John H. Whitney

John H. Whitney was an animator, filmmaker and key figure in the early development of computer graphics. His collaboration on the animated title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in 1958 was widely acknowledged for its innovation and dynamic imagery—including the spirographic images (based on the mathematical forms known as Lissajous curves) that also feature prominently in Permutations.

Whitney saw the computer as a fundamental tool to link music and visual art. Through the use of sound and computer graphics, he created harmonic events in audio-visual presentations. He describes the process as follows:

In Permutations each point moves at a different speed and moves in a direction independent according to natural laws quite as valid as those of Pythagoras, while moving in their circular field. Their action produces a phenomenon more or less equivalent to the musical harmonies. When the points reach certain relationships (harmonic) numerical to other parameters of the equation, they form elementary figures.

Text To Speech

John H. Whitney, Permutations (excerpt), 1968, 16mm film transferred to video, Motion Graphics Inc.