Posts Tagged ‘noise’
Conceptual Sketch(cast, shot list, reference tables using Prezi )
screen test for my upcoming installation project “Almost Everything Can and Shall Be Cut” featuring one of its stars: jello in all its wiggly, jellyfishy glory. Other materials will include foam core, computer circuitry, ice cubes, wigs, balloon animals, steak, and furry pillows.
Peter Sarkisian, Extruded Video Engine n°=1. the impersonation of the arcade mentality! a new techno-animal emerges from this fizzing bleeping volumetric toy…
Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat
Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice
“I spent much of my childhood trying to distinguish identification from desire…” Koestenbaum confesses, speaking of his adoration for opera divas. Woven in with this reference to his budding consciousness of queerness is a realization of the affect particular to the (singing, musical) voice. Following Barthes, we can consider the affect of the musical body as a potency latent in music in general, so far as it is born from a composer’s/performer’s body and enters the body of another in the act of listening. Music is then, in a concrete sense, voice – the whisper of one subjectivity into the ear of another, but also subjectivity detached from the body of a subject, sent out into the world as a thing to be handed over, contemplated, enjoyed. The voice is also object of desire. This dual proximity and distance of the voice is the measure of its power (an affection rather than an expression), its presence a troubling one because it signifies an otherness that invites itself into my body, passing through a hole in this skin that is supposed to separate myself from what I am not, in the process of my listening, in my act of attention, becoming me. And the idea of queerness Koestenbaum extends to us is by no means simply tangential to this affectionate haunting, the desire for a self / oneself that is not me but could be me, that maybe is me. Identifying myself with another and as another: a space within myself carved out by longing, by a dream of proximity. The queerness of the voice goes deep.
Koestenbaum’s wonderful book brought to mind my own relationships with my diva(s) and their voices. If diva is an attitude more than an attribute, a mask of fearlessness always trying to become a truth, a fierce truth, then the gender of the diva matters little. I remember discovering Iggy Pop as an exemplar of this type of stridently embodied, inimitable subjectivity. My means of contact with the diva were purely digital: first clips of performances, songs and interviews on Youtube and then his albums, illegally BitTorrented, only later purchased as CDs. To this day I have not seen him perform. My fanhood is also, like Koestenbaum’s, nostalgia for an era I never knew: the heyday of the Stooges in the early 70s. Raking the Internet for remains of Iggy, most often period broadcasts or amateur film poorly transcribed into digital form, the resolution atrocious, colors washed out or too contrasted.
Flickering in and out of this (visual) noise is Iggy’s body and Iggy’s voice, his small, electric shape in contortions at the sound of himself, gesticulating towards some impossible gesture. The footage suddenly cuts, I have been deprived of the finish of his movement, an end, that, I am sure – had I actually seen it – would have revealed the totality of his meaning, the “Iggyness” (as if he could be re-produced for me, as me) that squares a square, closing a circle. And his body existing through his voice: a nasty crooning that leaps into a screech, an exuberance that distorts syllables and seesaws the idea of pitch. A voice whose music always threatens to fall apart into noise, an exploration of enunciation whose achievement is the release of that mystery of affect that lies beyond language (the body?).
The queerness of Iggy Pop. 1977 – after the disbanding of the Stooges, Iggy is living with David Bowie in Berlin, who is producing his first solo album. Promoting his album in France, Iggy appears on a French talk show in a dandified outfit: leather pants molding skeletal legs, a tucked-in blue button-down dress shirt, fake large black glasses framing round blue eyes, black hair plastered on his head like a mime, lips painted to grotesque, decadent proportion. I watch Iggy chat vivaciously in German, French and English with the talk show host, who tries to negotiate his non-sequiturs and appear to be “in the know”. And then: the diva moment, the flashing of Iggyness. The talk show host inquires as to why Iggy always performs with his shirt off. Iggy: “May I show you?”. And then he starts to unbutton his shirt cuffs, worldlessly handing over his wrist to the host for his assistance. The host, flustered, begins unbuttoning:“it’s important to be naked?”. Iggy, peeling off his shirt: “Here, I’ll show you what’s important”. Finally shirtless, he stretches out both arms to the audience, asking “C’est joli, non?” (It’s pretty, isn’t?”). I was seized over not so much by the spectacle of a body, but by that mad leap into nakedness, the disrobing of his soul that he masked with a nonchalant invitation of the audience’s judgment – an act that, in the end, seemed to clothe him in something invincible.
from David Rokeby’s article The Construction of Experience: Interface as Content (1998):
In a similar vein, it’s important to understand the difference between “fractal” complexity and the complexity of life experience. Fractals are fascinating because a rich variety of forms are generated by a single, often simple algorithm. The endless and endlessly different structures of the Mandelbrot set are generated by a single equation addressed in an unusual way. This relationship between the infinite detail of the fractal and its terse mathematical representation is an extreme example of compression. The compression of images, sound and video into much smaller encoded representations is one of the keys of the current multimedia explosion.
