baker Blinker's Weblog

First and Second Life at least.

Mike Casey Interview, 3 of 4 January 30, 2011

baker b.: We now shift to what is the third section of our discussions with Dr. Mike Casey. Again, this the first of perhaps several interviews celebrating the opening of the Pietmond Art Crawl galleries virtually located within the online game called Second Life. Mike’s exhibit is found in SoSo West, probably the largest gallery in this crawl currently and holding 26 representations of pieces from his SITO Artkive.

So Mike, we’ve finally arrived at the subject of what has most generally been called audiovisual synchronicity down through the years now, although other names for the creative field have and still are being suggested. Works created through audiovisual synchronicity techniques are themselves referred to as audiovisual synchronicities or synchronicities or just synchs or syncs, with the best known example still being “Dark Side of the Rainbow”, also one of the earliest if not *the* earliest. The wikipedia article on Dark Side of the Rainbow is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Side_of_the_Rainbow. In contrast, “audiovisual synchronicity” doesn’t have a specific wikipedia article written about it yet.

Mike, you’re a long time member of the “synching” community, as am I. What drew you to this small band of intrepid explorers?

Mike C.: Around 1997, my girlfriend read about Dark Side of the Rainbow somewhere and said that she wanted to check it out. As a scientist trained in a philosophical eliminative reductionist tradition, I was skeptical, but we watched it. Afterwards I wasn’t impressed enough with the amount of matching to feel like there was anything too special to explain, but I thought it was neat and enjoyed it as poetry. Mostly I enjoyed the way the song lyrics took on unexpected meanings when coinciding with the video. On additional viewings of DSotR, I came to appreciate it as a special creation and as a unique work of art.

Then in November of 1998 I started to experience intense synchronicity in the world without knowing what it was called or that anyone else might have those same types of perceptions. I was deeply confused about how my thoughts and meaningful impressions could seem to be recycled in my future experiences, but I was awestruck by the depth of intelligence that it would take to create a reality like that for me to experience. After a couple of days of these strange events, I decided to watch DSotR to see if there was anything different about it. About half way through the viewing, I felt inspired to change the music and I was amazed when they worked together.

Without having a word for the process, I continued to watch random video while listening to random music to watch for connections. A friend of mine called them “mind melds” and when I set up my VCR to be able to record what I was watching and started to make tapes, I called them “Melds.” I eventually stumbled on the term synchronicity and stopped calling them “melds”, but I continued to make tape after tape while creating and watching them for hours every day. I tried to get friends and my family interested in them, but met with limited success. So I checked the web to see what I could find. After mostly reading articles about DSotR for a while, I eventually found the syncboard and a community of fellow explorers with this strange hobby. The details are a little fuzzy, but you seemed to be doing a good job of directing the discussions and there were several other people around with interesting perspectives on synching and a lot of cool syncs to watch.

baker b.: You’re talking about The Film/Album Synchronicity Board, then, which existed for a couple of years back in the early 2000s. This is probably as good a time as any to provide the URL for the new Interviews page I’ve concocted, attached once more to the Baker Blinker Blog: https://bakerblinker.wordpress.com/interviews/. Included on this page will be links to the four parts of this interview, plus some older interviews conducted primarily by Mike Johnston, former owner of what is presently the deactivated Synchronicity Arkive, always the mothership for synchronicity discussion except for those couple of years when the collective attention shifted more to my board. These older interviews, all from 2007, deal more exclusively with the subject of audiovisual synching.

I remember you had a site called “Yes, I’m Cake” during the time of my TF/ASB, and also devised your own synchronicity board and some other a/v synch related pages. Can you tell us about those, then, and how they helped establish your unique voice in the community?

Mike C.: Yes, the Film/Album Synchronicity Board was great. Nice, fast paced discussions with a lot of thoughtful contributors. As a mathematician, I’ve always hoped that there was a good way to abstractly quantify the amount of matching in a sync to be able to get a handle on the probability or improbability of events coinciding. The spin off synchronicity board that I created was aimed at this purpose. Rather than occasionally turning TF/ASB into a mathematical discussion, I created a board to focus on probabilistic calculations of real world events to try to answer skeptical responses to claims of synchronicity like Littlewood’s Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Littlewood’s_law that states that “miracles” should happen at the rate of about once per month without any need for special explanation. But it was difficult to find real life situations that could be precisely analyzed and after a few discussion threads, that board fell inactive.

