Audiovisual Performance

Music 203


Constantin Basica

Tuesday/Thursday 10:30am-12:20pm

CCRMA Stage (The Knoll, Room 317)

Office hours: by appointment




The unification of music and visual arts has been attempted throughout history, opera being one example. In the 20th Century, sounds and moving images have been syncretized in various art forms, such as film or video art, as well as in popular culture (television, music video, the Internet, etc.). Today, with fast technological developments and the convenience of hardware/software tools, media artists employ both sonic and visual elements in their performance practice. What are the interrelations between music, video, and themselves as performers?


Students will perform with music and video in synergy. The course explores various theories and practices of engaging audiovisual media in the context of stage performance. Examples come from the scenes of experimental music and multimedia performance. Other audiovisual categories to be approached: avant-garde film, visual music, video art, music video, etc. Readings, listening-viewings, discussions, and analyses of relevant works will provide a conceptual framework. Labs and assignments will give students hands-on experience in crafting and performing their own audiovisual works. The course culminates with a public show. A background in either music or visual arts is strongly recommended, but not required.




During the course, students will:

• become familiar with historical and theoretical aspects of various audiovisual categories and genres;

• learn to define, distinguish, and assess various types of conceptual interrelations between music and video;

• expand their understanding of audiovisual performance based on recent experimental practices;

• gain basic skills in audio and video production (recording and editing), as well as live audiovisual performance using the software Max;

• apply theoretical notions of audiovisual relationships in the creation and performance of the assigned projects.




We will use the visual programming language Max to perform with music and video in real time. We start using Max in Week 4. Max can be used for free as a trial for one month (Oct 15 – Nov 15). For the rest of the course (Nov 15 – Dec 15), each student must rent it for $9.99. If you prefer to start using Max before Week 4, you will need to rent it for an additional $9.99/month.


For audio and video editing, students are free to use any software. Audacity and OpenShot Video Editor are cross-platform, free and open-source digital editors for audio and video. GarageBand and iMovie can also be used freely on Macintosh computers (including those at Stanford computer clusters). Alternatively, students may also use Adobe Creative Cloud products (Audition, Premiere Pro, After Effects) on machines at CCRMA and Lathrop Library.




Students are expected to attend and actively participate in all lectures, labs, presentations, and critiques. More than two absences will reduce the final grade by 5% for each missed session. Late assignments will not be accepted, because each of them has to be presented and critiqued by peers.




Class attendance and participation in discussions: 20%

Project 1: 10% (create an original audiovisual composition with or without human representation)

Project 2: 10% (remix your colleagues' materials from Project I and adapt them into a live performance)

Project 3: 20% (collaborative music-video-performance with real & virtual performers)

Final Project: 40% (independent performative project with video and music)




It is my intention that this course serves students from all backgrounds. I view the diversity brought by students as an asset to the learning environment. I welcome any suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the course for any student individually. Moreover, if you feel that we could be doing a better job in representing the contributions of researchers and artists in relevant fields, across identifications and expressions of genders, sexual orientation, ability, age, socioeconomic status, geography, ethnicity, race, and culture, any critique and/or suggestions in this regard would be highly encouraged and appreciated.


It is my priority to make sure that class and presentation contributions from all students are valued. If you feel that we could improve in areas of equality and receptivity, or that any factor related to course meetings may be interfering with your ability to fully participate in and contribute to the course discussions, presentations and other activities, please feel free to inform me.


If any of our class meetings or presentations conflict with a religious occasion, please let me know so that we can make arrangements for you.


I acknowledge the right for all people to be addressed and referred to in accordance with their personal identity. Therefore, please feel free to correct any use of a mistaken name or mistaken gender pronoun in relation to yourself.


If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me:




Students with Documented Disabilities: Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty. Unless the student has a temporary disability, Accommodation letters are issued for the entire academic year. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066), URL:




Note: all readings and listening-viewings are due the following session.





Tue Sep 24


Introductions; Syllabus

Lecture (1): Music-Video-Performance


Reading (1): Anahid Kassabian: How Music Works in Film (in "Hearing Film", pp. 37-49)

Listening-Viewings (1):

Lichtspiel Opus 1 (1921) by Walter Ruttman

An Optical Poem (1938) by Oskar Fischinger



Thu Sep 26


Lecture (2): Interrelations between Sounds and Images

Experimental film, visual music, music video, theories of audiovisual linking.

