04 December 2014

Beyond The Mind's Eye

"Beyond The Mind's Eye: A Computer Animation Odyssey"

Beyond The Mind's Eye was a computer generated art film - the sequel to The Mind's Eye and thus the second of six computer animated 'odysseys'. Essentially it's a pastiche of computer animated shorts, all set to original music, forming an artistic movie of about an hour's length. Jan Hammer composed and produced the music for Beyond The Mind's Eye, using the backdrop of the various sections to encompass themes of future technology, the theory of panspermia, dreams and the old stalwart: love.

Beyond The Mind's Eye was released in 1992, which means that the quality of the computer graphics has dated by an incredible degree. Mortal Kombat was popular in the arcades in 1992, while Super Mario Kart was making tracks on the Nintendo; neither Doom nor Myst had even been released. All of which gives some idea of the level of graphical sophistication the cutting edge of computer games represented. Films like The Lawnmower Man represented the peak of CGI effects, and in fact several clips from The Lawnmower Man end up in Beyond The Mind's Eye. Nevertheless, I remember strongly that at the time of its release, the low-polygon count of the computer-animated head which introduces the video was state-of-the-art. Swirling plasma-like textures and floating objects which are now clearly produced from one or two basic polygons were, at that time, jaw-droppingly astounding. Even the fact that I could clearly see the straight edges of the triangles used to form the spheres couldn't shift the feeling of wonder I had at the amazing quality of this computer-generated virtual world. I'm a little less easy to impress now, having been spoilt by The Lord Of The Rings, but rest assured: at the time, this stuff was great.

Jan Hammer's soundtrack is a strange cross between his more pop-styled works and his more jazz-influenced compositions, kind of like a cross between Escape From Television and Drive. The style of the music and the song titles are easy to match, in fact: tracks like Virtual Reality take on a more electronic sound, while Nothing But Love is all classically-influenced textures; Transformers, with its accompanying video that doesn't quite feature robots in disguise but is pretty close, has plenty of metallic harshness to it, but is as ultimately melodic as anything Hammer has produced. Then there's the title track, Seeds Of Life, with a strangely subdued house influence, that also pops up as a vocal version later on featuring Chris Thompson. (Chris has also sung with Mike Oldfield, Elton John, Brian May, Alan Parsons Project and, less prestigiously, on Comic Relief's 'The Stonk'. Ex-Manfredd Mann, apparently...)

Originally released on VHS, Beyond The Mind's Eye, along with a good few other parts of the series, have recently made it onto DVD. It was directed by Michael Boydstun and released by Miramar. The soundtrack, under the name Jan Hammer, has always been available, although the tracks have been re-ordered to Mr Hammer's preference. Helpfully, the liner notes give the correct sequence, should you wish to enjoy the music in the same order as it appears in the film. Along with Jan, Andy Topeka is credited for 'computers', while Brynan Sears and Linda Brynan Sears help Chris Thompson out with vocals.

"...it's all very cyber-psychedelic." - John Voorhees, All Movie Guide
Beyond The Mind's Eye:
Directed by: Michael Boydstun
Produced by: Steven Churchill
Original music by: Jan Hammer
Film editing by: Michael Boydstun
Run time: 45 minutes
"If Jan Hammer's BEYOND The Mind's Eye is any portent of what can be expected musically in 1993, then we are all in for a happy new year indeed." - Beth C. Lewis
Beyond The Mind's Eye: CD Tracklist:
1. Seeds
2. Too Far
3. Magic Theater
4. Sunset
5. Transformers
6. Nothing but Love
7. Virtual Reality
8. Pyramid
9. Brave New World
10. Windows
11. Midnight
12. Afternoon Adventure
13. Voyage Home
14. Beyond
15. Seeds of Life (Vocal Version)

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