Rhythm 21 


- original title: Rhythmus 21. An early, abstract animation by Hans Richter composed solely of squares and rectangles that change shape. This another attempt by the artist to apply musical principles to screen images.

Hans Richter's first film, Rhythm 21, stands at the very beginning of the avant-garde film movement. For the first time, a film has utilized the movie screen as a directors substitute for the painters' canvas, as a framed rectangular surface on which a kinetic organization of purely plastic forms is composed. For normally, the movie screen is perceived as a kind of window, more or less arbitrarily circumscribed, behind which an illusion of space appears. In Rhythm 21, high contrast, it is a planar surface activated by the forms upon it. Thus its forms, like those of abstract painting of its time (especially Mondrian and Van Doesburg), have no physical existence except on the screen, nor do we sense their lateral extension beyond the limits of the screen as is usually the case with images created by camera vision. In Rhythm 21, the screen is articulated by movements of mathematical percision and maximum of graphic clarity. Its content is essentially rhythm, the formal vocabulary is elemental geometry and the structural principle is counterpoint of contrasting opposites. (Standish D. Lawder)


Source: time4time



Some of most repeated and published misinformation in the literature of Visual Music are the errors dating Hans Richter's films. Hans Richter was not the first abstract filmmaker, and he did not make the first abstract film (as he claimed). He did not complete or screen Rhythm 21 in 1921. Though his own texts claim this date, a number of scholars have disproven this. Today, sometimes the date 1921-24 is used for Rhythm 21, but it should perhaps be 1921-1925. We recommend a book which attempts to sort this all out: Goergen, Jean-Paul. "Hans Richter. Film ist Rhythmus," published in 2003. Available through Arsenal Institut für Film und Videokunst, Berlin; Nr. 95 in their Kinemathek series.


As Goergen has explained to us, "The only film by Richter that passed the German censorship and was shown officially and in public was a film called Film ist Rhythmus (not preserved under this title) presented at the second screening of the matinee Der absolute Film in Berlin, 10.05.1925." Thus the claims of 1921 or 1923 for a Richter film are definitely incorrect. It may even be finally in 1951 that these early Rhythm films were edited and released. Richter is known to have attempted to rewrite the early history on other occasions as well.


In the CVM archive we have a handwritten letter from Oskar Fischinger to Hans Richter (June 16, 1947), in which Oskar writes about Richter's History of the Avantgarde – "My own begin [sic] was very much different from what you write. In this 5 or 6 years you write about me, not one word is true. I started not as a painter, did not start my first attempts 1929, did not work with Ruttmann on Melodie of the World. And of course did not translate music in optical expressions." Fischinger also writes about proof that Ruttmann's film Opus 1 was shown in 1921 (which would make Richter's claim of being first – simply false).


Source: Center for Visual Music, May 2010 Newsletter, Section 4



Rhythm 21, vierecke, Film


Hans Richter - Activism, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde (2000) edited by Stephen C. Foster. Few artists spanned the movements of early twentieth-century art as completely as did Hans Richter. Richter was a major force in the developments of expressionism, Dada, De Stijl, constructivism, and Surrealism, and the creator, with Viking Eggeling, of the abstract cinema. Along with Theo van Doesburg, László Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, and a few others, he is one of the artists crucial to an understanding of the role of the arts in the reconstruction era following World War I. (MIT Press)

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)



CLP: Bang Out (2008) directed by Berlin based video artist collective Transforma, taken from CLP's album called Supercontinental and is released on Shitkatapult. (Transforma on Vimeo)

Michal Levy was born and raised in Israel and graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, in 2001. She currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she work as an art director. Since childhood, music, dance and painting have been an important part of her life and she has contributed to her passion for exploring the visualization of sound. (Michal Levy)

Path to Abstraction #10 (2005-2009) by Quayola is project that explores the relationships between sound and image, inspired by the true representation of sound itself: the waveform. It consists of a continuous visual stream that retains the precise behavior of a waveform, while interpreting the music in a very uniqueand personal way. Music: Autobam. (Quayola)

© Center for Visual Music


Study No. 7 (1931) - original title: Studie Nr. 7. This short film by Oskar Fischinger was one of a dozen 'studies' spanning the 1920s and '30s. This one is a gorgeous visual tone poem with a few small, dynamic white shapes popping decoratively out of a sea of blackness. (Dr. William Moritz, Canyon Cinema)

Giant Steps (2001) - Michal Levy translated John Coltrane's jazz standard into an animated visual – a geometric structure that stretches and careens to Coltrane's sax. In so doing, Levy illustrates the architectural thinking behind Coltrane's work, in which a musical theme defines a space. (FlasherDotOrg)