“Yes, I’m Cake” is an anagram of Mike Casey, and was the name of my website that mostly focused on film/album synchronicity, but also had some digital art. Apart from listing a number of films with album start points (sync recipes), it also included about a dozen digital sync clips and a couple of efforts to provide a kind of “Definitive List” of matches for syncs that I had listed, similar to Stegokitty’s DSotR Definitive List, but including screen grabs for added clarity. I still believe that digitized clips are the best way to share syncs, since there is a nontrivial problem with recreating a sync from a cue or multiple cues, and having a clip to watch that has been approved by the original discoverer can guarantee that you are at least watching the same sync they watched. The hope for my “definitive lists” was that a person would be able to decide from that description whether or not it was something that they wanted to watch, as long as they didn’t mind “spoilers”. Or, even if they didn’t watch it, they could get an idea of the rate and types of matches. Or at the very least, they would help keep me honest about how strong a sync is. If I only had a vague match once every few minutes, then it probably wasn’t going to be entertaining for anyone else to watch, even if I had fun with it.

baker b.: Thanks for that answer; more great stuff. Mike, a couple of months ago I finally managed to sort through about 6 years worth of backlogged emails in my home inbox, and was amazed at the positive response from old syncher friends and acquaintances as I sent out messages basically checking to see whether this or that email address was still active. Yes, I could tell these people had been truly impacted by discussions from the Syncboard and Film/Album board, and felt the void left by the Synchronicity Arkive going offline about a year and a half ago. There was even some progress by myself and another syncher who I didn’t really know that well toward the creation of a new discussion board, but in the end it seems I had to settle on the idea of a golden age of synching, centered by the now almost decade old work called “Shared Fantasia.” One impediment for future growth, always the elephant in the room when discussing the ability to fix synchronicities in a digital medium for dissemination to others, is the copyright problem. Simply put, the great majority of popular movie and music selections cannot be reused in commercial or even most non-commercial ways according to present, legal limitations.

I’ll just lump all these topics together, Mike, and let you pick and choose what you wish to talk about: Shared Fantasia; perceived “golden age” of synching; copyright issues.

Mike C.: I’ll start with copyright issues since I don’t have too much to say about them, and many other synchers have more detailed and informed opinions. Generally, I don’t think it’s right to make money from syncs. Ideally the artists are the most entitled to be compensated for their effort (to encourage them to make more when they are good at it), then you could make an argument that the film and music industry people deserve a cut. It’s possible that a sync could create something that’s so much greater than the parts that the syncher should be monetarily encouraged (if that would motivate them to make similar efforts). But to take a great film and a great album and stick them together and it creates something that’s somewhat enjoyable doesn’t seem to justify the right to resell the copyrighted originals. But I also think that rendered syncs shouldn’t be treated as a form of piracy as long as there is some merit to the pairing. I don’t know what the history of copyright protection is, but it seems like it is rare that someone is prosecuted for giving away copies of copyrighted material. So I think the best course would be to try to stay in this grey area and keep distribution limited and hope that the copyright owners either don’t take much notice, view it as a form of advertising or accept it as existing for educational purposes. I recently looked for Rich Aucoin’s intentional sync with “The Grinch That Stole Christmas,” but wasn’t able to find a rendered copy. I think that’s unfortunate.

