The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Marilyn Roxie presents … Visual Music and Colorful Video Art

As an artist newly interested in the digital video format,  I have been exploring the works of artists both in analog film and digital video to better understand possibilities within the medium. Video art is a kind of tiny nest egg within the broader category of experimental cinema, though it is video art and visual music that I am generally most interested in. Video art has great crossover with conceptual art and performance art, as well as features of pop art and abstract art, among others, though I won’t be focusing on video art in a broader sense here. Visual music films include visual representations to go along with music (like squares, squiggles, flashing colors), as well as silent films with visuals that follow musical patterns. Utilizing video synthesizers, VJ-ing techniques, and software like Max are a few ways to experiment with and produce works within the realm of visual music.


Here I have selected ten of my favorite short film and video pieces. The structure of some visual music pieces is not dissimilar to how I arranged my own mental picture about music while it was playing when I was a kid. Not everything here falls into the visual music category, but they share strong shape and color elements.


Hans Richter – Rhythm 21 (1921)


Mary Ellen Bute – Synchromy No. 4: Escape (1938)
Norman McLaren – Fiddle-De-Dee (1947)


Robert Breer – Blazes (1961)


John Whitney – Matrix III (1972)


Toshio Matsumoto – Everything Visible is Empty (1975)


Gary Hill – Electronic Linguistic (1978)
Ed Emshwiller – Sunstone (1979)


Stan Brakhage – Black Ice (1994)


Phosphenes (2010) by Aaron Ross and Anna Geyer (2010)


More information:




