In 2001 Michal Levy created an animated movie to the music of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. The musical piece ‘Giant Steps‘ was originally recorded in 1959 as the title track to Coltrane’s debut album for the Atlantic label. It features Coltrane’s unique improvisational style using dense clusters of notes played in quick succession. This flow of musical ideas became tagged with the phrase "sheets of sound".
"When I listen to music I see colors and shapes and when I watch visual art I hear sounds. I wanted to express my sensing of shapes colors and music in this short movie."
The short film is 2:15 minutes in duration and shows the construction/deconstruction of an architectural space in sync with the music.
"The structural approach of John Coltrane to music is associated with architectural thinking. The musical theme defines a space and the musical improvisation is like someone drifting in that imaginary space."
Michaels work vividly illustrates the symmetrical and mathematical patterns of Coltrane’s music. It also depicts a deeper metaphorical representation of an inner space that is referred to in this quotation from William Blake;
"Nature has no Outline, but Imagination has. Nature has no Tune, but Imagination has. Nature has no Supernatural and dissolves; Imagination is Eternity."
According to musician and Coltrane transcriber Andrew White, Coltrane referred to his use of harmonic structure as "that funny thing". See The Theory And Practice Of John Coltrane.
The Giant Steps animation was created using Maya, an integrated 3D modelling, animation, effects, and rendering software package. A personal learning version is available for free download at the Maya site.
- The Shape of Song lets you explore visual representations of music by drawing musical patterns in the form of translucent arches from any MIDI composition available on the Web. There is a gallery of images here.