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The Book

What is VJing and realtime interaction

  Holger Lund
Translation: Lutz Eitel




In VJing and Visual Music a VJ edits film sequences in real time. The result is visual. If Visual Music started out as a kind of live cinema on raves and in clubs, by now studio productions released by collaborating visual artists and musicians are gaining in importance. The relations between producer and viewer shift. Unlike with the short-lived experience in a club, the interrelation of film and music is opening new possibilities in this changed context, and making new aesthetic statements. Visual Music combines the two elements in a form different from its predecessors. Compared to Colour Music, its approach is more technical, and more content directed, not merely translating music into lights and colours. The difference from experimental film lies in the focus on music and in the real time editing of visual materials. Visual Music is more rhythmically bound to the soundtrack than Expanded Cinema or video art, but it doesn't centre on a pop star like music videos on TV. Making music isn't simulated on screen, as in videoclips, there are no instruments to be seen. And, for the most part, Visual Music has been a spontaneous creation in live events, quite different from the film studio productions of video clips. Unlike these, they are sequenced in cyclic or associative order, only seldom do they form a narrative. But recent developments, documenting live or studio productions of Visual Music on DVD, show a blurring of the borders to video clips. The term VJ (video or visual jockey) harks back to DJ (disk jockey), whose working methods have a number of similarities. The analogy is richer than just shared approaches like sampling or looping material. DJs, in discotheques or clubs, therefore in public spaces, select, combine, and mix music from their repertoire; they are responsible for the musical design of an event. VJs are responsible for visual design, they select, often at the same places, and at the same events, video and animation sequences from their repertoire, combining and mixing them, mostly in rhythmic relation to the music. Both share the mixing process, live and in real time. Both share the fact that they sample, loop, and remix, so that looped parts of the music or repeated beat patterns find their correlative in visual loops. But there are differences, especially regarding the source materials. DJs seldom play self-produced material; mostly they rely on well-stocked record shops. But there is no shop for video clips or sequences, so VJs often use their own material, pre-programmed sequences or live recordings of images. This is why being a VJ often involves more tasks; not just being a musical designer like a DJ, but often being their own technician (installing the visual means), camera man, producer, and visual designer all in one. Being a visual designer does not just involve working with video sequences, but also choosing light and colours for a room. Visual Music might be regarded as a kind of real time cinema, but a non narrative one, involving several projectors or monitors, often adjusted to a given room situation. Live cameras, mixers, software, effect boards, projectors, monitors: along with the room situation they form a dynamic system, an instrument for the VJ. One might term VJing in a live performance as a kind of medial room design or a medial dispositive.

Andrew Bucksbarg
Eugenio Tisselli
Federico Bonelli
Gabriel Menotti
Holger Lund
Jeremy Hight
Joe Reinsel
Lucy H G/ L Hermes Griesbach
Michael Betancourt
Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett, Furtherfield