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“Symphony in Acid” by Max Cooper

A typographic music video for “Symphony in Acid” (“Unspoken Words”) by Max Cooper, built as a generative+interactive website symphonyinacid.net and recorded afterwards. It features text from “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” (1921) by Ludwig Wittgenstein, dealing with limits of language.

More about the project

Note by Max Cooper

About production process

objkt.com (NFTs via Tezos)

Max suggested using discourses by German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein for the “Symphony in Acid” video right from the start. Wittgenstein’s subjects and conclusions serve as excellent extenders to the fundamentals of the “Unspoken Words” album. Especially in “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” (1921), he explores in depth the concept of limits of language. Wittgenstein investigates various aspects of language, from the atomic point of view (form) to the wide picture (content). The thinker famously stated: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” With this video, I tried to challenge that notion in the field of visual art.

I build most of my works with code. In this case, I had to choose a coding environment suitable for rendering typography – an element central to this project. Running code as a website, through a modern internet browser, turned out to be the perfect solution. Personally, I find the gap between hypertext and 100-year-old paper both significant and inspiring. With my former experience in commercial web development, it was fun and refreshing to use my tools from back then for this new approach.

The dense soundtrack, composed by Max, triggered my code in powerful ways. As I listen to it now, I can almost hear atoms interacting, gravitating towards each other to form an object, and then – a whole scenery. Such a wide perspective fuels the imagination and matches the logical-philosophical soul within Wittgenstein’s papers. The ever-evolving atmosphere also helps to create new systems, new scenes. The video starts with just a few letters, that build a word, then a sentence, and finally – whole blocks of text. Having said that, the meaning remains between the lines. The letters can’t exist solely for their form. Eventually, they have to carry information.

As with my earlier works, this one is also generative. I always hope for my projects to stay alive as long as possible, and more engaging with each play. In this case, with every visit on the website, the track follows a specific plot, the outcome however stays different, each time with a new acidic taste.

We released the website (www.symphonyinacid.net) simultaneously with the video, as an integral part of the project. The final video shows a single recording of the website being browsed. For the nerds out there, interested in the programming aspect, you can easily access the source code. For a more immersive and playful experience, I added a few interactive options – you can pause the track at any moment, and play with visuals with your mouse and keyboard. Enjoy!

from Max Cooper:

“My Unspoken Words album project is about trying to express things which I could not put into words. For some visual ideas I turned to the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who tackled this issue of the problems with words and their inability to capture every aspect of our lives. Wittgenstein’s writing tackles the issues of human expression and the links between our symbolism and existence, but also does so in an incomprehensibly dense way, for me at least. But it has a power when presented as art rather than a technical reading challenge. It’s full of feeling and suggestion that we’ve tried to play with here.

The track name, Symphony in Acid, plays on the combination of orchestral-like synthesis with 303-like synthesis of acid house fame. I was trying to merge some disparate ideas in the context of a highly dense and complex, but gridded and rigorous structure, one reminiscent of the Wittgenstein text.

Ksawery did an amazing and painstaking job mapping every sound to text presentations and manipulations following the same principles. Each musical, visual and methodological unit is simple, but in concert the result is this complex information onslaught. I love the effect of trying to take in the meaning and messages of the project, particularly when presented on a big screen and sound system. If you give yourself to it, it’s a really intense experience with all the text meanings triggering a tapestry of mental responses.

For me, overall, it creates a strange abstracted experience of the challenges of trying to make sense of the world and express ourselves in it as I try to make sense of the audio visual word barrage, I hope some of you will see what I mean. I apologise to non-English speakers though, I’d love to make multi-language translations of the project as well.

Ksawery has also created a live rendering website version of the project at www.symphonyinacid.net where you can interact with the system and even have your own face rendered in Wittgenstein’s words. And if you would like to collaborate with us to create digital art with your own unspoken words you can submit those at www.unspokenwords.net.

The final thing to note is that we added a couple of words at the start. Wittgenstein’s statement that «The limits of my language mean the limits of my world» is one that I seek to refute with Unspoken Words.”

credits:

  • Max Cooper – music, creative direction
  • Ksawery Kirklewski – design, motion, coding
  • James Palmer-Bullock – artist representative
  • Anthony Faulkner – label manager
  • Gareth Williams – Mesh Lab manager
  • Matthew Maxey and Rosalie De Meyer – public relations
  • Kaspar Broyd, Max Cooper, Niel Orens, String and Tins – Dolby Atmos mix sound engineers