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Thursday, December 15, 2005


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Birth: 1918
Death: 1996


Pioneer Computer and Motion Graphics Animator

Bio Summary

During World War II, Whitney worked with missile photography and the earliest of plotting machines in the Lockheed aircraft factory. He realized that the complex calculations the machines made could be used to create complex visual images for the purposes of motion graphics and animation. Later, he would use these machines to create visual effects for independent and commercial projects. 
With the advent of computers, John Whitney began working with IBM to produce digital abstract effects to correlate with music tracks, with a focus on harmony. He worked through the mid 60’s and into the early 80s working on projects to exploit the power of computer processing. In the late 80’s Whitney, along with programmer Jerry Reed, invented a method of producing visual effects simultaneously with music, a process he continued perfecting until his death in 1996.

Early Life/Family

Whitney studied in Paris as well as Pomona College in California. He and his brother James entered and won a Belgium film festival in the 40’s with experimental motion studies.
John married a abstract painter,named Jacqueline Helen Blum, they had three sons: John, Jr., Michael and Mark. They were an exceptional family, all of the Whitneys was interested in filmmakin


Studied in Pomona College, California before continuing to England where he studied music and photography informally.

Career Outline

1952- John Whitney worked as an illustrator for Douglas Aircraft, illustrating guided missile projects.
1955 – Worked as director of animation at UPA studios.
1960- Founded “Motion Graphics Incorporated.”
1966- IBM awarded John Whitney “artist in residence” status. He worked on revolutionary computer driven motion graphics the rest of his life.

Comments On Style

Whitney described his work as, “The compositions at best are intended to point a way toward future developments in the arts. Above all, I want to demonstrate that electronic music and electronic color-in-action combine to make an inseparable whole that is much greater than its parts.”






Untitled Film of Lunar Eclipse (1939)
Twenty Four Variations (1939)
Three Untitled Films (1940-42)
Film Exercise #1 (1943)
Film Exercise #2 and #3 (1944)
Film Exercise #4 (1944)
Film Exercise #5 (1944)
Celery Stalks at Midnight (1952)
Hot House (1952)
Mozart Rondo (1952)
Old MacDonald Had a Farm (1952)
Chimes Blues (1952)
Third Man Theme (1952)
Down Home Rag (1952)
Egyptian Fantasy (1952)
I Want to Linger (1952)
Drums West (1952)
Blues Pattern (1955)
Performing Painter (1955)
Catalog (1961)
Homage to Rameau (1967)
Experiments in Motion Graphics (1967)
Permutations (1968)
Osaka 1-2-3 (1970)
Matrix I (1971)
Matrix II (1971)
Matrix III (1972)
Hex Demo (1973)
Arabesque (1975)
Permutations II (1979)
Spirals (1988)
Victory Sausage (1988)
Pianna Split (1988)
Nicolas’ Birthday (1988)
Prelude #VI- Claude Debussy (1988)
Debussy Tuer (1988)
Four Bagatelles- Six Short Duets (1988)
To Milton Babbit (1990)
IBM Show (1987-93)
Sonatina in Four Movements (1988)
J’azz Age (1988-94)
Moondrum. Three Works for Videodisc (1989-95)


Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1981

Related Links

Bibliographic References

John Handhardt, Video Culture,

 A Critical Investigation,Peregrine Smith Books, Layton, Utah 1996

John Whitney, Digital Harmony, 
On the Complimentarity of Music and Visual Art,McGraw Hill, 
NH 1980

John Whitney, 
Fifty Years of Composing Computer Music and Graphics: How Time's New Solid-State Tactability Has Challenged Audio Visual Perspectives,
Leonardo( v.24 November 5, 1991, pp. 597-599


Contributors To This Listing

Christopher Michael
A. Nonymous

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At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:42 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

i would just like to say being the granddaughter of this wonderful man, my name is kate pincus-whitney. i never truly got to know my grandfather who died when i was two, but anyways its amazing learning through the biographies of others learning the great accomplishments of my grandfather so thank you


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