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Musical Stairs

Guy Sherwin

UK, 1977
10 minutes, B&W, Sound, 4:3
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: 16mm

One of a series of films that uses soundtracks generated directly from their own imagery. I shot the images of a staircase specifically for the range of sounds they would produce. I used a fixed lens to film from a fixed position at the bottom of the stairs. Tilting the camera up increases the number of steps that are included in the frame. The more steps that are included the higher the pitch of sound. A simple procedure gave rise to a musical scale (in eleven steps which is based on the laws of visual perspective. A range of volume is introduced by varying the exposure. The darker the image the louder the sound (it can be the other way round, but Musical Stairs uses a soundtrack made from the negative of the image.) The fact that the staircase is neither a synthetic image, nor a particularly clean one (there happened to be leaves on the stairs when I shot the film) means that the sound is not pure, but dense with strange harmonics. – G.S.