Film animation married to jazz improvisation goes back to the 1930s and the advent of sound films. This collaboration of the cartoon figure Betty Boop and the real Louis Armstrong is one of the most famous early examples. Social sensitivity was not a consideration.
In 1949, the art advanced–or at least changed–dramatically when two Canadians, painter Norman McLaren and pianist Oscar Peterson, got together. They made Begone Dull Care, in which McLaren painted and otherwise altered the surface of film stock to create a classic abstract visual expression of the Peterson trio’s music.
For an analysis of the technique McLaren used in Begone Dull Care, read this essay by Paul Melancon.
In this century, the Israeli artist Michal Levy, who is also a saxophonist, was inspired by John Coltrane to construct animation reflecting her conviction that “the structural approach of Coltrane to music is associated with architectural approach. The musical theme defines a space and the musical improvisation is like someone drifting in that imaginary space.” She chose as her vehicle the beginning and ending theme and Coltrane’s solo from the 1959 recording of “Giant Steps.”
To see another film animation by Michal Levy, to music by the avant garde pianist and composer Jason Lindner, go here.