michal levy: “one” + “giant steps”.

I’ve always been drawn to artists who explore the intersection not just of how various media of art complement each other, but more how one artistic sense can be used to completely re-interpret another. I’m not talking about a musical score accompanying a movie (though that’s totally awesome – give me some soaring John Williams cellos during a panning aerial shot over a field of Brachiosaurs and I’m happier than anyone) but an actual shift in thought. I’m talking a voluntary artistic synesthesia.

Hearing a painting. Seeing music. Drawing a poem… that sort of thing.


To that end, I think I’ve found shape+colour’s new idol, and her name is Michal Levy. Before we go any further, keeping in mind my blog name, read her quote and try – I dare you to even try! – and say we aren’t artistically made for each other.

“When I listen to music I see colors and shapes and when I watch visual art I hear sounds. I wanted to express my sensing of shapes colors and music in this short movie.”

A trained jazz saxophonist, film-maker, and all around synesthetic genius, her latest film, One , is a Flash-animated visualization of Suheir by jazz musician Jason Lindner and was animated by Studio FatCat. Levy said of the project “ One is my second endeavor in my own personal quest to understand how music ‘looks like’. I constantly ask myself what are the ‘colors’ of music, in what space does music ‘live’. If it’s moving ahead, then in which directions?”
I haven’t yet been able to find an English expletive capable of describing how beyond beautiful One is, and so I’ve stopped trying. Just watch and behold its brilliance:

When I first realized that the digital soundwaves were turning into buildings, I almost shit my pants. Then, when the buildings first burst upward into those perfect bright blocks of colour, I did shit my pants. Then the rest of it is pure perfection.

Levy first started getting buzz with her first film, 2001’s Giant Steps. The video made huge waves on the web and was screened at film festivals around the world. In it, she creates an unforgettable visualization of John Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” masterwork of the same name.

Even better, Levy isn’t afraid to let us in on her process. Along with the finished version of One, she also released a sketched videoboard that, after seeing the beauty of the final product, is equally fascinating to watch.

I hope one day Michal asks me to be her best friend. I want to go shopping and get vanilla lattés and have her play bluesy records for me. That’s how much I love her.


  1. One day:
    Would you be my best friend? We can eat Vanilla icecream and I’ll play some funky 70’s records for you.

    A friend forward me this note of yours. Thank you so much for everything you said.
    I’m moved.

    Michal Levy.


  1. […] Exploring the same idea of visually interpreting music as the amazing animator and jazz musician Michal Levy, the video for “Blackbird” is a “collaborative music visualization” created […]

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