The Music and Visuals of Tanner/Billard
by Barry Raphael
Dorothy Tanner and Marc Billard create the digital video art and world/electronica music that is an integral part of the Lumonics art form. The music of Tanner/Billard is a cross-cultural hybrid with influences of world music, electronic, techno, industrial, classical, and jazz. When the music is combined with their abstract multi-layered rich visualizations, using colors and forms I didn’t even know existed, the effect is mesmerizing yet easy to access in the mind’s eye, transporting you into a new universe of color and shape. How do you relax and energize at the same time? Start your DVD now.
Tanner and Billard have developed a style of music with an exotic feel; involving intriguing textures, percussive effects, world instruments and vocals. They are both deeply involved and excited by the potential that exists in today’s technologically sophisticated music world. The freshness, freedom, and richness that cross-cultural music sampling affords has inspired their recent work.
Dorothy and Marc began their musical collaboration in 1990. Marc had been experimenting with computers, synthesizers and midi since 1985. For Dorothy, music composition is as comfortable as creating sculpture, finding satisfying similarities between the two modalities.
The Tanner/Billard visuals and music are an extension of the pioneering video art form of Dorothy Tanner and Mel Tanner (1925-1993), beginning in 1978. It is rooted in the live visual performances that began in the Lumonics Light and Sound Theatre in 1969.
Their Explorer DVD was selected for the first Video Lounge at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami. The exhibit showcased “some of today’s global avant-garde video artists.”
In addition to their own productions, Tanner and Billard have worked with film producer and director, Lian Lunson, on a series of public service videos for the Sundance Channel featuring people that are making a difference. The first subject was Ali Hewson and the EDUN Project which builds clothing factories in African communities that have been severely impacted by AIDS. The sale of clothing, including the ONE t-shirts made of African cotton, brings employment and income to the communities and optimism about the future. The second video featured Ed Begley, Jr., discussing the environment, energy-saving devices, vegetarianism, and animal rights.
Don’t Let It Slip Away
by Peter Lavezzoli
Mel Tanner’s geometic light sculptures expanded the traditional concepts of both lighting and sculpture, while involving elements of each art form. His revolutionary acrylic sculptures were viewed in the specific Lumonics setting. Having experienced these light sculptures myself, it seems clear to me that these creations were actually the seeds for the audio/visual work that Dorothy Tanner and Marc Billard have now produced. The medium of Mel Tanner’s geometeric expressionistic light sculptures has been refined and expanded to Tanner/Billard’s DVD productions, such as Explorer, Pleiadian Dawn, and Don’t Let It Slip Away, which can be experienced in an environment of one’s own choosing. The experience produced by the Lumonics environment was that of a sort of shrine.
It is interesting that Mel and Dorothy Tanner first created this environment in the 1960s while listening to and under the inspiration of psychedelic music. The Tanner/Billard DVDs are an ideal marriage of light and color patterns with repetitive electronic music, the psychedelic music of today. Electronica, the term that loosely describes several types of electronically generated repetitive music, is the logical progression of the amplified psychedelic music that inspired the original Lumonics environment.
“In this space, we are free to let our minds wander in ways that we usually do not have time for. The imagination is reawakened in ways that bring us back to our earliest experiences of color and sound.” *
*excerpted from review by Peter Lavezzoli of Tanner/Billard DVDs. Peter is the author of The Dawn of Indian Music in the West and The King of All, Sir Duke: Ellington and the Artistic Revolution.