baker b.: We’re here again with artist and syncher Mike Casey in the first of perhaps several interviews celebrating the opening of the Pietmond Art Crawl galleries, virtually located within the the online game called Second Life.
So moving beyond Shared Fantasia now, in our private conversations you’ve relayed to me some frustrations over the direction of the synching community in the mid-2000s. Can you share some tidbits about this period, and also about your synchronicity experiments that continued on in what appears to be more isolated circumstances?
Mike C.: Hi again, Baker 🙂 I think the frustrations I’ve had with the sync community, other than the problem of recreating syncs from cue points, are mostly based on the lack of consensus on what makes a good sync. But as I have thought back over the years, maybe this is a foolish concern, kind of like thinking that if everyone paid enough attention they would all agree that a certain film or album is actually the best. Clearly there has to be room for individual tastes. With that being said, I think there is still more room for some objective measures of a good sync vs. a bad or mediocre sync. I felt like the judging of Stairway to Oz was a good step in this direction. You and I were the judges, and since I had arranged each sync to create the digital versions, I had to try to step back from an overall impression to try to say in more detail why I preferred one over another. To do this, I devised a simple method of splitting each sync into smaller segments that could be rated independently based on the amount and quality of the matches. I chose 15 second intervals and rated each interval on a scale of 1 to 4. This emphasized overall consistency rather than focusing on the quality of a small number of potentially excellent matches, but I was encouraged by the fact that you and I independently agreed on which entry was the best overall. So to follow up, I created a score for DSotR that used this same method and posted it on my website http://www.mikecasey.org/Sync_Judge/DSotR.htm in the hope that it would generate some debate and further refinement. But it could be that this took too much of the entertainment value out of the process. In any case, I think more focus on critique would have been healthy for the community, since there was no shortage of available syncs and very little consensus on which syncs stood out from the crowd.
For synchronicity experiments or experiences since then, I feel very lucky to have a period from March 2010 to about August 2010 where I was experiencing a lot of interesting patterns of experience and coincidences in life outside of the audio/visual framework, but I have also continued to experiment with synching music and films. The a/v sync that really stands out for me is a variation on Michael Allen’s winning entry for Stairway to Oz. Since those entries were rendered using a Real Media codec that was lost when I upgraded computers, I decided that I wanted to see Michael’s entry again and recreated it using my current setup. Then, inspired by the popular interest in listening to “Stairway to Heaven” backwards to find backmasked lyrics and my own experience of hearing a sample of Stairway backwards on the radio as a child, I decided to create a backwards version of Michael’s entry in early November of 2009 that I call “Stairway from Oz.” So far, it has been allowed to exist on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HywC71qZOs. Even after years of watching syncs, I was sort of shocked to see how well the lyrics that other people had found for backwards Stairway synched with the backwards video, creating an entirely new storyline about redemption and recovery of the self in a framework of distorted speech that has been subjectively interpreted to a point of convergence, combined with the backwards video that displays negative entropy to fit the theme of things coming together in impossible ways rather than falling apart to increase entropy as the laws of thermodynamics generally predict.
baker b.: Nice. We’ll return to “Stairway from Oz” in just a moment. Thanks very much for sharing that quite remarkable find with me, which I’ve viewed several times now and plan to see at at least once more before we chat further about it. But first I’d like to return to the disappointments you mentioned concerning the synching community during the general time of your Dark Side of the Rainbow score analysis. There’s so much here to filter out — let me start with the idea that, for DSotR, there were those who viewed it, within this small community of online synchers once again, as pure and simple entertainment, a way to enjoy both the already ultra-classic Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz in a strange, new fashion, true, but still on a pretty surface level. As Floyd drummer Nick Mason himself said in a 1997 MTV interview, perhaps many movies and albums match just as well, jokingly adding that DSotM was really created as a soundtrack to The Sound of Music. And certainly in the early days of community synching, many additional, full blown “synchs” with Dark Side of the Moon were put forth; I even created one of my own (Dark Side of the Yellow Submarine) way back in January 1998. Then there were others who found enough internal matches, enough *meaning*, if you will, to conclude that DSotR just *had* to be created on purpose by Pink Floyd, and that a cover-up or conspiracy was going on. At the time, you and I were among a handful of core synchers who voiced a third possibility: that the melding was non-intentional *and* meaningful at the same time. Synchronicity, in other words, related more to the Jungian source of the term.
