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Ozymandias (c.1998)

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Published on Apr 29, 2008

The Video & Text

Percy Bysshe Shelley's classic poem (1818) is used in the video in relation to romantic and Neoclassical architecture, with particular reference to Boullée and Speer, as a kind of critique of the ideology of power articulated by these architectures. The poem `Ozymandias' is a vivid portrayal of the vanity of demagoguery and monumentalism, explored here as a trope for the moral ambiguities of these unbuilt architectures, that stand as fascinating historical symbols of the folly of certain types of power, albeit from varying political persuasions. The strong counterpoint of the `modernity' of the score with the inflated Neoclassicism of the architecures is an attempt to dramatise the counterpoint of these different aesthetics, both of which have struggled for power in this last century. Ironically, these buildings will ever be as virtual as they are here: fictions of history re-imagined via computer simulation.

The Music

Ozymandias is mostly based on the enigmatic minor and the enigmatic major scales. These are rather unusual and obscure scales not generally associated with Western music. In the more polyrhythmic and densely orchestrated sections the inversions of both these scales are used. In some sections notes from the enigmatic scales act as pedal points (tonal centres). From these pedal points are used their associated harmonic series and their inversions to generate a palindromic type of effect. These techniques were largely employed as formal compositional methodologies and may not be obviously audible in the music.

Note: This was the 'blurb' from the "Liminal" interactive CD-ROM (2000). The video was made on a Mac in 1998, using 3D animation and compositing, with footage shot in Berlin. The music was composed by Glenn Rogers, performed by Alistair Foote, Penelope Reynolds and Samantha Podeu. Audio production by Alistair Dudfield. Ozymanidias played by Peter Hardy. © Peter Morse 1998

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