Violin Power

Violin Power (1970-1978) by Steina Vasulka
© Steina Vasulka

Violin Power is a presentation of various video processes in which the violinist Steina Vasulka demonstrates live how she plays video with the violin. The violin becomes an instrument for the simultaneous generation of image and sound, as the sound of the violin playing, which was recorded using a microphone, is connected to video devices, scan processors, and multikeyers and in real time processes the visual manifestation of the artist’s performance, which was recorded simultaneously with two video cameras. In this study of the interrelation between electronic sound and image, the pitch of the violin is first lowered with the frequency shifter (so that it sounds like a cello) in order to achieve particularly expressive effects by means of the alignment of sound and image frequency.

In two sequences in Violin Power, the sound of the violin is transferred to the keyer, which controls the priority of the two camera images and generates flicker-like effects. In the subsequent sequences, the Rutt/Etra Scan Processor produces image forms in which the violin’s bow seems to fuse with the raised scan lines of the bowed image of this performance. The movements of the bow on the violin’s strings in these video/violin performances generate immediate deviations on the image position of this movement. Thus, Vasulka plays violin and video at the same time.

In these performances with an acoustic violin, sound is conveyed by means of a microphone. In 1991, Vasulka began playing a MIDI violin, whose strings control the speed and direction of the video images by means of a MIDI output. This performance setting was initially realized with a laser disc player, and since the late 1990s has been carried out using a laptop and the open source software Image/ine.