What is your take on this whole, three-pronged controversy?
Mike C.: I think this disagreement is one of the great things about syncs at this point. They are a challenge to an individual’s belief system, and how they will think these sometimes amazing creations came into being is a reflection of their world view. I personally made the transition from thinking of DSotR as simple entertainment to being an example of Jungian synchronicity, but not until I had already made the jump from a scientifically based view of the world as an expression of the laws of physics to thinking of reality in terms of synchronicity, where things can happen because they are meaningful. Neither view is completely satisfying when taken alone, since both leave huge gaps in understanding why things happen the way they do and, therefore, demand a certain level of living with uncertainty. I’ve never been much of a sync conspiracist, but that’s another way to balance the phenomena with beliefs and uncertainty, and so it’s worthy of serious consideration.
This kind of splitting of opinion is a common phenomenon and one of the interesting challenges in life. The epistemological foundation of dreams is another area where there is widespread and entrenched disagreement. Some people insist that dreams are meaningless noise, others say that dreams are a kind of mashup of the previous day’s events, and others believe that they are meaningful in some way. It could be that each view has some validity, and merely acts to focus one’s energy in a way that suits their psychological needs at the time. I think any of these perspectives could be very enlightening if pushed to its logical extremes while comparing and contrasting it with competing views. If I made an honest effort to prove that DSotR is an example of Jungian synchronicity, I would have to admit the possibility that I could end up proving my intuition to be incorrect and find that it is simply entertaining and not a type of cosmological jackpot.
baker b.: Interesting. For myself, the first 2 months after stumbling across DSotR in 1997 I enjoyed it mainly as entertainment while leaning toward synchronicity as a cause, then for several days swung way over the the intent side as I dug deeper into the phenomenon, only to do a complete 180 degrees and land solidly in the synchronicity camp, a final destination, after uncovering a couple more crazy pieces of info. One of the things I always liked about this ur-synchronicity is the way transitions between tracks from the Dark Side of the Moon album are repeatedly highlighted by things simultaneously happening in The Wizard of Oz, not the least of which is the famous transition from grayscale Kansas to chromatic Oz right at the end of the fabulous “Great Gig in the Sky.” This just also happens to be the traditional end of side 1 of Dark Side of the Moon, where in olden days you would pause to flip the vinyl record over to play side 2, starting with “Money”. In other words, one could say side 1 of DSotR is black-and-white and side 2 is color.
So with this tidbit of information we circle back to “Stairway from Oz,” Mike, because it is precisely at this point in The Wizard of Oz where your synchronicity begins, as Backwards Dorothy shuts the door on Oz forever to return to to her dreary Kansas existence. So I’ll leave you with an *open door* here to talk more about the fascinating details of SfO, or anything else at this point, really.
Mike C.: That is a good point that the song transitions work so well in DSotR, and it does suggest intentionality as a solid candidate for explaining the origin of DSotR. There is another possibility that is related to intentionality: It could be that there are unconscious Wizard of Oz patterns that influenced the creation of Dark Side of the Moon. In the case where an album precedes a film where the two sync, the film could be unconsciously guided by the album. Suppose for the sake of argument that every member of Pink Floyd was a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz to the point that they never watched anything else and viewed it regularly. When making an album then, it would be almost reasonable to assume that there would be some influence, and with the vast power of the unconscious, the influence could manifest itself as precisely timed coincidences between the two works. Even if they weren’t fans to that extent, it’s conceivable that there could be a type of unconscious resonance that could lead to the matches. It could even work indirectly with one or more other movies or even albums that had been inspired by The Wizard of Oz and in turn inspired Dark Side of the Moon. Or it could be that both works follow the same universal pattern that exists in the unconscious psyche. These theories are something like the cryptomnesia explanations that Jung resorted to before he saw synchronicity as a principle.
