Visual music : an ethnography of an experimental art in Los Angeles
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This report focuses on social networks surrounding visual music, a sub-field of audiovisual experimental art in which hearing and seeing intersect, often through the music-oriented manipulation of abstract imagery and audio-visual synchronization. The discussion evolves from my fieldwork in Los Angeles, where I interacted with artists, archivists, publishers, institutions, software developers, and scholars. Taking into account Howard Becker's notion of art world, Pierre Bourdieu's ideas of cultural and economic capitals, and Bruno Latour's actor-network theory, I try to understand how these groups have been trying to establish visual music-networks. Although elements of visual music have been present in various media and artistic trends (color organs, abstract films, VJing-DJing, etc.), the field's history and premises are still little known, in part because the very term 'visual music' is a contested one. Due to its entertainment/cultural industries, Los Angeles is a place where multiple processes of high tech differentiation coexist; since the 1930s the city's technocultural environment (from film production to academic programs on computer animation) has lured artists interested in visual music. Not surprisingly, the city holds the only two institutions directly related to visual music in the country. I navigate through this field by considering some intersections between science, art, and technology.