p.s. Hey. ** Continuing the recent spate of blog-shaped treasures sourced from heads other than mine, today I have the privilege of ushering you into this impeccable and generous guest-post by artist and distinguished local Marilyn Roxie, who invites you to consider and watch ten superb works by artists who create and practice within analog film and digital video. It’s a boon, and I hope you enjoy the show and exploration and will report back in whatever manner you see fit to Marilyn, and thank you very much in advance. Thank you so, so much, Marilyn! ** Scunnard, Hi, J. The mixtape is pretty excellent through and through, I think. Yeah, I’m not yet at least blown away by the new Crystal Castles album, but they’re playing here soonish, and I’ve never seen them, and I checked out some post-Alice live videos a la the one in the post, and the ‘new’ live show seems way good enough for me. I saw Alexis Arquette around over the years, but I didn’t know her/him. A close friend of mine was involved in an early, aborted attempt to launch his reality show series, so I heard a lot about him. And, again, when she was still a he, he played a role in that kind of terrible ‘Frisk’ movie, and his performance was one of the handful of good things about it. Those are my only connections. Fine Tuesday around and in you. ** H, Hi. Oh, I see. Very interesting. That sounds pretty terrific, context-wise. I got excited and felt a nice combo of free/structured just reading about it. Thank you! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. I didn’t know that about Levi. Is it for the Jackie O biopic that just premiered at the Venice Film Festival? I heard solid things about it. I have the Scott Walker soundtrack, but I haven’t spun it, or, rather, triggered it since mine’s a boring file. ** Julian, Hi, Julian! I’m really glad you overcame your previous shyness because it’s really good to meet you. May the meeting evolve. I’ve heard only little pieces of the NON Worldwide stuff so far. I only discovered Elysia Crampton’s work very recently and, mostly through her, got intrigued by the label. So I’m in the early process of exploring their stuff. Can you particularly recommend anything? Yes, totally, that explosion is very, very interesting. Thanks a lot for the comment and thoughts, and I hope to have to opportunity to talk with you further. ** Steevee, Yes, it’s good about the NY Times piece. When that journalist interviewed me, I thought it might be a more hard-hitting piece than it turned out to be, but still. Her surreptitious recording of my conversations and others, and the director using them willy-nilly is really gross. I just wish something would happen that could exhaust people’s curiosity about that whole thing. It’s true, even though France is no longer the France circa the Nouvelle Vague by any means, the anti-art/serious film reverse-snobbishness is still kind of marginal, at least among critics and buffs. It’s there, but I think it’s more a problem among film producers than adventurous viewers or consumers. When Zac and I were doing our run-through for our appointment for the funding committee meeting in front of a handful of Paris-based film producers that our film’s producer gathered to test us, two of them were very hostile to our film project’s ambitions. One of those producers kept referring dismissively to Gus van Sant and Larry Clark as points of reference incessantly, I guess just because I’m an American and because the film’s characters are young (in their 20s), and when I pointed out that our models weren’t their work at all, but rather French directors like Bresson, Rohmer, Dumont, Marker, etc, she said, ‘Bresson!’ incredulously, and then she and the other hostile producer rolled their eyes and groaned loudly. Weird. I have both of those records you bought back in LA. I was def. into them at the time. I can’t seem to draw up much interest in the new Nick Cave. I haven’t really been excited by his stuff for years. I am looking forward to the new De La Soul though. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi. I would be lying if I said I know what Caen looks like too, ha ha. I’ve never been there. I don’t think I’ve even looked at photos of it (yet). We’re just hoping that because it’s the biggest city in that region, it’ll have an area that’ll work for us. Oh, it’s the house you grew up in! That’s heavy, yes. When my mom sold the house I grew up in, it was very strange. I still drive over and look at it sometimes when I’m in LA. And it’s a very weird feeling to see how completely different it looks through the windows. Yes, but being in the big city its going to be great and really inspiring for you, that’s a guarantee. The animation film is very sensitive. And it’s totally silent, or I mean it has no dialogue. Very odd, very obsessive, very calm but trippy. Ugh, the administrative part. The ‘pencil pushers’, as administrators are sometimes called in the States. My day was okay, lots of getting ready stuff. Saw pals for dinner. Emails, some blog stuff. I don’t think there was anything interesting enough to spend a sentence describing, but it was fine. And Tuesday? Yours? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, D. Sadly, I fear that the con’s end is not nigh now that Harper Collins has bought her forthcoming memoir to publish. I would really like to meet Todd, for sure. I’m surprised we haven’t met so far. The only exchange I’ve ever had with him was years ago when Spin Magazine asked me to interview him upon the release of ‘Safe’. I went to a screening, and then I foolishly told someone who I didn’t know was a friend of Todd’s that I thought the first two-thirds of ‘Safe’ were great but that I thought the ending was problematic. Todd heard that and then told Spin he wouldn’t let me interview him. I called him and left a long voicemail saying that I had no intention at all to say anything critical about the film or him in print — which was totally true because I definitely wasn’t going to interfere with what, at that time, was a big opportunity to expose his work to the public — but that didn’t change his mind. ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T. I’m glad you liked the Katie Dey track. It’s a very good album. As is her first album on Orchid Tapes. Yay, I love Queen Mobs Teahouse! Everyone, the awesome author and fellow Thomas ‘Moronic’ Moore has a new piece up on the wonderful lit. site Queen Mobs Teahouse, and you are very highly encouraged to read it post-haste. Right here. ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff. Cool, glad the gig bore fruit in you. Thanks, man, about the film funding! We’re still floating about that. I can’t say much about the music video mostly because we’re still sorting it, and I think there’s going to be a lot spontaneous stuff about it that we will decide once we get to the location and explore the possibilities. Ugh, about your being swamped. I saw your props for Battle Trance on FB, and I have an inked note to investigate their stuff right away. I know of Robert Lopez but little of his actual work. Something I’ve intended to rectify for a while. I’ll move doing that up the queue. I hope you feel de-maxed asap. ** Misanthrope, Man, I have to get a better anti-spam Widget. They’re starting to colonize. I bet you’d feel differently if you wanted to fuck Britney. I don’t want to, obviously, let me add. I guess I’m just not interested in that idea of ‘authenticity’ when it comes to froth pop or something. ** MANCY, Hi, man! How’s it? What’s what? I’m glad the gig arrived at a good time. ** Slatted Light, Oh, man, I’m not even going to try to counter Coop-de-Loop. That’s a humbling marvel right there. Ha. No, no exasperation, no. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the new doc is superior filmmaking. It plays very conventionally trendy doc rules with next to zero investigative-ness or originality. His previous Daniel Johnston doc is pretty good. I got Shelley Duvall’s autograph once at an art opening. She was sublimely wonderful even in that context. Zac said, ‘None’. I kind of figured. Mm, interesting … I don’t think I would want to adapt any of my novels to film. Especially now that I’m writing for film and theater and have gotten a pretty good idea of how that works. In ‘LCTG’, there are bits of it that use slight revisions of some texts from my written fiction, and I think they work well, but those texts come from pieces that aren’t heavily structured and based in the premise of how written fiction works. I think my novels are entirely about the experience of reading, so I don’t think a transference world make much sense. I think I will just want to write new texts for film. Wow, I especially think ‘The Marbled Swarm’ is impossibly grounded in its book. Not to say I wouldn’t be fascinated if some director whose work I’m interested in wanted to try to do something cinematic with it. I can’t think of who though. I mean, if Lynch wanted to try, I wouldn’t say no. Weird choice but, based on ‘Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control’, I’d be curious what Errol Morris would do if he wanted to maybe. Yeah, I can’t think of current directors whom I think could twist that novel into something visual. You have any ideas on that? Of all my novels, I think that one is the very, very least adaptable. Sorry I’m not giving you more exciting answers. But I’m trying. Love, me. ** Kiersten, Speaking of. I need a spam filter. Gotta sort that out. ** Now, please, as I entreated above, spend time and brain cells, etc with Marilyn Roxie’s awesome guest-post. I will see you one more time pre-blog vacation tomorrow.


