Phase patterns

Lets make a thread on phase patterns! Here’s a short film called “The Algorithm” by Bette Gordon, cutting between three dives into a swimming pool, of different lengths so they slowly phase in and out, with cuts numbered:

Prior to the release of her now-classic 1983 feature Variety, Bette Gordon made a series of short films in the 1970s, variously influenced by structural filmmaking and feminist theories of cinema. Among them was An Algorithm, a visually hypnotic reworking of three images of a female diver arcing into a swimming pool. Gordon interlaces each of the sequences frame-by-frame, optically printing them in either positive or negative, and calculating the total number of frames according to the following formula:

A (pos.) = 160
B (neg.) = 140
C (pos.) = 120

A (neg.) = 160
B (neg.) = 140
C (neg.) = 120

20 (160) = 3,360
24 (140) = 3,360
28 (120) = 3,360


Gordon loops these sections many times, but since each of the three is comprised of a different number of frames, they phase in and out of correspondence as the work progresses; a woman’s voice can be heard counting each positive shot, while a man’s voice counts each negative, yielding a minimalist soundtrack as remarkable as the film’s imagery. Both have a rather mesmeric quality while also serving, paradoxically, to break the spell of the conventional cinematic gaze.

An Algorithm’s total effect was described by Karyn Kay in a 1980 issue of Camera Obscura: “Since the cycle of dives is never recycled, completed, the overall representation becomes one of repetitive, incomplete and out of sync dives, and even begins to look like one ever-fragmented, ever-incomplete dive…The diver (like Esther Williams, like a Berkeley musical number) potentially poses a woman as sexual object on display in the erotic spectacle, holding the (ostensibly male) look, playing to and signifying male desire. Yet the look, the desire for completion is constantly frustrated, the signification of the act broken into its elements, becoming, again, simply the act of diving. Further processes of identification and desire (enacted through the look) are broken by the sound track, the counting of numbers of a complex algebraic equation, distancing the scene of ever-repeated dives still further from the location of erotic desire (focused in this instance on the woman diver’s body).”

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I’ve been wondering about phase patterns in music as well… Steve Reich and Brian Eno always come up but who else works in similar ways? Or have they marketed themselves so well that no-one else can work with phase patterns without being in their shadow?

Well there is this carnatic craziness:

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I thought of entrainment when I saw the name of this thread.
I just found this article, haven’t read it but has some nice visual patterns.

I am working to find a concrete example, but “phase patterns” brings Stockhausen to mind for me.

Also the work of Ornette’s double quartets, or other situations where improvisors are separate but together.

Arvo Pärt used rhythmic phasing in many of his compositions. Often hard to notice as most of his pieces are slow … and beautiful. Milton Mermikides has uploaded a very informative lecture about some of his techniques.

(EDIT) … and phase pattern are all over the minimal techno scene, for example one of my favorites: Pan Sonic / Mika Vainio: Ø – Olematon (Find it yourself from the youtube due to link limit :slight_smile: ).

Many of the minimal techno sets “scream” Reich but can still sound new at the same time, for example this one with 30 min Reich(ish) intro: Nicolas Bougaïeff - Live at MUTEK Montréal 2022 - YouTube

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