SOURCE Music of the Avant Garde, Issue Number EIGHT vol 4 no 2 july 1970 437w

Larry Austin


A Video/Audio Composition for Television Broadcast

On June 12,1969, at station KQED in San Francisco, the color video tape of Transmission One was completed. The opportunity to produce the work was made possible by the Institute for Creative Arts of the University of California and by the generous cooperation of the production and engineering staff of station KQED-TV. The premiere broadcast of the work took place on October 6, 1969, on the same station, in conjunction with a performance at Mills College, utilizing several television receivers and two 16mm films.

In Transmission One you see/hear a video/audio composition for television broadcast. The work lasts twenty-five minutes and utilizes no television cameras. You see no images you might expect to find on a television viewing screen. Instead, various geometric forms appear in kinetic sequence. You hear none of the usual sounds of television. Instead, you hear electronically-produced sounds in kinetic sequence. The video and audio signals interact in an electronic syndrome.

Have you ever listened to your television set? Not the programmed sound of voices and music and war, but the pleasant, barely audible, low-cycle hum. This sound can be heard best when the sound control is at its lowest setting.

This hum is, in a sense, the sound of video. When you look closely at a video picture you can see the thousands of small colored elements on the screen. This is, in a sense, the visual presence of video. A definition of television: the extension of the sense of sight beyond the limited local field of vision. A definition of video: visible tracings of electronic beams on the face of a cathode-ray tube.

Television is a broadcasting procedure with applications for exploitation in communication; video is an electronic invention which has been utilized for itself only rarely.

In Transmission One the audible "video-hum" is picked up by a special microphone (or AM detector), amplified, and used as a basic carrier wave for a ring modulator. This signal, combined with other synthesized signals, becomes the modulator of an RF signal being transmitted to the television receiver. The video picture that results affects the nature of the video-hum, creating what I refer to as a "video/audio syndrome," i.e., electronic concurrence between sound and sight.

All sorts of electronic by-products result and are used further to alter the picture and the sound. The resulting relationship between sound and sight is complex and interesting, and controlling such a syndrome is fascinating as material for art.