  1. Slatted Light

    Coop Dogg! No, man, I meant the Sturm looks like superior filmmaking, not the new thing — sorry if that wasn’t clear. Just that it appears like the Sturm also takes a “literary scandal” approach (but one which is negative toward Albert) whereas if up to me, I’d be looking at the whole thing through a totally different lens altogether. But I need to watch the Sturm (and miss the new one), and will to both.

    Btw, sorry to cut in on your reply to David E, but holy shit — I didn’t realise though that she’s managed to get HP to publish her memoir, super gross. Hope it comes out to a mostly resounding indifference, but yeah, ugh, chances are its lifespan as a live point of referral isn’t over yet, blah.

    It’s sort of interesting — I think you used to have more interest in the idea of adaptations to film of your books, right, even though they are very much designed specifically for their medium, and, yeah, don’t really lend themselves to adaptation, in their own way (especially ‘TMS’) than, I don’t know, ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ would. Would you say that getting into the making of films has changed your sense of the possibilities for adaptation of very written-word-oriented works overall or is this more just a thing about your stuff?

    It is especially tricky to think of one for ‘TMS’ which is why I picked it out. (God Jr., conversely, seems like the easiest one, I suppose because it’s so especially multi-medial in how much its already grounded in the video game — though, as a sidenote, it retrospectively seems to me like the most pronounced sort of forerunner to your recent GIF work too, actually, it and Period).

    I guess if there was going to be an adaptation of ‘TMS’, and it was either up to me to pick someone or they’d just get M. Night Shyamalan to direct, I guess some interesting options for me would be, like, Alexander Kluge, or Claire Denis, or Bela Tarr, or, perhaps oddly, Takashi Miike. If Chantal Akerman were still alive, she’d be another contender. Not that I necessarily see the sensibility of any one of them being a hand-in-glove fit for the book at all, but there would be hooks for all of them relating to their own fascinations and artistic trajectories in that book, and all of them would take it and really try and confront the challenge it mounted cinematically, even if their efforts didn’t pan out in a successful experiment.

    Ok, off to look more closely at Marilyn Roxie’s clutch video art curation, going to enjoy this. Love back at you, big D.