Discussion of relevant works:

Rhythmus 21 (1921) by Hans Richter (excerpt)

The Flicker (1965) by Tony Conrad (excerpt)

Synchromy (1971) by Norman McLaren (excerpt)

HELLO (2014) by Alexander Schubert (excerpt)

Thrice Removed (2008) by Brian Cullen

Due: Reading (1) and Listening-Viewings (1)


Reading (2): Aimee Mollaghan: Questions of Attribution and Contribution: What Constitutes a Visual Music Film? (in “The Visual Music Film”, pp. 9-19)

Listening-Viewing (2):

The Book of Sand (2015) by Michel van der Aa

Mini-assignment: Share an audiovisual work (film, music video, audiovisual composition, etc.) that you find particularly compelling. Select a 1-minute excerpt and tell us why the sound-image connections are effective from your perspective.





Tue Oct 1


Lab (1): Using audio and video recording equipment (portable audio recorders and microphones; photo/video cameras and lenses)

Due: Reading (2) and Listening-Viewing (2) + Mini-Assignment


Project 1 (due Oct 8): Create a one-minute fixed audiovisual composition in which you combine original sounds/music (field recordings, foley sounds, recorded instruments, composed music, etc.) and moving images (nature, objects, drawings, computer graphics, etc.). Avoid any traditional “plot”. No person should be represented clearly (voice or image) even if people appear in the video. Human agency should be perceived through other means (video editing, camera movement, music, etc.). The relationship between the audio and the video must undergo Nicholas Cook's three multimedia models (in any order): conformance, complementation, contest.



Thu Oct 3


Lab (2): Basic digital audio-video editing techniques





Tue Oct 8


Due: Project 1 – presentation and critique



Thu Oct 10


Lecture (3): Audiovisual Interfaces/Instruments

Reactive/Interactive performance, audiovisual mapping, sensors.

Guest: Jaroslaw Kapuscinski

Discussion of relevant works:

TV Cello (1971) by Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman

Violin Power (1978) by Steina Vasulka

Lucid Possesion (2001-10) by Toni Dove (excerpt)

data structures/monoliths ii (for chion) (2009) by Sam Pluta

»Slices« (2008-09) by Jacob Sello (excerpt)

de/Rastra (2012) by Kyle Evans (excerpt)

Irmat Studies (2013) by Johannes Kreidler (excerpts)



Reading (3): Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss: Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal Reflections: On Cut-Copy-Paste Culture (in "The Routledge Companion To Remix Studies", pp. 54-65)

Listening-Viewing (3):

Stelarc: The Man with Three Ears (documentary)

Project 2 (due Oct 24): Devise and present a short (two-minute maximum) live performance with Max. As main audio-video material employ any of the fixed media that your peers produced in Project 1 and remix it. You are allowed to remove material from the original composition and/or add new audio-video material. Add your body into the performance: for example, play an instrument, manipulate the video using a controller, perform movements to accompany the audiovisual media, etc. What solutions can you find for reinterpreting the sounds/images of your colleagues and connecting them to your persona? How do the relationships between audio and video change in a live performance as opposed to the fixed version? Offer your audiovisual material from Project 1 to your peers.





Tue Oct 15


Lab (3): Cycling ’74 Max

Basic operations; audio and video playback and manipulations.

Due: Reading (3) and Listening-Viewing (3)



Thu Oct 17


Lab (4): Cycling ’74 Max

Connecting the physical world to Max: hardware controllers, webcams, motion/color tracking, etc.


Reading (4): Gene McHugh: Excerpts from Post Internet (in "Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-first Century", pp. 185-198)

Listening-Viewings (4):

Video Quartet (2002) by Christian Marclay (excerpt)

Chorus (2014) by Holly Herndon and Akihiko Taniguchi (excerpt)

Ursonate (2015) by Klaus Obermaier and Electronica Futurelab (excerpt)





Tue Oct 22


Lecture (4): Audiovisual Performance in the Cyber Age

Remix culture, Internet art, transmedia, social composing, DIY, customization.