Opposed to the incredibly compressible “complexity” of fractals is the complexity of true randomness. Something can be said to be random if it cannot be expressed by anything less than itself… that is to say, it’s incompressible. This rather philosophical notion can be observed in our everyday on-line communication. To move data around quickly and efficiently, we compress it, then send it through a modem that compresses it further. What is left is the incompressible core of the information. As you can hear through your modem when you dial up your internet service provider, the result sounds close to random noise.
Randomness and noise are usually things we avoid, but in the purely logical space of the computer, randomness and noise have proven to be welcome and necessary to break the deadly predictability. But random number generators, used so often to add “human” spice to computer games and computer-generated graphics are not “random” at all. They merely repeats over a fairly long period?a sterile simulation of the real thing.
…In designing environments for experience, we must remain humble in the face of the power of irresolvable, non-fractal complexity. The computer is an almost pure vacuum, devoid of unpredictability. Computer bugs, while annoying, are never actually unpredictable unless this “vacuum” fails, as when the hardware itself overheats or is otherwise physically damaged. This vacuum is extremely useful, but it’s no place to live.
When I started working with interactive systems I saw the “vacuum” of the computer as the biggest challenge. I developed “Very Nervous System” as an attempt to draw as much of the universe’s complexity into the computer as possible. The result is not very useful in the classical sense, but it creates the possibility of experiences which in themselves are useful and thought-provoking, particularly by making directly tangible that what is lost in over-simplification.
Noise II: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”.
Peter Bailey in Breaking the Sound barrier quotes Robert Musil on the ‘sonic shrapnel’ produced by the motor car: “…a wiry noise, with single barbs projecting, sharp edges running along it and submerging again and clear notes splintering off – flying and scattering”. Two synesthetic attributes stand out in this remarkable description. First, there are haptic qualities to the noise, translated in terms of texture: how the sound would feel (“wiry”) if you could probe / test it with your fingers, in effect uncovering an auditory topology by using the body as contact surface with the sound (“sharp edges running along it”). Then, Musil recognizes the noise’s kinetic attributes: the sound is in a continuous process of shattering, “flying and scattering”, throwing its components into the world (into the ear) like so many projectiles.
As Bailey notes, sound is vibration (“palpable”) – a series of minute but tangible displacements of matter. Unlike light with its strictly scopic / analytic affordances, the flow of sound modifies physical reality, rearranges the world. As such, the haptic domain – texture – already contains the possibility of sound; noise starts to exist when it can extend itself kinetically, across a spatial and temporal axis, when it becomes a conductor for change and entropy. Musil’s rapprochement between hearing and touch alerts us to the fact that sound unfolds in space concomitantly with its unfolding in time: it travels, working on the body as much as on consciousness.
Consequently, Noise (meaning sound in its raw form, an amalgamation and meshing of vibrations not synched into discrete units of order) seems to have an intimate relationship with affect that expresses itself in the body, namely (Bailey argues) laughter and terror / the instinct to flee-fight. Both of these proto-emotions (or simply motions) are brought together to powerful effect in the tradition Bailey calls “rough music”: “rough music was excessive, repetitive and sustained noise, combining high spirits with a sadistic edge”. Participating equally in a Bakhtinian culture of carnival and a history of institutionalized insanity (Bailey disarticulates the etymology of “bedlam” as the hubbub of the Bedlam inmates), rough music is produced for social purposes of ritual or regulation. Interestingly, Attali links music to the sacrifice of noise and its appendage of violence on the altar of (social, scientific) order. From there, one realizes that to listen to “rough music” is to witness noise coagulating into music or inversely, music decaying into noise – an exhilarating experience of liminality, teetering between forgetfulness (chaos) and culture.
Rough music has many splendid contemporary descendants (Noise, the more distorted forms of techno), thanks to the industrial revolution and the musical avant-garde that sought to rehabilitate or take control over the kind of sonic environment produced by the accelerated motion/collisions of more bodies and machines. The “future sound” that John Cage celebrates highlights the same attributes that Robert Musil discovered in sounds of technology: texture and kinetic force. Cage discusses these as “overtone structure” and “percussion music”, respectively.
