The film

The final version of the film was quite different from the first attempts as it encompasses what the collaboration developed it to be.

15th May 2019

The New Music Collective Collaboration Project

In keeping with my quest to do a multi-disciplinary exploration for One Year, I took advantage of the request by Music Lead Dr Carla Rees for a New Music Collective Collaboration project, and so signed up for it.

There was nobody initially for me to team up with so Carla, having heard what my project entailed, found Deborah Johnson who had already finished her music composition but was signed up for another course.

After an initial hangout, we were given dates when we could meet Carla and Caroline Right as a sub group, which we did today. Sadly Deborah had technical issues and so could not join in but this was the email I sent her after the meeting:

Hi Deborah,
I am so sorry that you could not join in with all the conversations this afternoon which, I thought, were quite fun and inspiring.
This is a summary of what I got out of the discussions and something which I am going to upload to my blog later on as evidence of my research and ideas for experimentation.

1.  When Carla and Caroline asked how we had arrived at the film Doing Time which I had sent to you all earlier this afternoon, I said that I had given you an outline of my project and said that I really liked the work of John Cage & his younger, current version Hauschka = Volker Bartelmann, and asked you if you could compose something along those lines.  They then asked how I would feel if you did some composing and I found the film / images for it.  As an exercise, it would not be a problem.  For my film, on the other hand, I found that quite scary because I would be losing control, and because time for my exhibition is slipping by.
Part of me did, however, have a frisson of excitement in going right out of my comfort zone / ability to really create something totally novel / unexpected.

2. For the July 20th performance, i.e. after my exhibition (possibly for my exhibition too if it fits in) I suggested doing something completely driven by chance:  I would do a screen grab of the visual elements of my film – much like the image I sent you early on this afternoon – cut out the components, throw them up in the air & arrange them in the sequence in which they hit the ground.  I should film this & see what happens 

3.  Because an audience likes to be involved in a performance we could try the following:  An alternative for the 20th July is to number the pieces, or give them random names / words, give the pieces to individuals in the audience and ask them to call out the pieces thereby forming a (meaningless?) sentence and recompose the film accordingly.  For my exhibition, I would have to do something different.  The idea of a space outside the performance space, i.e. people coming from the wings, could be incorporated in the performance?

4.  I told C & C that I had written a poem for my project and they suggested that I recite  / sing it in the style of Sprechgesangen along the lines of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.  Perhaps you could compose something for the poem? 

5.  At the exhibition, there is a space for reflection from which a recording of Ian’s letters can be heard throughout the exhibition space, including the film room/ cell.  Perhaps one or two of the recordings could be part of the film / the performance in July?
6.  I said that I would like to video the 20th July event for my records & that was ok with C&C.

7.  Finally, C&C said that we would meet as a whole group near the end of June, which ties in quite well with my exhibition timing.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these points and on what you thought of the film – if it panned out as you had anticipated.
Perhaps we could chat over the phone / Skype?  

I have attached my poem.

I started playing around with one idea from the hangout: the random arrangement of the elements:

Elements of the iMovie film were cut up and labelled with a word from an 18 word sentences taken from my notes from the hangout. There were 18 sections to the original film.
I dropped the sections all together on to a white board but some fell to the ground.
The full complement of sections on the board.
I arranged the sections more or less where they were arranged.

The chance falling of the words / sections:

for composing I would asked found if then I how images and you did it. some feel They the

I will now arrange the sections as they are and see how the film turns out.

Once I had done this I realised I had to arrange the sections in 3 lines as that is how they would appear on the film scheme:

the word order: for it. I would asked found if feel then I some images and the did composing how They you
Because the sound track goes below the video sections, this is how the film scheme will look.


This was Deborah’s reply:

Dear Carla, Caroline and Anna,
So sorry once again that technical issues prevented me from joining you all for the hang-out.  I have been talking with Anna informally after her email in which she kindly caught me up with her summary of the discussion and what came out of it for her.  It was very good to get her film with soundtrack  that same evening, cheering after all the frustration!
I thought that I would send you all my reflections on the process so far and fill you in on some of my experiences on the musical side of the collaboration. 

Clearly Anna’s project is a very strong one and it was well developed by the time I joined in with the music.  My role therefore as composer felt to me to have very definite parameters. The music needed to respond to the visual images on the videos without being intrusive, as there already were interesting and atmospheric sounds on the videos that I didn’t want the music to get in the way of.  Something fairly understated with room for silences felt appropriate, a ‘minimalist’ composition, in every sense.

I chose unpitched and pitched percussion (including piano in its percussive aspect) for the soundtrack.  As I contemplated the images and themes of Anna’s project I was struck by the implied relationship between inside (the views of the  prison wall – linear time) and outside (the natural world – cyclical time).  There is repetition with variation in the videos as well as a sense of time passing.  This sense in the context of the theme of imprisonment feels moving and sometimes melancholy.   I wanted to suggest the passing of time with woodblock and tubular bells (ticking clocks, creaking branches, chiming bells, horses’ hooves in the background). It was a new process to explore the visual images and respond to them musically within the parameters that the project would seem to require.
I took up Anna’s Cage/ Hauscher suggestion obliquely with a score that combined elements of patteren with randomness.  One way I set about this was to splatter notes at random onto my score and ‘sculpt’ them into patterns afterwards.  This is certainly a new way of composing for me!   I played Anna’s video clips many times to discover what patterns suggested themselves. I matched the music more precisely in the video of the horses – to reflect the break-up of the rhythm of  the group of horese and riders.  Interestingly, a kind of hunting-bugle suggested itself (xylophone and piano in unison) though I did not discover until afterwards that this was a sequence of horses and riders on a hunt.  Some nice serendipities – such as the timing of a water drop to co-incide exactly with a note on the celesta –  emerged when Anna put the sound-track to the film.  Serendipity and its pleasures have been part of what has made the project so interesting.  (Ideally, I would have a percussion group of live instrumentalists rather than Sibelius sound-files but that hasn’t been possible to organise!)
On the theme of serendipity, the experiments with random redistribution of the elements sound interesting, Anna, and I look forward to seeing/hearing the results!  More in discussion.
Warm regards to all,