by John Whitney, Sr. was an early artistic film constructed entirely off the black-and-white monitor of a large computer system (IBM 360, IBM 2250 Display, written in GRAF and FORTRAN).

Permutations by John Whitney was an early artistic film constructed entirely off the black-and-white monitor of a large computer system (IBM 360, IBM 2250 Display, written in GRAF and FORTRAN). Color was added by editing with an optical printer. It is an elegant abstract work composed of architectures of color dots that develop pattern while displaying a kinetic rhythm. This early work has had an immense influence on the later generations of computer animators.


Source: Paradise 2012



"In Permutations, each point moves at a different speed and moves in a direction independent according to natural laws' quite as valid as those of Pythagoras, while moving in their circular field. Their action produces a phenomenon more or less equivalent to the musical harmonies. When the points reach certain relationships (harmonic) numerical to other parameters of the equation, they form elementary figures." (John Whitney)


Permutations was preserved by Center for Visual Music and may be studied at their Los Angeles archive.



Permutations, 2nd generation, mittig, software, Film


Digital Harmony (1980): On the Complementarity of Music and Visual Art – John Whitney, Sr. wanted to create a dialog between "the voices of light and tone." All of his early experiments in film and the development of sound techniques lead toward this end. He felt that music was an integral part of the visual experience; the combination had a long history in man's primitive development and was part of the essence of life. His theories On the complementarity of Music and Visual Art were explained in his book, Digital Harmony, published by McGraw-Hill in 1980. (Paradise 2012)

Sons et Lumières (2004) – A History of Sound in the Art of the 20th Century (in French) by Marcella Lista and Sophie Duplaix published by the Centre Pompidou for the excellent Paris exhibition in September 2004 until January 2005.

Curated by the Pompidou’s Sophie Duplaix with the Louvre’s Marcella Lista, the show required a good three or four hours to absorb, with its bombardment of sensory and intellectual input, including painting, sound sculpture, sound/light automata, film and video, and room-size installations. (Frieze Magazine)

Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900 (2005) traces the history of a revolutionary idea: that fine art should attain the abstract purity of music. Over the past one hundred years some of the most adventurous modern and contemporary artists have explored unorthodox means to invent a kinetic, non-representational art modeled upon pure instrumental music. (Amazon)

Expanded Cinema (1970) - In a brilliant and far-ranging study, Gene Youngblood traces the evolution of cinematic language to the end of fiction, drama, and realism. New technological extensions of the medium have become necessary. Thus he concentrates on the advanced image-making technologies of computer films, television experiments, laser movies, and multiple-projection environments. Outstanding works in each field are analyzed in detail. Methods of production are meticulously described, including interviews with artists and technologists. (John Coulthart)



Visual Sound Design (2010) by Reza Ali is a little app he made to help him understand microsounds, oscillators, timing, frequency, low frequency oscillators, polymorphism, sequencing, filtering, time domain effects, such as reverb, chorusing, etc, and distortion effects, such as clipping and more... in real-time in a visual manner, which is how he learns best. (Reza Ali on Vimeo)

Bioacoustic Phenomena (2010) also known as Hydroacoustic Study by Paul Prudence was originally conceived as a live audio-visual performance piece with sound artist Francisco Lopez for a Spatial Sound event organised by Optofonica at the Smart Project Space in Amsterdam, June 2010. The piece was subsequently developed to work with Paul Prudence's own live audio compositions and sound design. Bioacoustic Phenomenon is live generative cinematic exploration of sonically activated biological events, specifically evolving cellular entities that grow in response to sound vibrations. (Transphormetic)

The Film Work of Norman McLaren (2007) by Terence Dobson approaches the puzzles that are set by the film work of Norman McLaren. It is divided into three parts, based on chronological divisions in McLaren's life. The first part deals with McLaren's formative years in Scotland and England and examines his early exposure to the social, artistic and institutional influences that were to shape his filmic output. The second part deals with McLaren's maturation in the USA and Canada. The third part examines specific issues in relation to McLaren and his work and as such is concerned principally with his mature output. (John Libbey Publishing)

Tarik Barri is an audiovisual composer based in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Reflecting his interests in programming, drawing and composing into a coherent multimedial discipline, he developed and uses software that merges audio and visuals into a new audiovisual reality. (Sonic Acts Festival)

Construction 76 (2008) by video artist LIA was created in collaboration with the musicians collective @c. A five-minute sound track was taken from @c’s 55-minute track 76 and synchronized with visuals: parallel to a sound oscillating between bongo sounds, electronics, rich sonic associations and atmospheric piano/cello sounds, the computer-programmed video features arabesque-like shapes and simple graphic elements that arise against a cosmic, black and red background, multiply and vanish again. (Lia)