This was the final project for our Video & Sound class that I worked one with Daniella Garcia and Richard Lapham. Final notes based on feedback from the class is for the presentation of all Video & Sound final pieces we’d like to redo the audio of Daniella speaking and play with the levels of the first song or perhaps replace it.
In planning the making of our first film, we decided to go with the abstract fictional product choice. A product made from human blood that guarantees you the beauty of youth. It all started with one of our partners eating tomato soup. We all admired it’s rich red color. In our class test shoot we’d played with shooting blue ink spreading in. We thought about recreating it with the color red or perhaps green.
I think the color of blood is very striking. There’s also something very visceral about seeing blood. We’re instinctually drawn to and alarmed by it. The idea of blood as a beauty product stemmed from vampire lore. When I was longer I loved reading about the historical roots of vampirism. There was one story that always stuck with me because of the graphics I imagined when learning about it. There was a Countess in the late 1500s that was a demented serial killer. She allegedly murdered hundreds of young woman. She believed that their youthful blood would keep her young forever and was said to have bathed in it.
Using this as a jumping off point we imagined what we could add to this and how we could make it a visually compelling and unsettling piece. We all had the idea of various still beautiful shots based off the color red and a contrasting green. We wanted to shoot plants to juxtapose against the blood, commenting on the flesh of things we already commonly use in beauty product. We chose pomegranates because of their mythological nature (also purported to be a fountain of youth, and the original apple of Adam and Eve) and aloe because of its biological property of turning water blood red.
Upon introducing our storyboard to our class it seemed as if people liked the idea but we would have to be very careful on how we’d shoot it and pull it all off. We’d require a studio, a set and perfect lighting, not to mention editing.
This week we shot some of the more simple shots and next week we have a set and studio where we will complete the shooting.
My father once told me about a sales technique where the salesman identifies your preferred sense and uses it to sell the product to you. For example, if you are a more tactile person they’ll say “How great does that FEEL? How does that FEEL to you?” If you are a more visual person “How great does that LOOK?” If you are more auditory “How does that SOUND to you?”
I’ve never really sat down and thought about it until know but I think I associate feelings with color. (Not tactile feeling but emotional). I’m a visual person.
This made things more difficult for me this week when I was working on telling a story with sound. For this week’s assignment we were tasked with translating the sci-fi short story Bloodchild, by Octavia E. Butler, into a sound piece. Bloodchild, is a very strange and captivating story that works with bug-like aliens on a foreign planet and their symbiotic/parasitic relationship with the human race. It is also a coming of age story where the main character grows from boy to man over the course of one night. He loses his naiveté and makes difficult choices for himself and his family.
I worked on the sound piece with Stephanie Koltun and we decided from the get-go we wanted to make our piece represent the emotional journey of Gan, the main character. The whole story seemed metallic and otherwordly to us so we went about using our new found knowledge of recording sounds that we believed work well.
The first thing that struck me was the level of mindfulness that was immediately induced on focusing on sounds and trying to isolate them. It made me realize how much noise we always have around us, and how well our brains drown it out. The second thing that struck me was who different a sound can sound with all the effects you add. We turned a dropped pipe into a melodic instrument. One of the most strange sounds I added was lighting a stove. When I slowed it down 300% it became so ominous and cracked, I used it almost as a metronome to move from one segment of our piece to the other.
When Stephanie and I met after we’d collected all of our sounds we were at a loss on how to put them together to represent the emotional journey of this short story. I found a very unexpected simple solution. If we broke down the story in segments and gave each segment a color to represent the emotion, it immediately became easier to translate the written story into audio. I had to deconstruct it further into clean cut a visual narrative in order to be able to then transfer it to audio.
We made the first part of the story where they are drugged by the egg a purple. It was an ambient, smoky purple at first foggy and comforting but with some underlying tension. The next segment of the buildup was red. It was bright and discordant and sharp. Bloody and offensive and disconcerting. The following segment where the dialogue goes on between Gan and his brother and then Gan and his T’lic was blue. It starts of muddied before achieving clarity towards the end. It was an extension but a contrast to the red. The final segment was green to embody acceptance. It’s a dark and moody green in which Gan makes hard decisions and becomes an adult.
I learned a lot about my creative process in creating this piece in collaboration with Stephanie and personally for me, the biggest take away is how I filter emotions with colors.
Believe it or not, on Friday I got to chase the trails of ghosts for homework. I lost myself in time listening to Jim Jarmusch in the East Village Poetry Walk before I was abruptly brought back to the present (about 5 times). Technical difficulties in 2016. Tip: download the goddamn walk onto your computer and transfer it onto your phone before going on your merry way.
It’s a long walk, the length of a movie. I really really liked it. You travel time to visit spaces. You use your imagination to dream up what the streets looked like, what the people on the streets looked like.In addition to being educational, a form of entertainment and some could argue even of exercise; it was an unexpected nostalgic trip.
I went to NYU for my undergrad and moved to New York’s East Village when I was 17. I quickly fell into the college stereotype (especially the NY college stereotype) of falling in love with the beat poets. I definitely romanticised them. My first semester I read On the Road and read the majority of Jack Kerouac’s work in the following two years. Allen Ginsberg was my idol and I used to joke that my type of guy was a gay dead poet. My best friend and I road tripped across California one year and went backpacking in India the next. We’d write poems together emulating the mystic rhythmic quality of Ginsberg’s poems and see ourselves as the second coming.
Reading Howl for the first time inspired me to start writing poetry when I was in college. Our other homework for the week, The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem, actually ties in quite nicely to this. “Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master… Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.”
The first poem I was proud of writing was my own personal version of Howl. I used similar wording and borrowed phrases but I substituted it with stories of my first year of college, all of the messes and adventures we’d gotten ourselves into. I think that copying a piece of art is an amazing jumping off point. It can help you with one of the hardest parts of creating art, just starting. Now I don’t count my own work in this… yet, but another valid point made in the Criticism is that “second comers might do a better job than the originator with the original idea”. It can also build upon and reinterpret it.
Like most everything in life the answer of is okay lies in the balance: how much you use, how you much you add to it.
The poetry walk started off in St. Mark’s and the next stop was one Allen Ginsberg’s apartments. I couldn’t believe how much Beat history I’d been so oblivious about in my immediate surroundings. My time in the East Village was at the peak of my interest in poetry and Allen and Jack.
I had my own memories to add at many of the stops along the walk that really added to the immersion of the piece for me. My boyfriend back in college lived on Ave C and 9th. He gifted me an 1969 printed version of Howl on my 20th birthday there. If I had only known that Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac wrote some of my favorite pieces right above and by this Japanese Sake place where I read them. I’m finding it hard to extricate my own experiences from this walk and offer an unbiased view of the content. I don’t really think I can. Maybe it’s my millennial nature but the first thing I thought of when hearing about Trotsky at La Palapa was that I had written a poem there too. I found that very exciting.
This was the first long form audio piece I’ve listened to that matched up with my surroundings. I’ve only recently started listening to podcasts and looking up and seeing visual references was surprisingly comforting. You are right where you are supposed to be. It also brought to light how quickly things change and how worlds overlap and morph into/from one another. At one point the narrator talks about how the crime levels in the LES at the time and how rival gangs coexisted on a block and watched cars burn for entertainment. Fire trucks would only leisurely come to put them out. I wonder when the walk was updated. The church across from Ginsberg’s first house is turning into a condo, but the basketball court next to it was still there. Will there be a point when so much has changed that it will be irrelevant? What is the lifespan of a walking tour?