Organum (2003) computer animation and music
Greg Niemeyer, Chris Chafe, Christine Liu and Lorenzo Wang
Organum is a surreal computer graphics animation about semi-human creatures who wander a desolate valley living, fighting, mating, and always singing. Their internal organs, especially the vocal tracts, are visible to plain sight, and respond to waves of sound in the air. Their day to day struggle is to find enough water to survive. But into their midst is thrown a catalyst of change, a technology which promises to help them, but will ultimately change them forever.
Composer Chris Chafe uses data from the digital images to generate the sounds made by the characters' voices and by their movements through the world. Likewise, animators rely on sound data to generate and to add nuance and expression to movement. In this way, the film avoids traditional cinematic privileging of image over sound, and insists instead on their mutual effect and interpenetration.
Organum explores what it means to be alive by introducing us to a world inhabited by flying organic and mechanical lungs that cannot see, but use sound to communicate and navigate. Although these creatures may seem visually alien to us, they remind us that knowledge is not reducible to visual or quantitative systems of knowing, but must be understood as a fully embodied world-sense.
Organum bends the horizontal relationship between viewer and screen, offering instead a new axis of vision that swings and spins like a gyroscope, so that suddenly, we find ourselves face to face with our own visceral bodies that encounter the world through a constant exchange of air and breath and waves of sound. In addition to producing the film for a conventional cinema screen, Niemeyer Chafe, Christine Liu and Lorenzo Wang will premiere a version of the film in University of New Mexico's 180-degree dome theater. Furthermore, in conjunction with the film projects, the team has been working to develop the universe and characters of Organum into a computer game in which players interact and progress through the game by learning how to use their characters' voices.