  2. Dóra Grőber


    Well, then… let’s just hope it does have an area that fits your plans! Tell me about it when you go there and see it for the first time!
    It’s nice that you wrote that, I mean that you still drive over to your old house sometimes when you’re nearby because my first thought when we decided to move was that I’ll definitely come back sometimes, just to look at it. I imagine it must really be so strange to see someone else’s… marks on an important place like this. It’s weird that someone else will call it his.
    But yes. The advantages of the capital city are there. Most of my friends live there, too.
    Ah, now I want to see it even more!
    ‘Pencil pushers’ – that’s very accurate. I really hate this part.
    I kinda like those days when nothing particularly interesting happens and they’re just… fine and calm. Today is something like that on my end. I finished a bigger part of my thesis which I’m very happy with but that’s about it.
    What’s happening with you? How’s everything going with the music video plans?

  3. David Ehrenstein

    Yes it looks like Laura “Here come those tired old tits again” Albert is still at it. I sincerely hope she won’t find a “millennial” cadre of suckers.

    Sorry about your contretemps with Todd. I do hope that can be rectified in future.

    We’re all reeling from Alexis Arquette’s passing — from AIDS!

    Hans Richter and Mary Ellen Bute were big faves in the avant-garde film scene of the immediate postwar era.

  4. Ferdinand

    Lovely photo: Thomas ‘Moronic’

  5. Ferdinand

    I’m enjoying a new wave set by musician Carla Dal Forno for Berlin Community Radio:

    • Ferdinand

      I guess its more “cold wave” music from 80’s and more recent stuff.

  6. Sean

    Maybe what you need is a video artist to adapt your fiction. More abstract & less like a bad experimental indie film. Kenneth Anger, Derek Jarman style and etc. Speaking of which thanks for this post today. The work of Gary Hill, John Whitney, Stan Brakhage are worth deeper dives to anyone who finds this work difficult to sit through but whose interest is piqued nonetheless.

  7. Sypha

    Dennis, I’ve been absent on here for a few days now because at the end of last week/over the weekend I was battling a pretty noxious stomach bug. I’m feeling a tad better now, though. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m glad to hear the good news about your and Zac’s next film.

    Funny that Nick Cave’s name came up today as recently I’ve been listening to him again. For the last few years now the only album of his that I’ve listened to on a regular basis is his “Murder Ballads” CD (which I’ve long been a fan of), but recently I found some of his earlier 80’s albums (that I purchased many years ago, in college, no doubt during my Goth period), some of which I had never even listened to. His discography does seem pretty erratic in terms of quality though…

    70 pages into Alan Moore’s “Jerusalem.” Hey, only 1,192 pages to go!

    • Misanthrope

      That Moore novel got a great write-up in The Washington Post today.

  8. steevee

    Here’s a review of the new Walter Hill film, which GLAAD slammed before it had even been shot. This critic argues that it really is that badly made and offensive.

    Yes, Nick Cave is uneven, but his new album finds him in a subdued, Leonard Cohen-ish mood that really appeals to me. Grinderman got all the rock out of his system.

    At Sundance, Laura Albert was talking speculatively about publishing a memoir. I’m disappointed she found a publisher. Who’s the audience?

  9. Tosh Berman

    Thanks Marilyn for the mini-film festival above. It’s a nice way for me to obtain the rest of the morning – and hopefully go for a walk, and then writing/researching for the rest of the day. I heard the new Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds album through streaming services. For me, Cave is such a ‘skilled’ performer /writer, that he can’t really make a bad BAD record. He is sort of in the ‘classic’ category, which, for him, I think he needs to push the envelope a tad more. The music on the new album is very minimal, and it reminds me at times of Radiohead – another band I don’t hate, but I don’t love either Both make tasteful and intelligent music – but for me, it’s not a ‘wow’ The last Bowie album “Blackstar” was like ‘oh my god’ series of moments – and that happens rarely these days – for me. On the other hand, I have been listening to a lot of French musique concrete music. Pierre Henry and so forth. That’s my wow music listening at the moment.