The “golden age” of synching is another topic that I think others have spoken about more eloquently than I could, but I am happy to give my perspective. For me, the “golden age” started with DSotR and ended sometime around the rise of the mash-up. On the positive side, I think this was a time where there was a group of people with good intentions that created some very cool works of sync art. A sync from this period that I enjoyed enough to make into a DVD was “Alice in the Wall.” As far as I know, Andrew Wendland discovered it, and I wouldn’t try to take that credit, but I like to show it to people that are skeptical about syncs because I think it has some really great and relatively long sequences with a high rate of matches in addition to having some startling and poignant single event matches. A few scenes that stand out in my mind are Alice falling down the rabbit hole, the caterpillar transformation scene and the mad hatter’s tea party. There are prerendered versions of this sync that can be found on the web right now, but the few I’ve checked are different from the version I have. This points out on of the negatives I see with the golden age of synching – the difficultly in recreating syncs. The often vague “sync recipes” do little to ensure that someone who is watching a sync is seeing the same thing that was originally discovered. This problem first showed up with DSotR. After watching it many times using a VHS tape and the CD, I tried to watch it using the DVD version. But as you pointed out for me, Baker, the DVD is slightly different from the pre-89 Wizard of Oz movie, which led to an unsatisfying match while watching the DVD based version of DSotR. This problem with recreating syncs became even more apparent when I tried to render sync entries for the Stairway to Oz contest, where the idea was to find the best sync between “Stairway to Heaven” and “The Wizard of Oz.” There were four entries, and I think they all ended up using different versions of “Stairway to Heaven.” After the Stairway to Oz contest, I accepted the challenge of rendering “Shared Fantasia” and avoided some of this problem by having each person submit the mp3s of the songs they used in their segment, but even with that being done, there were problems. The most obvious being that sometimes the precise alignment couldn’t be determined from cue points that were too vague, but this was usually solved with a couple of iterations of sending a rendered segment to the author for approval or further refinement. But there was a less obvious problem with one segment: TL’s sync for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The problem there turned out to be that his CD player was playing the music at about 103% of the normal speed. Fortunately, I was able to recreate the faster song speed in the software and the excellent sync for that segment was saved, but TL was upset to find that all of the syncs that he had tried to recreate while using that CD player were flawed. Since then, I have been less of a fan of “sync recipes” and have greatly preferred prerendered syncs.

But returning to the “golden age” of synching, I hope that we can find several other syncs from this period that gain consensus as highly entertaining specifically as potential examples of Jungian synchronicity. As you know, Baker, you and I have talked at length about Jung and synchronicity, but for reference it is roughly defined as the coming together of the inner states of an observer and meaningful outer states of the world in a way that is not accounted for by normal considerations of cause an effect. So events that simply coincide do not qualify as synchronicity, there must be a deeper connection. For example, if you are reading a credit card bill that you received in the mail and turn on the television to find a news report about a plane crash, there is no obvious connection and no synchronicity. If, however, you received a model airplane in the mail that was mysteriously broken during transit and then turn on the television to find a news report about a plane crash, then this is a better candidate for synchronicity. With audio/video pairings, there is a two-way interplay between the meaning of the song and the meaning of the video that allows for these causally unrelated streams of information to create coincidences that seem like synchronicity when they are put together. For me, one of the most interesting aspects of syncs is finding a way to separate entertaining pairings from examples of Jungian synchronicity. Intuitively, it seems that a sustained and high rate of matches where intentional synchronization between the two sources has been ruled out would be the thing to look for to locate Jungian synchronicity, but there are many subtle issues involved in calculating the probabilities. And even if the probabilities could be exactly calculated or accurately approximated, there is another philosophical question of how unlikely an event would have to be in a world of pure cause an effect before a synchronicity type theory would be a better explanation of why it happened. With that being said, I prefer single cue point film/album syncs, with the hope of finding one or more that are so consistent and powerful that it is relatively easy to show that the level of coincidence is something that would be astronomically unlikely to happen. On the other end of the audio/video pairing synchronicity spectrum are the “music videos” that people have created by taking a song and then splicing together bits of video (generally from a single source) that attempt to display or visually interpret each lyric as it happens. In the middle are what have been called tilings, where multiple songs are used to cover a single unedited video source, with the order of the songs are chosen to maximize the entertainment value of the sync. So with this definition, Shared Fantasia is an example of a tiling.

baker b.: Great lead-in once more, Mike! 🙂 I agree with the great bulk of what you just said. Concerning tiling, I would add that a “tile”, as I define it, is the same as a cued region fixed by a single cue, usually involving the synchronization of one audio and one video source. I personally see this as the atom of audiovisual synching, containing the prerequisite, single degree of manipulation needed to create a synch or start a synch process in the first place. Probably the best known example of such a cue is from Dark Side of the Rainbow once more, where you traditionally play Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” starting at or very near the 3rd and last roar of MGM mascot Leo the Lion introducing the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” movie. For Shared Fantasia, we have many such cued regions, each artistically trimmed to fit a larger whole on the audio side. I thought you did a top notch job in setting up the digital rendering; I’m not sure about the others, but my own cues therein were hit perfectly! I was very impressed.

