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Since 1965, Mario Castillo has had a strong interest in video, animated film, cinematography, and now, computer generated graphics.

While doing graduate studies at Cal Arts, Mario Castillo worked with Nam June Paik on the Paik-Abe Video synthesizer which was an invention created by Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe, a video engineer. Nam June Paik, known as the father of video art, was one of Mario Castillo’s mentors. He also worked very closely with Morton Subotnick, the well known electronic music composer and did some experimental films for Subotnick and his quadraphonic concerts. While working under Subotnick’s Sound and Light class, Castillo did experiments with slide animation super 8 mm films created with voltage control from the Buchla Synthesizer.

In 16mm film Mario Castillo also created some experimental work in which the images on the film produce sound and so the whole soundtrack of the film is produced with graphic images. You see the projected image and you hear its sound, you hear the sound and you see its image. This work is influenced by Terry Riley’s Music and the chance theories behind John Cage. But this was also based on research Mario Castillo had done regarding optical variable area and variable density film soundtracks. He learned that the Russians had done some symphonic works with this approach. Then, Mario Castillo was exposed to the films of the Canadian filmmaker, Norman McLaren. These deal with a similar technique.

Working with an optical printer at California Institute of the Arts, in Valencia California, Castillo was influenced by Patrick O’Neill’s films which make use of symmetry and bright color. He also worked under the direction of Jules Engle, the well known film animator who early on worked with Walt Disney in “Fantasia” and “Bambi” and later he would gain acclaim with his abstract experimental animations.

Mario Castillo received an American Film Institute grant to work on this project. He had a machine built in 1972 which he named the CORS (Castillo Optical Reader Synthesizer) in which he would playback 16mm film (reel to reel) as sound. Mario Castillo called these experiments “Animated Soundtracks”. His first AFI Grant film was finished at Cal Arts in the summer of 1975 while he was teaching at the School of Art and Design at the University of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. While at the U of I, Mario Castillo became friends with Salvatore Martirano, creator of the Sal-Mar Construction, a fascinating and amazing feet of engineering and electronic music synthesis which he would play and demonstrate when Castillo visited his studio.

One year after screening his film at the Krannert Art Museum Auditorium, Castillo’s film influenced another University of Illinois professor to start working with a similar “image producing sound” technique on film.

Follow the links below to learn more about:

Nam June Paik

Paik-Abe Video Synthesizer

Jules Engle

Patrick O’Neill

Salvatore Martirano

Sal-Mar Construction

Morton Subotnick