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Animation and music: an eternal alliance

Animation and music have always enjoyed a close relationship. The reason Mickey Mouse became the star he is today is because Walt Disney was the first to understand and exploit the potential of the film soundtrack in animated films. The first experiments in “Visual Music” actually predate the development of the soundtrack; these were attempts to recreate on the big screen and by means of images alone, the same temporal organization based on rhythm and melody, which is an intrinsic characteristic of musical discourse. The most extreme results in this area never fail to evoke, among other sensations, perplexity. Music and images are two very different languages, they function in very different ways: a series of mute images will never have the capacity music has to structure the spectators subjective perception of time, this is why a film completely void of sound runs the risk of being alienating and repelling. Although both sound and images flow in time, sounds have the capacity to “compliment” one another, that is to say to blend in a harmonious way, while the images of a film are constricted by a rigidly sequential form. Unless of course, one can imagine a “new cinema” based on radically different principles. These differences between the two languages are the foundation for their complimentary relationship. In the best examples, music and images blend and flow together in such a way that neither one overpowers the other. Abstract musical films, in which the sounds correspond to images lacking any descriptive intention, therefore constitute a category apart, almost an independent art form. In these Abstract films, music and images merge perfectly, each playing a separate and distinct role: the music keeps time and imposes the rhythm while the images are the visual embodiment of this rhythm, as in the case of choreography. Just as with dance or musical theater, the images are not to be seen as a mere visual accompaniment but rather as an inseparable element of the musical composition, a true audiovisual symphony. This selection of musical films purposely avoids the most obvious examples, concentrating on possible variations of the relationship between sound and image, ranging from one extreme in which the music is seen as supporting the images in a narrative role, the other in which the images are at the service of the music, as is the case in the modern production of animated videoclips.