Can you tell us a little more about your direct involvement with Shared Fantasia and your particular section? I really dug it, among other reasons, because it represents a sort of complex, miniature tiling nested within the overall, larger one, kind of like a microcosm of the whole almost. I’ll start by saying you, Dave Bytor and I were the three primary shapers of the overall project, and also were three of the seven direct contributors that also included TL (as you mentioned), Michael Allen, Rachael, and 2% David. I was responsible for setting up the attached web site, which can still be found here: http://www.appstate.edu/~brittanma/oldersites/sharedfantasia00.htm

Mike C.: Shared Fantasia turned out better than I first could have imagined, with each of the participants bringing a unique perspective and a worthy contribution. Dave Bytor’s narrations were brilliantly crafted and added a lot to the overall flow of the project. You give an excellent history of the project so I won’t try to duplicate that here, but both Shared Fantasia and the Stairway to Oz contest were inspired by the goal of bringing more unity to the sync community. Where Stairway to Oz was founded on competition, Shared Fantasia was founded upon cooperation, which I believe was a more productive direction.

I regret that I chose Real Media as the format for the digital version. I think that limited the exposure both then and now since the codec was rare then and I don’t know where to find it now. But I have recently found wav and mp3 files of the full audio, so I should be able to recreate the project and render it in a format that is more generally available and hopefully has more staying power.

For my individual contribution to Shared Fantasia, the 5th section, I approached it with the simple goal of finding a collection of songs that gave the best overall sync. My personal audio/visual syncs often involved watching television and letting my CD changers act as the DJ while choosing random songs from 400 different CDs. When I got the capability to arrange songs to video on the computer, I mostly used this same approach, but I chose the songs, either starting from the beginning of the video or starting from a song-length sync somewhere in the middle and building outward from there, so this approach to Shared Fantasia was very familiar to me. I took the practical route to finding what I thought was the best sync for my section by generating a couple of dozen tilings and then choosing the one that I liked most as the final. The final selection featured two “Space Age Lounge” songs from Esquivel, an artist whose music had been recently been introduced to me by my older brother. Another artist that I had only recently started listening to was David Bowie, but this time it was a musician friend of mine from Chicago, Kevin McComb, who had urged me to get past Bowie’s hits, which were his only works of which I was previously aware. Kevin and I discovered and watched a lot of interesting syncs around that time, including many that were “fueled” by Bowie. I’m not aware of any major syncs that are based on Bowie’s music, so I was glad to include one of his less familiar tracks “The Prettiest Star” in my part of Shared Fantasia. Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love” was another song from an artist that I feel hasn’t been represented as widely as he could be in the sync world. The next song, “Superabound” is from Frank Black, formerly known as Black Francis from the Pixies, and is yet another artist in the “underrepresented” (or unrepresented) category, which could be taken as a theme for my Shared Fantasia contribution. This continues with the next song from a band called Ween and a song entitled “Don’t Laugh, I Love You.” This unintentional pattern was broken by the choice of song, Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, which had been previously used for synching by Key, who had unfortunately missed the window to get in on directly participating in Shared Fantasia. The next song, Cream’s “Sunshine of your Love” was motivated in part by an audio/video sync reference made by Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live, where, inspired by DSotR, he synched Cream’s “White Room” to a classic Christmas special. They only showed a few seconds of the sync during the skit, but he followed it up with a positive “it kinda worked” and so I bought a few Cream albums to experiment with them on my own. For the final song I returned to the opening artist, Esquivel, with the track “Night and Day.”

baker b.: Great. Thanks for these details. It looks like from our word count for this section that we should logically move into a part 4 to complete the interview and remaining questions/replies. Onward and upward!

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