SfO is a cool abbreviation for “Stairway from Oz”, but before switching to that name, I would like to point out that one thing I like about the “Stairway from Oz” title is that it almost sounds like “stare away from us,” which adds a sort of forbidden knowledge angle that can be fun to consider, especially when combined with the backmasking component, which seems to go hand in hand with dark subject matter. But rather than going deeper into trying to sell SfO as something worthy of being forbidden, I would like to just give a few highlights as a sync. Near the beginning of SfO, as Dorothy’s house flies up into the air, the lyrics are “All on track, all arriving/ They all get up, they are one” which mirrors Dorothy’s return from Oz, where all of the characters there can be seen as products of her mind since it is seen as her dream, but they become one as she returns to the non-dream reality of Kansas (the land of E Pluribus Unum as the Wizard calls it in the movie). The wicked witch’s appearance is shadowed by the lyric “Oh, she swells with our lousiness” followed by “All up on high will end for it” as she transforms from the broom riding witch to the bike riding Miss Gulch. When Dorothy is yelling down to the storm shelter, there is a sarcastic lyric “One wish today: You all pray for three who will make it here late” which could be referring to the three farm hands who are safe in the cellar as Dorothy faces the storm alone. As Dorothy sits down with Professor Marvel at his crystal ball where he can see all from that one place, the lyric is “We hunt next to shore ’cause they see all from there.” The scene that quickly flashes to the picture of Dorothy and Auntie Em at their farm coincides with the lyric “Over there….” There are many other matches, but those are a few, and since Michael Allen’s forward sync matches a lot of the movements, the backwards version works in that way as well. That’s a quick overview with other levels of interpretation left out, but I would be happy to discuss SfO further, especially the symbolism and emergent message in broader terms. I’ve watched SfO many times but I think it still has more to offer and talking to you is always a great way to get me to try to think more deeply about things!
baker b.: Cool, Mike! Thanks for the reply and encouragement. Regarding DSotR, I think the subject is broad enough to warrant some kind of special, round table discussion, even if it comes down to merely you and me. 🙂 Narrowing our scope to just Stairway From Oz for now, I’ve had a particular question/concept bouncing around in my head for a while. In discussing your abstract, digital art in part 1 of our interview here, you talked about gently emphasizing certain features in what you called “sweet spots” of information space to try to make them stand out a bit more. A recent piece called “Information Nibbler” was cited as a prime example of this technique. Now in “Stairway from Oz” I know you took samples of proposed backwards lyrics for Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” already present on the internet and then compiled and tweaked them into your own, special blend. I was wondering if you see these processes of “tweaking” or “emphasizing” in both recent art and recent synchronicity as related? Or am I off base here?
Mike C.: That’s an interesting perspective, and you are probably right to make the comparison. Unlike the conscious effort to emphasize that was done with the art, I tried to avoid intentionally manipulating the backwards Stairway to Heaven lyrics to fit the backwards Oz video, but I can’t promise that it didn’t happen to some extent. On a conscious level, I only changed lyrics when I listened repeatedly to a line and couldn’t hear it, and I think I only ended up altering about a dozen lyrics total. And there are a couple of words that I would change now that I have listened to it more. But I think you are right on target with the “sweet spot” in information space observation. Michael Allen’s forward sync certainly was a huge step in that direction, and the fairly widespread interest in backwards Stairway to Heaven was another clue. I think conscious manipulation moves away from the raw synchronicity claims, but at the same time I think it’s a good thing in general to try to help others see what we are looking at in art and in synchronistic observations and your recognition of the analogy between the processes in those cases is very insightful. I know that when I have looked back at some of my art and synchronicity notes I have had to admit that even I didn’t “get it”! 🙂 So in both of those contexts the tweaking process could be helpful or even necessary to bridge that gap.
baker b.: Thanks for that answer, Mike. Much to chew on there concerning conscious manipulation versus raw synchronicity in art for sure.
