with the piece.
I was first introduced to the work of Michal Levy a few years ago by the simplest of beginnings; a magenta dot on a background of navy, which shifted and grew to form a multi-storey building to the strains of John Coltrane’s jazz masterpiece Giant Steps, from which it took its name. Although a music student and trained jazz saxophonist of many years, it was Levy’s difficulties mastering the playing of Giant Steps that led to her compulsion to express the piece visually despite a complete lack of prior knowledge of motion graphics or 3D:
“I chose a tune that I couldn’t ever really play. I decided to understand it and “deal with it” in my own way. I have never done an animation film before. I never worked with a 3D software before. But I thought that I must take a chance and just go for it.” (Flasherdot.org)
The chance paid off as Giant Steps became a much praised piece that continues to screen today despite being created back in 2001. I’ve only recently checked in with Levy, and so was pleased to see that she’d returned to her “personal quest to understand how music ‘looks’” with One by animating Jason Lindner’s Suheir. As with jazz itself, it’s hard to describe One and do it justice, but I’ll give it a try.
Things begin with a steadily growing waveform which pulses and kicks as piano is joined by drums and bass. Yet as it comes to dominate the screen, it becomes clear that we’re not looking at a waveform but a city pulsing and alive with music as announced by the horns. The buildings then shift into colours and twist off to form a vibrant Synesthesia landscape.
As you can probably tell from that woeful attempt, One is a piece that needs to be felt and experienced, it most certainly loses something in the translation into words. To realise the piece Levy called in the animators over at Studio FatCat who set to work with Maya. Whilst many artists fear that exposing their process of work may detract from the completed piece, Levy has embraced it by making sketches, work in progress and a videoboard freely available on her site.
I’ve never been a fan of jazz as it was always an area of music that I just didn’t ‘get’, but with Levy as my guide I can literally see what I’ve been missing.