Audiovisual Software Art

Audiovisual software art relies on computer software as its medium, and is primarily concerned with (or is articulated through) relationships between sound and image. Such works are produced for diverse social contexts and can serve a variety of objectives. In the field at large, and in the examples discussed in this article, software artworks serve some of the same aims as do cinema, performances, installations, interior design, games, toys, instruments, screensavers, diagnostic tools, research demonstrations, and even aids for psychedelic hallucination—though many projects blur these boundaries to such an extent that categorization may not be very productive. Likewise, audiovisual software artworks continue to emerge from plural and only occasionally intersecting communities of research scientists, new media artists, software developers, musicians, and isolated individuals working outside the institutions of the laboratory, school, museum, or corporation.

Owing to this diversity of origins and intents, the formal scope of what might be considered audiovisual software art is quite large as well. Some works generate images or animations from live or prerecorded sounds. Other projects generate music or sounds from static images or video signals, or use screen-based graphic interfaces to interactively control musical processes. Other artworks generate both sound and imagery from some nonaudiovisual source of external information (e.g., stock trading data, human motion capture data) or from some internal random process. And yet other systems involve no sound at all, but are concerned instead with exploring the possibilities of visual music as an analogue to music in the visual domain. Many threads of influence and inspiration in the history of audiovisual software cut across these formal and technical distinctions. For this reason, this section considers audiovisual software art according to the principles of visualization and notation, transmutability, performativity, and generativity, which frequently motivate this kind of work.