Norman McLaren's astounding animated films for the National Film Board of Canada were undeniably influential in the world of cinema, both in Canada and internationally, but they were just as inspiring to artists in other media, most notably music.
Absolutely Free were acutely influenced by the "transcendental, experimental" filmmaker. Last year was the centenary of McLaren, and so this past September the Toronto International Film Festival commissioned a special multimedia live film/music event called Re-sounding The Films of Norman McLaren. The Toronto psychedelic three-piece composed original soundtracks to seven of the Scottish/Canadian artist's films, including 1971's intensely geometric, visually musical Synchromy, and played them live on King Street against projections of the original films.
We were there with cameras in hand to record the performance, which combines McLaren's original graphical sound score (intensely synchronized by moving the piano rhythms of the soundtrack, in multicolour, onto the picture area of the screen), with Absolutely Free's propulsive "Vision's." Synchromy's colourful, rectangular imagery overlays and interacts with the band's performance, dancing alongside the rhythms of the instrumentals, mirroring McLaren's own mesmerizing synesthesic technique (the transposing of one sensory experience into another).
"McLaren was so good at marrying sight and sound. Some of his work is as close as you can get to experiencing synesthesia," says Absolutely Free's Moshe Rozenberg. "His use of graphical sound techniques means you literally hear the shapes scratched into the edge of the film reel. This ability to bemuse the sensory system should make him just as much a touchstone for performance, culinary artists, etc."
Watch the hypnotizing performance above.