Sunday, September 8, 2013

Arthur C. Clarke and The Colors Of Infinity

Arthur C. Clarke

Just had my mind blown by Arthur C. Clarke. Yet again. Somewhere, through a chain of Twitter retweets, I came across a link to a 1995 TV program he did called Fractals: The Colors Of Infinity. In just under an hour it seems I had pretty much all my favorite things—Clarke, science/math, technologyall accompanied by a soundtrack from David Gilmour. Not sure how I could ask for anything more in a single TV show.

So this post doesn’t have much to do with synthesizers per se, although the soundtrack is excellent. And I’m certainly no mathematician or scientist either. It’s just that Clarke’s books, 2001 in particular, have been a huge influence on me. The movie came out when I was 8 or 9 years old, in 1968 or ’69, and I remember my sister taking me to see it at the Ziegfield Theater in New York. We sat in the front row so we could lie on the floor under the screen at the appropriate moments. It’s possible that it may not have been when it first came out as the Ziegfield used to bring it back seemingly every year for quite a while, but I was definitely a little kid. Old enough to think it was really weird to lie down in the front of a theater but young enough to still go ahead and do it.

But the point about Clarke is that his books and his vision of the future shaped me. No one else in my family was into technology and science the way I was, and his books pointed me that way at a very young age. And the movie version of 2001 was so mind-blowing, at that age, that I couldn’t help but have it be a major influence. It had space ships and science and psychedelia all woven together, along with a huge dose of mystery as well as an incredible score chock full of classical music. That movie was such an influence on my young personality, and that it came at more or less the same time as the moon landings, helpfully “narrated” by Clarke and Cronkite of course, certainly didn’t hurt. Spaceships floating serenely by as if it were just a regular thing, investigating objects near Jupiter not made by humans, all accompanied by two pieces of the creepiest-to-a-nine-year-old music of all time—Atmosphères and Requiem by György Ligeti. 2001 was such a huge influence on me in many ways, and those two pieces of music are possibly where I first got my love of pure texture. They were terrifying, yet also exhilarating.

And just about at the same time, the Moog synthesizer was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. My fate was sealed.

So in a way I grew up with Arthur C. Clarke, and with math and science, and also with David Gilmour’s music too I suppose. And they all come together in this fractals program from the ’90s. Well worth an hour if you’re so inclined.

Fractals: The Colors Of Infinity



Photograph: ©Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis

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