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Directed by Norman McLaren
Release date
  • 1971 (1971)
Country Canada

Synchromy (French: Synchromie) is a 1971 National Film Board of Canada visual music film by Norman McLaren utilizing graphical sound. To produce the film's musical soundtrack, McLaren photographed rectangular cards with lines on them. He arranged these shapes in sequences on the analog optical sound track to produce notes and chords. He then reproduced the sequence of shapes, colorized, in the image portion of the film, so that audiences see the shapes that they are also hearing, as sound.[1][2]

McLaren had experimented with this technique for creating notes through patterns of stripes on the soundtrack area of the film in the 1950s, working with Evelyn Lambart.[3] Their technique was based on earlier work in graphical sound by German pioneer Rudolf Pfenninger and Russian Nikolai Voinov.[4]

The creation of Synchromy was documented by Gavin Millar in 1970 in a film called The Eye Hears, The Ear Sees. In McLaren's production notes, he stated that "Apart from planning and executing the music, the only creative aspect of the film was the “choreographing” of the striations in the columns and deciding on the sequence and combinations of colours."[3]

The film received eight awards, including a Special Jury Mention at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.[5]


  1. ^ Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Thomas Keenan, ed. (15 November 2005). New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-415-94224-9. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  2. ^ Michael Maziere & Nina Danino, ed. (July 2003). The Undercut Reader: Critical Writing on Artists' Film and Video. Wallflower Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-903364-47-5. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b Hobbs, Graeme. "'Every Film is a kind of Dance': The Art of Norman McLaren". MovieMail. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  4. ^ Clark, Ken (Summer 1987). "Tribute to Norman McLaren". Animator (19): 2. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Synchromy". Collections page. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 16 March 2011.

Terence Dobson, The Film Work of Norman McLaren (Eastleigh: John Libbey Publishing, 2006) ISBN 0 86196 656 2

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