Discussion of relevant works:

Hitchcock Études (2013) by Nicole Lizée

LOST PLAY (2014-15) by Jagoda Szmytka (excerpts)

[custom #1] (2016) by Óscar Escudero (excerpts)

Metanoia (2016) by Alex Hay (opera "game")

Alter Bahnhof Video Walk (2012) by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller (excerpt)

Due: Reading (4) and Listening-Viewings (4)



Thu Oct 24


Due: Project 2 – presentation and critique


Reading (5): Steve Dixon: The digital double (in "New Visions in Performance", pp. 15-25)

Listening-Viewings (5):

What You Mean We? (1986) by Laurie Anderson (excerpt)

One (2002) by Michel van der Aa (excerpt)

Project 3 (due Nov 7): Develop a collaborative audiovisual performance with one of your peers, in which both of you appear as real performers on stage and virtual performers in the video. The video and the music may be preproduced and/or live. Your voice(s) may be employed in addition to sounds/music.





Tue Oct 29


Guest: Barbara Nerness

Lecture (5): Virtual Doppelgängers in Audiovisual Performance

Mirrors, clones, androids, cyborgs, simulacra.

Discussion of relevant works:

BLACKJACK (2012) and caravan (2017) by Michael Beil (excerpts)

Generation Kill (2012) by Stefan Prins (excerpt)

The Reply (2016) by Leo Hoffmann (excerpt)

Good Dog (2017) by Neo Hülcker (excerpt)

Due: Reading (5) and Listening-Viewings (5)


Reading (6): Rosemary Klich and Edward Scheer: Liveness and

Re-Mediation (in "Multimedia Performance", pp. 67-87)

Listening-Viewings (6):

Supervision (2007) by Builders Association (trailer)

HAMLET (2012) by The Wooster Group (excerpt)



Thu Oct 31


Lecture (6): Video in Composed Theatre

Instrumental and music theatre, The New Discipline.

Discussion of relevant works:

Luna Park (2011) by Georges Aperghis (excerpts)

The Total Mountain (2014) by Jennifer Walshe (excerpts)

Nice Guys Win Twice (2016) by Jessie Marino (excerpts)

Due: Reading (6) and Listening-Viewings (6)

Guest: Stephanie Sherriff


Reading (7): Lev Manovich: Representation versus Simulation (in "Language of New Media")

Listening-Viewing (7):

Feel Good Inc. (2010) by Gorillaz – live at MTV EMA

BOX (2013) by Bot & Dolly

Optional: Attend Timothy Weaver’s audiovisual performance in the CCRMA Stage at 7:30pm.





Tue Nov 5


Lecture (7): Audiovisual Illusions in Performance

Auditory and optical illusions, multichannel sound diffusion and binaural audio, 3D video, projection mapping.

Discussion of relevant works:

The President Has His Photograph Taken (2005) by David Bithell

Study for String Instrument #3 (2011) by Simon Steen-Andersen

Due: Reading (7) and Listening-Viewings (7)



Thu Nov 7


Due: Project 3 – presentation and critique


Final Project Proposal (due Nov 14): Briefly present your idea for the final project in a three-minute formal presentation (use sketches, slides, audiovisual examples, references, etc.). The final performance should last between 5-7 minutes.





Tue Nov 12


Lecture (8): Video as Score for Performance / Performance as Recorded Video

Performance art and video art, audiovisual digital media, music video.

Discussion of relevant works:

Webwork I (2010) by Justin Yang (excerpt)

third person (2014) by Celeste Oram (excerpt)

The Hands of the Dancer (2011) by Freida Abtan

The Visitors (2015) by Ragnar Kjartansson (excerpt)

This is the Uplifting Part (2017) by Ensemble Pamplemousse (excerpts)

A Square is Not a Bee (2018) by Natacha Diels and Mocrep



Thu Nov 14


Due: Final Project Proposal (three-minute presentation + feedback from peers)

Guests: Ellen Phan and Nisa Karnsomport


Optional (but strongly recommended): Attend the audiovisual performance of Ellen and Nisa in the CCRMA Stage at 7:30pm.





Tue Nov 19


Final Project – Lab: present updates on your project / work / get feedback



Thu Nov 21


Final Project – 1st Draft: presentations and critique





Tue Dec 3


Final Project – 2nd Draft: dress rehearsal and feedback



Thu Dec 5


Final Project – Public Performance at 7:30pm





Tue Dec 10


Critique of Final Project (optional attendance)