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The Multimodal Experience of Art

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Javier Ávila

on 24 November 2015

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Transcript of The Multimodal Experience of Art

The Multimodal Experience of Art
The Multimodality of Perception
If our perceptual experiences are typically multimodal, then we also need to re-evaluate some questions in aesthetics.
The Multimodality of the Experience of Artworks
Opera / Movies

Obscuring Musical Form
The clearest cases are choreographies of Trisha Brown, who very explicitly attempts to make her choreography as asynchronous with the music as possible.
The effect is some kind of dislodgement of the musical forms, including the rhythm and the metric—they become much less clearly defined as a result of the visual experience of the choreography.
Highlighting and Emphasizing the Expressive Content of Music
Ventriloquism is one of the prime examples of what is known as ‘crossmodal illusions’,

But there are more surprising examples of multimodal perception: if there is a flash in your visual scene and you hear two beeps while the flash lasts, you experience it as two flashes.
If perception in general is multimodal, then it would be surprising if the perception of artworks were not multimodal.

Most works on music.

More specifically, they demonstrate that visual stimuli play an important role in our aesthetic appreciation of the expressiveness of musical performances.
But: can you come out with an example of the other way round?
Highlighting and Emphasizing Musical Form
conductor’s hand movements that emphasize and highlight certain formal elements of music.
ballet and modern dance choreographies,
Kylian’s choreography ‘Birthday’ . Kylian’s choreography ‘Birthday’ uses the music of Mozart’s overture of Le nozze di Figaro. Everything the two dancers do in the kitchen (sneeze, cut the dough, break eggs, etc.) is synchronous with the most important musical features—this often leads to comical effects. This choreography makes the musical features that are accompanied by synchronous visual impulses much more salient.
Serving as a Counterpoint for Musical Form
The choreography of the duet ‘Forêts paisibles’ in the last act between Zima and Adario involves very pointed visual gestures against the beat, which makes our multimodal experience of this performance of the duet shift time signature.
We hear it as having the time signature of 4/4 instead of the original alla breve time signature (2/2) as prescribed in Rameau’s score. Here what we see (gestures against the beat) makes us experience the formal properties of the music differently.
Film music is a good place to start when looking for multimodal effects in our experience of art,
but the emphasis is invariably on how the addition of music changes our visual experience of what happens on the screen.. Examples??
But: crossmodal influences of the opposite direction: visual influences on our auditory experience of music.12 And, alas, this aspect of film music has largely been ignored.?

crossmodal influences of the opposite direction: visual influences on our auditory experience of music. And, alas, this aspect of film music has largely been ignored.
whether the visual experience of what is on the screen can influence the expressive content of film music (while acknowledging that the influence can be, and probably very often is, bidirectional).
A good test case for this is if we consider films that use the same music for accompanying different images. At the beginning of Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice (1986), we hear the ‘Erbarme dich’ aria from Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion while we see details of Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi.
Pasolini’s Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (


Goldberg Variations
The English Patient
Hannibal Lecter
Stardust Memories
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