“The special function of electrical instruments will be to provide complete control of the overtone structure of tones and to make these tones available in any frequency, amplitude and duration”: overtones are what gives each instrument its particular timbre i.e. the sonic texture that differentiates a violin from a piano; certainly electronic and digital music take advantage of the fact that they can give voice to an infinity of imaginary instruments, in effect to an uncategorizable cacophony of overtones. Allied to the emphasis on “percussion” (“a contemporary transition from keyboard-influenced music to the all-sound music of the future”), Cage’s future sound heralds key components of contemporary rough music in this evocation of tonal din and “repetitive noise” (repetition being primarily structured by beats/percussion). Compared to its 18th century manifestation, Noise engages the confused ear in the gears of a machine in order to better manufacture its violent/euphoric interface with the body.
“The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination.” (The Art of Noises, Luigi Russolo)
Remembering what it felt like dancing to drum n’ bass at club last week, I found it useful to consider the mental “attitude” at work in the activity of dancing to as opposed to listening to music, and, in the context of x’ “Music as Technology of Self”, to wonder what kind of mood-modifying agency is at work on the subject’s part in the act of dance, where the body seems to spontaneously achieve an intimacy and immediacy of communication with the mind’s capacity to recognize and organize aural patterns. In the specific case of electronic music, dancing seems to involve an enactment of the music, a physical tracing of the contours of the different elements at work in a sonic landscape: an inverted act of ventriloquism, where rather than giving voice to a (inanimate) body, a body is given to the voice. Drum n’ bass, with its rapid-fire snare drums and broken beats, subwoofers meowing like torpid, hungry cats, creates a kind of atmosphere that lends itself, if not to the spiritual, then to a form of spiritism – the dancers mechanically jumping from beat to beat are automata controlled by the poltergeist haunting the PAs.
Here the particular “aura” of machine-music, as envisioned by Futurists such as Russolo in The Art of Noises, is articulated: the distinction between euphony and disharmony breaks down in the face of the possibility of infinite variations in timbre (different species of noise) and the futility of any form of sonic taxonomy (and therefore, arguably, of categorical judgments about value or taste in music, but this opens up another can of worms). The programmability of the rhythm – bringing to us the hard fact that all digital music is the product of an algorithmic process – creates a backbone, a tensile, resilient structure that supports the volatility of tone and timbre, which is then free to open up a space of mobility, of play to which the body responds. One of the exciting things about electronic music is not that it always produces an arena for free play (most of its forms are subject to the same sort of cultural patterns embedded in other forms of popular music) but that, as a technology, its particular affordance is to produce experiments in procedurality / procedural forms of experimentation. Dancing to drum n’bass feels nothing so much like solving a problem, a result of harnessing the self to a technological framework which momentarily brings the dancer to a higher form of phenomenological enactment – solving the problem of time / temporal existence via body, allowing the body to function as an uncanny inscription device / Ouiji board.
from Craig Baldwin’s Sonic Outlaws:
“Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.
…The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination. “
From website “Create Digital Music”
Brainpipe is a psychedellic journey down the neural pathways, a long, strange trip into the minds of an unusual band of independent game designers. And while some games demand muscular graphics cards or brilliant flat panels, this is one that requires playing with headphones. The immersive sense of the descent down this brain’s pathway is entirely dependent on its sound. While even big development houses often license sound engines, the band of hard-core designers at Digital Eel also rolled their own interactive audio code to make the sounds fully seamless…..
Peter: Let’s talk about the game mechanic. Some of it feels familiar – this descent through a cylindrical pipe – but there’s something quirky and unique about your take on it. How did you settle on the interaction mechanic?
Iikka: This was quite literally the first thing I programmed for Brainpipe. We were trying to come up with a new “short” game after putting another larger project on the back burner because we didn’t have enough free time to work on it. Within a few hours I had the basic control scheme and the moving pipe running on the screen. This is similar to how some of our other short games (Plasmaworm, Dr. Blob’s Organism) got started; the first prototype is something you can play with. After that there were tweaks of course, but the feel stayed much the same…
We were talking about music right away and how the sound, the intensity of the patterns and colors on the pipe walls, and the speed of traveling through the pipe should all work together. [We wanted] a kind of triple whammy to suck the player in deeper and deeper — a strong, cumulative effect…
Making sure each obstacle has a sustained sound so you can hear it coming in the distance in front of you and then hear it pass by and recede with Doppler shift certainly adds to the audio illusion.
I think the kicker is the way the intensity ramps in the game. It’s sort of like a rising sawtooth waveform-shaped thing. During each level, the intensity, the speed increases, Then, between each level, the intensity drops to give you a breather before the next level begins. Each time the intensity drops, it is still at a higher intensity level than during the previous level break, and all of this ramps upward.
The sensation of synesthesia is something a handful of game designers have tried to achieve. What are some of the games that have inspired you? Are there games you feel have reached that fusion of sound and visuals?
