London-based electronic musician Max Cooper and pianist Tom Hodge explore nothing less than the link between mind and matter in the music video for "Remnants," the latest release from their collaborative Artefact EP (FIELDS). Cooper's current touring live show Emergence throws in mathematical concepts, including hyperdimensional forms, and this video from director and animator Nick Cobby continues these musings, meditating on the phenomenology and duality of the mind.
"This video is about the self-contained nature of mind and matter," explains Cooper. "The physical processing of sounds by the brain leave remnants in its structure as it learns about the outside world. Eventually the universe and the Platonic realm of laws and structures are perceived. But while the natural laws and their resulting universe seem to create and contain the mind, the mind ultimately contains them all."
These heady ideas take on form through Cobby's geometric visuals, which use generative techniques to create colorful abstractions and topographies that flash like lightning, chiming with Cooper's cosmic sounds and Hodge's atmospheric piano-playing, creating what Cobby calls a "moving 3D painting."
"The mind has always been one of my favourite puzzles since I was a child," Cooper tells The Creators Project, "and one of my favourite reading topics since it bridges so many different fields of science, as well as philosophy and religion, with plenty of fun nonsense included."
It's certainly one of those subjects you might ponder after a night's excesses, and a fitting topic for an IDM music video. We fired off a few questions to Cobby to learn more about how he incorporated these philosophical musings into the video.
The Creators Project: How did you go about creating the visuals?
Nick Cobby: With this video, I knew I wanted to explore the idea of the mind, and how that could be created with generative processes. The colourful topographic environments that span the middle part of the video are generated using 2D animations created in After Effects, which were then incorporated as image sequences into Cinema 4D. A ‘hair’ vertex was then generated for every pixel of colour within that animation. The length of each hair was dependant on the brightness of the colour, and so by controlling the brightness, we generate a set of height values that change over time, basically like a moving 3D painting.
As the visuals are so abstract, how do they relate to the concepts of mind and matter?
The video deals with the idea of the mental, physical, and mathematical worlds, and how they are linked by the idea that the mind ultimately contains everything we have developed to know as a human race. It's a pretty complex subject to explore, and having never seen it animated I was trying to imagine how I saw this theory in my own head.
I wanted to show the mind as an environment that grew and reacted to contain remnants of memory and experience from the physical world. The deconstruction of that environment is representative of the mathematical (Platonic) world that we have developed over hundreds of thousands of years of brain evolution. This is what we use to understand the universe around us, but ultimately, it's all a creation of the mind and therefore we end up back where we started at the end. It’s a never-ending loop.
GIF by the author
What interests you about exploring these metaphysical concepts in an audiovisual format?
For me, the visual result is a marriage between Max’s music as well as the narrative idea. I’m always looking to create ‘reactive’ visuals, so that the music drives what is going on, while still conveying a feeling and a message. My research into this project involved a lot of looking at diagrams, reading texts and discussing ideas with Max, and although the theories are awe-inspiring, they are dense texts to explore. I was relishing the chance to try and show the basic premise in a more engaging way with powerful music to drive the intensity of the idea. Color also played an important role in the video, as it's so evocative, and so seemed like a natural ingredient when trying to describe the mind, the universe, and human perception as a whole.
And what benefits do you feel this medium has for these kind of explorations?
It’s a colossal idea to digest, but hopefully the video will engage and perhaps people will read about some of the theories that inspired it. Overall I want it to be an enjoyable watch. I didn’t want to make the video too heavy-going, and I’m happy to leave a few people going “Huh?, what did I just watch?” as, again, it might get people digging a bit deeper into an interesting scientific theory.
Is the video intended for a live audience or online of both?
The plan is to integrate the visuals into Max’s live show Emergence, which is currently touring. The show is about how “everything comes from (almost) nothing” and so this idea definitely fits within that story.
All images/GIF taken from video
Artefact Remix EP is now live as a pre-order on iTunes.