It was such a rush at the 1967 high school homecoming dance when the dudes from Electric Light Visuals projected vermillion and ocher oil blobs on the gym wall and gooshed them around while the Sonics trudged out the caveman chromatic riff to “The Witch” — and we weren’t even on drugs yet. Now that the future is here, such psychedelic light shows come pre-installed on your iTunes and Windows Media Players; as such they’ve become a secret, private trip you can take anytime — like porn or a box of chocolates.
The new music-visualization program G-Force perfects the concept: It’s so richly programmed, they say it would take thousands of hours for one of its hallucinatory images to repeat, and I’m starting right now. Hour one: no repeats. Hour five: no repeats. Hour 6,101: no repeats. Verified.
This is all I’m gonna do from now on. Music moves and so do these pictures, interactively with the sounds, and contourable by me. Based on mathematical algorithms built by Gary Gluck and Key Compton, G-Force’s “Sliding Sticks” and “Melt O Rama,” and a dogpile of other visualizations, can cycle indefinitely, out-trancing all the previous mesmerograms that’ve been available for a few years — including my previous favorite, Alchemy. Herbie Hancock and Seal project G-Force in concert, y’know. It should not be used with drugs.
By phone, Compton guides me around the G-Force control panel, telling me how to reparticlize images and modify their flow and save them to my desktop and print them and build my life if not my income around them. He genially hypes the feature called the V-Bar, which allows four windows of psychedelia to crawl along the side of the screen at all times, whatever you’re working on. I suggest this might be distracting, but he says people tell him that, counterintuitively, it helps them concentrate.
So I call in my 13-year-old daughter, Lily, who opens iTunes to play the Shakira and A Tribe Called Quest her teachers flog her with in exercise class. A freeform Persian carpet wiggles; a nebula explodes in a black void. Switching to Bright Eyes, she’s rewarded with subtle fireworks. There are waves and auroras, fountains and fragmentations, all vividly abstract. (Album art, too, if you wanna be that pedestrian.) How can cold algorithms keep responding to music in ways that seem so appropriate? I dunno — Gluck’s a math genius; I ain’t.
“Oooh, cool,” Lily enthuses at the main show. Good. So what does she think of the V-Bar dancing in the screen’s margin?
“Whoa. That’s really hot. It’ll make you feel like you’re being really bad while you’re doing miserable work. And it’s a little cheering up, there.”
“You wouldn’t do drugs while watching this, would you, honey?”
Music is not essential with G-Force; neither are family, friends or food. It just goes and goes, endlessly wonderful. Experiencing it on drugs would be wrong.
G-Force is a $15 or $30 download from www.soundspectrum.com.