There’s a real magic that happens when someone is able to not just translate the spirit of a song into a visual form but also add a new dimension of expression to it. Venezuelan artist and designer Pablo E. Peña P. programmed a generative algorithm that takes “Springtime in Croatia” from Patricia Wolf’s See-Through into an enchanting new realm. “When I approached Pablo about making the video, I had told him to feel free to do whatever he wanted, whatever he felt inspired to do based on hearing the music,” Wolf explains. “I felt he understood my work, and I was curious about how he would interpret it visually.”
The gentle pads and emotive arpeggios become miniature, expanding worlds twisting and spreading through time and space. Using the color palette from the album’s artwork by José Quintanar to add another layer of connection to the song, Peña sequences the changing shades to bring a muted feeling of growing urgency to the video. Wolf’s piece is swimming in the emotional depths, but these swirling, graceful visuals imbue the arrangements with whimsical elegance. The connections to Wolf’s track are countless as she points out another link, “It’s also interesting to see the spheres and lines animated in this way, like abstract birds flying in an abstract sky.” Peña’s generated world flows with each lilting sonic passage, all of it intertwining in perfect harmony.
“When I first saw the video Pablo made for ‘Springtime in Croatia,’ I was in awe,” Wolf conveys. “I am so happy with what Pablo has made.” Peña’s video for “Springtime in Croatia” is a high point in a banner year for Wolf and her music. When I first saw the video, I found it so beguiling that I wanted to know more about it and was thrilled that Peña was agreeable to a short interview. His work can be found on his website, and Patricia Wolf’s work can be heard via her Bandcamp. See-Through is out now on Balmat.
Interview With Pablo E. Peña P.
I am curious about when your interest in generative algorithms like the one used for the incredible “Springtime in Croatia” video began and what interests you about them.
I have worked with digital art throughout my career, always looking for better ways to express myself and create new things. Still, it was until about 6 years ago that I started using new tools for 3D animation, and a whole world of possibilities opened up to me.
More sophisticated tools that allowed me to go under the hood and alter its operation to the most basic. I have some background in coding and mathematics, so it was like coming back home in some way. With time and a lot of study and practice, I started to use more of my own algorithms to create unique, self-generated, and increasingly complex pieces, which seemed very complicated at first turned out to be very liberating and a significant step in my development as an artist.
This video really brings a new quality to the music. It does an incredible job of translating the feeling I have when listening to it into these beautiful movements and shapes, but I wonder how you see the final result in relation to the sound? Did this turn out as you imagined when you began working on it?
I always had an idea of what it would look like as the final result, and this time I think I had more control over it, but it’s always a surprise to see what the algorithm produces.
I came from working a lot with complicated 3D models generated from simulations and had the idea of doing something different for any next project, and starting to work with Patricia was the perfect opportunity.
What I had been doing was very heavy visually, and now I wanted to do something that felt calmer like Patricia’s music, let the sounds have their space between the visuals, let it breathe.
As a starting point, I began with lines and dots, like the album cover, and from there, I created the algorithm that follows patterns of curves that react with sound, ending in a structure similar to a neural network floating in space.
What followed was more of an art direction; I divided ‘Springtime in Croatia’ into 9 different stages. Each sound fragment would generate a new and unique structure where each circle would move. The colors were selected from some patterns I made while testing an AI system.
In the end, I really liked the result, and I think it captures the feeling of the song very well. I’m very happy with how it turned out.
How did you come to work with Patricia Wolf on this piece?
I have admired Patricia’s work for a few years, and we began to chat more and more over time. I always wanted to invite her to do something together. Still, she was the one who first talked to me about collaborating on a video, and from then on began a long and satisfying process of visually interpreting his music.
What was the biggest challenge for you in creating this video?
I think the most difficult thing was simplifying my processes enough to have a more efficient workflow. There was a lot of experimentation and learning. I was trying to let the algorithms do their thing, but at the same time, entering this small universe manually, the process was quite immersive. All were rendered using real-time game engines, and the locations of the cameras were created by moving in the space using a game controller. I was also thinking of continuing our collaboration in the future, expanding this project in some joint live performance. This project is alive and evolving. The final video was just a snapshot of one moment.