  10. Troglofil

    Dennis, you mentioned somewhere in your old blog a most likely Swedish author I try to find. I recall that he was compared to L. F. Céline, and his novel has a boy-narrator who is being tortured by his sadistic, misogynous Nazi uncle. Also this uncle fantasises about some ancient homosexual viking realm in Norrland which was eventually ruined by the Christians.

  11. MANCY

    Excellent post today.
    To jump in on the NON worldwide convo, I would highly recommend checking out the associated label Príncipe, and especially the work of DJ Nigga Fox (who also has released music on NON).

  12. Ferdinand

    I’m also divided about Todd Haynes, although I really liked Poison and Carol, Safe was disappointing. I don’t think the film aged well, sure it was a set piece (duh it always is) and the quality of my streaming copy wasn’t great, it still is far from well made. I came across a 1992 film called Swoon which looks promising. Congrats on the funding!

  13. h

    Fascinating presentation here today. I’ve been trying to explore the relation of analog film and music, so it’s wonderful. Such a gift. Thank you, Marilyn Roxie.

    Dennis- the school is fine. Honestly I like particular professors, a few peers, and archives. And of course, what I do. Um, ideological emphasis in their curriculum is rather uninspiring to me. I think vocalizing of ideological perspectives is easy compared to learning and manuavering cinema’s own language for something rather incommunicative. I don’t think it will limit what I want to learn there, but it’s just curious… to sit in the middle of that sort of discussion.

    Good luck with your video shooting. Hope all goes smoothly!

  14. Misanthrope

    Marilyn, I love this survey. I wonder if the older works could be considered “better” because they had less to work with?

    Dennis, But I do want to fuck Britney. Okay, I don’t. Nah, I’m a picky traditionalist. I go to see live music -of any kind- I want live music. But I don’t dislike Brit Brit. I actually like her. I find her funny and wild. I like that she keeps putting herself out there, though her work lately hasn’t been that great. But that happens sometimes.

    You know what? Next time you do a reading, you should record it first and then lip-synch it. That would be ace. Especially if at one point you just held your mouth open or shut while the words kept coming.

  15. Marilyn Roxie

    Thanks for sharing a post from me again, Dennis; it was fun to put together. I’m cooking up a future idea already – a series of images of unreachable areas in video games, what do you think? Thanks for checking it out, too, everyone.

  16. Ferdinand

    The new Nick Cave album released not long after the death of his young son. Alot of musician’s are raving about the accompanying film. Certainly worth a listen.

  17. Bill

    Lovely collection of classics today, Marilyn. “Phosphenes” is nicely done, wonder what the process is?

    Dennis, I’m so envious you saw Kneel Through the Dark projected. Magical, I’m sure?

    Busy week already, sigh. Did get out to the SF Electronic Music Festival over the weekend, for a very nice set by my pal Thea Farhadian, then a fun set by Arcane Device. Good to see he’s still cranking away after all these decades…


  18. Thomas Moronic

    Marilyn – this post is great. A lot of the art here is new to me and I’ve enjoyed going through it. Even more exciting is the prospect of the work that you’ll end up making as a result of getting further into this stuff. I was excited by your collage pieces that you posted on your Instagram also. Really cool to be able to have a sneak peak into your research today so thanks a ton for sharing and putting this together.

    Dennis – exciting about your trip and the video you’ll be working on. Can’t wait to see the final thing that comes from it!

    The first review of my new novel went up online today at Cultured Vultures – it’s a really positive start:

  19. Thomas Moronic

    And thanks about the photo, Ferdinand!

  20. Thomas Moronic

    Marilyn – the unreachable video game levels concept just made me zap with more excitement.

  21. alan

    Hi Dennis

    Out of curiosity, what don’t you like about the ending of “Safe”?

  22. Cleo

    This is probably why there is no single Garcinia Cambogia
    research authorized or confirmed supplier.

  23. http://www./

    Tette rør!En støvsuger er virkelig noe jeg trenger ettersom det er tette rør til vår sentralstøvsuger. Så her er det bare å krysse fingerne.

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