Well, believe it or not I seem to have run out of questions on my list (!) This appears to be as logical a place as any to start wrapping up our interview. Is there anything else you feel we should talk about, or want to share with the listening audience?
Mike C.: There are a lot of other things we *could* talk about from our years of correspondence, but I think we have taxed a reader’s attention about enough by now. Maybe I can ask you to comment on something first though. I can’t match your excellence in framing questions, but if you will pardon my awkwardness…. Synchronicity is expressed in moments where our inner and outer worlds meet. From my limited understanding, it seems that Jung and his followers believe that these moments tend to happen when we are at critical periods in personal growth as part of the process Jung called individuation. Do you see a/v syncs and DSotR in particular fitting into this picture? And as I sit here listening to “Time” from “Obscured At The Rainbow” that just randomly started on iTunes (from a selection of over 12,000 songs), I wonder how this connection could impact the future of a/v synching. There presently seems to be a lull in the action in the a/v sync world, but do you believe that a/v synching as a community effort has “left the building” like Elvis and the show is over, or do you think it is destined to reappear?
baker b.: Most magnificient: http://www.pf-roio.de/roio/roio-cd/obscured_at_rainbow.cd.html. I’d almost forgotten that crazy, little coincidence (Floyd playing Dark Side of the Moon in London’s Rainbow Theatre in ’73, mirroring later, coined term “Dark Side of the Rainbow”). I wonder if anyone’s tried “Obscured at the Rainbow” with The Wizard of Oz as a contrast? Hmmm.
But to your last question: yeah, I definitely believe there will be a resurgence of interest in a/v synching, but I’m not sure in what form or the involved time frame. As I was telling Stegokitty not long ago, The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon, both ultra-classic examples of their respective media and the two components needed to create Dark Side of the Rainbow of course, will be around as long as civilization as we know it exists. Therefore, Dark Side of the Rainbow will be around. I think that’s really cool: DSotR as a permanent work of art. And I believe that’s a strength of a/v synching as it is usually defined. As long as you have the 2 or more components, the correct versions or mutually agreed upon versions, the correct cuing points, and properly working equipment, then you can theoretically re-create the synchronicity, or get pretty close. As I see it, Dark Side of the Rainbow, along with Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite-Echoes, the similar Contact-Echoes, and maybe Alice-Wall will stand the test of time in this manner at least. Then when you get into more tiled affairs, starting perhaps with Dave Bytor’s Rush-Wonka Project, one probably has to start thinking about a fixed, archival version to go along with any recipe for re-creation. The media/instrument variations you discovered working with Shared Fantasia and also the Stairway To Oz competition are troubling, true, but perhaps can be overcome. I would continue to cite re-creatabilty as a key component to the sustained interest in a/v synching, and this also seems to be the strongest tie-in with the idea of Jungian synchroncity or “raw” synchronicity, I believe you called it.
Somewhere down the road someone is going to have to tackle the tough subject of separating audiovisual synchronicities from audiovisual mashups. I think a synchronicity is always a mashup, however simple or complex it may be, but a mashup is only on occasion a synchronicity, if that makes sense.
And the elevation of at least one syncher to minor folk hero status might be helpful — Dave, are you listening in by chance?
Also: the concept of “synchronicity art” is going to have to be developed, maybe even “synchronicity science.”
Mike C.: I think we are in agreement on all points here. It’s surprising to me that a/v synching hasn’t had a steady increase in popularity, but maybe mash-ups are taking that spot in the sphere of public attention. It would be great to see Dave Bytor back on the scene too.
Well, unless there’s any unfinished business in this current discussion, I would like to thank you for organizing this podcast and for your thoughtful questions. It has been a pleasure discussing these issues with you and I would be happy to take on other subjects in the future as you see fit. And thank you to the readers for your attention, I hope that we have made it worth your while.
baker b.: Thank *you*! Super interview. Luv it.