Some thoughts on VJing


As a DJ I’ve always been a bit suspicious of VJing. It probably wasn’t helped by the over representation of people thinking that ‘fractals’ were ‘cool’ in the mid 90s. That said, I do appreciate visual accompaniments to music – I am a sucker for music videos ( I even wrote a paper for university on music videos and genre back in the very early 90s). And we supported Coldcut when they toured Australia back in the 90s.

Since the birth of the gramophone there has been a market for visual aids. Mark Katz writing about the Edison Realism Test and the McGurk Effect;

“Various strategies were employed in the attempt to restore the missing visual dimension to the phonographic experience. The Stereophone and the Illustrated Song Machine, both introduced in 1905, consisted of similar mechanisms; that, when attached to cylinder-playing phonographs, rotated images in time with the music. AS an article in a trade journal crowed, the Illustrated Song Machine ‘is just what the public has wanted since the first automatic machine was placed on the market, and the listener drew a mind’s picture as the words and music wre repeated to him.’ In 1929 a British phonograph enthusiast reported on the minature stages he had constructed to look at while listening to his favourite operas.”(Katz, M, 2004, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music, p19)

And some of the earliest VJing developed in Australia.

But at Sonar this year I saw DJ Yoda and was horrified.

Yoda was using the new Pioneer DVD ‘turntables’, scratching and cutting music videos with film excerpts. Initially it was amusing, but after ten minutes it dragged, horribly. It was like being at a bad jock party . . . with video to match.

Roland Corporation has been trying to push video as the next step in music (sorry, ‘audio visual entertainment’) creation. Their synths, samplers and sequencers have had ‘V-Link’ built in for a few years now allowing musicians to connect to their video mixers and sync sound with vision. Now they have gone another step by releasing a hardware interface for the popular Japanese VJ software Motion Dive.

This might make video more ‘performable’, much in the way that MIDI controllers make Ableton sets slightly more interesting than watching someone fiddle with a mouse, but will it make more interesting video? Probably not.

Video carries far more meaning to the brain than sound. And I have an idea that the brain creates, or at least tries to create, narrative as it sees images – piecing together what it thinks should link together even if it is very disjointed.

We’ll see.

More thoughts soon.


About Author

Seb Chan founded Cyclic Defrost Magazine in 1998 with Dale Harrison. He handed over the reins at the end of 2010 but still contributes the occasional article and review.