The brothers John & James Whitney

Posted by Fabio 26 March 2012

The brothers John & James Whitney created their remarkable series of Film Exercises between 1943 and 1944. These films are visually based on modernist composition theory, the carefully varied permutations of form are manipulated with cut-out masks so that the image photographed is pure direct light shaped, rather than the light reflected from drawings as in traditional animation. The eerie, sensuous neon glow of these forms is paralleled by pioneer electronic music sound scores composed by the brothers using a pendulum device to write sounds directly on the film’s soundtrack area, with precisely controlled calibrations. At that time, before the perfection of recording tape, these sounds – with exotic “pure” tone qualities, mathematically even chromatic glissandos and reverberating pulsations – were truly revolutionary and shocking. The brothers won a Grand Prize at the 1949 Brussels Experimental Film Competition for the Film Exercises.