Mary Ellen Bute, still from “Tarantella” (1940) (image courtesy Center for Visual Music)

Years before Disney’s Fantasia combined classical music and animation for a mass audience, Mary Ellen Bute was pioneering her own form of visual music. Bute was influenced as much by modern artists like Wassily Kandinsky as by musical innovator Léon Theremin, whom she apprenticed with, and fellow artist and animator Oskar Fischinger. Between the 1930s and 1950s, Bute produced a series of short, abstract animated films in which vibrantly colored shapes, lines, and squiggles dance across the screen, set to soundtracks by Bach, Shostakovich, or other classical composers. Critic and curator Ed Halter likened them to “a marriage of high modernism and Merrie Melodies.”

This Sunday, the Cinefamily and the Center for Visual Music are presenting a selection of her films in Seeing Sound, including some rarely seen 16mm gems, bringing renewed attention to this innovative electronic artist and animator. Despite her films’ experimental formalism, they were frequently screened before Hollywood features, a rarity for an avant-garde filmmaker.

When: Sunday, April 30, 7pm ($12 / free for members)
Where: The Cinefamily (611 North Fairfax Avenue, Fairfax District, Los Angeles)

More info here.

The Latest

Matt Stromberg

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.