Iikka: My personal influence is the “demoscene” that I was a part of when I was younger; it’s a subculture of programmers and artists using computers to create non-interactive but real time audio-visual experiences.
Rich: For me, LucasArts’ adventure game, The Dig, with its seamless looping of various Wagner themes and so on. The music would morph as scenes changed. It was an amazing piece of work.
The music from Star Control II innovated with music and visuals, and it directly inspired the music for Strange Adventures in Infinite Space and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. The idea that each alien race should have their own theme music came from there (though this kind of thing is less unusual now than it was when SC2 was originally released), as did the idea to attach separate and distinctly different music to each thing, category of thing, item, window, pop up announcement –every action in the game and every flick of the interface … like a toddler’s “busy box” of sound.
Back to Brainpipe, other areas of music outside of games inspired us as well. Aleatoric, musique concrete, avant garde — stuff Bill just naturally creates and stuff I’ve always loved since I was a kid. [I checked] out the LP’s at the library by Stockhausen, Varese, Morton Subotnick, Ussachevsky, all these wonderful pre-synthsizer electronic sound and found sound composers. And the records were awesome because they were always in pristine condition — relatively few others ever checked them out.
IN a show put on by noise performer Kawaiietly Please – in which we participated, not listened, or perhaps listened to the point of participation. She started by taking her microphone for a walk around the venue’s small room, picking up vibrations that fed into a distorting filter in her computer, amplifying white noise. It was painfully loud, but only when the beats kicked in four to the floor did our organs start to thump synchronously against their skeletal cavities. Kawaiietly Please creates an event that uses sound as a dilating instrument, opening up the minds/bodies of the audience via their ears: in front of the stage, a giant white stuffed gorilla lies in an inflatable kiddy pool, its belly stitched with black cables. Kawaiietly Please tiptoes towards it, the cacophony around us lending an intense stillness to the scene. Then the sound begins to bark at us like a rabid dog and she pulls out the cable from the stuffed corpse – she struggles, the clothy flesh resists – and some of us impromptu jump on it and start tugging too. The sound – damaging feedback, harsh static, thereminish vibrations – throbs across our muscles as we pull, pull and finally – yes! – we tear. The monkey explodes in a shower of stuffing and glitter, an entire horde of smaller creatures spills out. We go nuts. Now we have something to lay our hands on. The noise that throws us about like rag dolls gives us back what is our own – our impulse to be kinetic. A double acceleration: the movement in time that is sound galvanizes a symmetry-response momentum in extensio – everything snaps (in place) with the thrashing of our bodies.
We dive to the floor, grabbing stuffed animals, pulling them apart solitarily but more often engaging ferociously in tug-a-war: I grab an arm, you grab a head. Soon enough we are fighting each other. Not knowing how it came to this, I am on the floor being dragged around by someone who is battling me for the limb of a teddy bear. The kicking and screaming I do is much more than liberating: this synesthetic simultaneity of hyper-loud sound, cuddly texture (the plush, soft, squeezable bodies of the animals) and violent muscular resistance (the propelling motion of the tugging) is driving me insane with fun. Kawaiietly Please weaves in and out amongst us, jerking her head back, rubbing herself against the floor with scattered petticoats, feeling up the PAs – ghostly in the red light, flitting in and out of the decibelic tidal wave like a hummingbird. We roll her in the rubbery folds of the kiddy pool (the excitement of tactile/sonic texture peaks), mock- suffocating her. She is buried beneath the blue plastic while we throw bits of stuffing and animal parts as though they were flowers.
The noise abruptly ceases: we clap, we shriek, we instantly miss it. She emerges, bows. For about an hour afterwards a number of us are still twitchy – we vault rather than climb onto chairs, we hop rather than walk, laugh rather than bother with coherent sentences. A warmth suffuses us, stretching our mouths in toothy smiles. We want more of this extreme friendliness.
Old Skool – mid 90s
new iteration of happy
J-Pop: happy and breakbeats
Over the past six months I’ve been listening about 3 hours a day to happy hardcore, a sub-genre of “rave”, “techno”, “electronic” music considered a spin-off from early 90s U.K. hardcore techno (which also evolved into other kinds of hyper-fast specimens such as gabber/speedcore, like happy hardcore distinguished by its four to the floor beat but without the synthy melodies and jungle/drum n’ bass, whose syncopated fury is driven by breakbeats). Happy Hardcore is a product of rave culture, which approaches music from a decidedly anti-aesthetic point of view: this is not music meant to be listened to /considered/tasted (nothing is more contrary to the notion of taste than the dirty, praxis-based logic of musical fodder, meant to be digested by your dancing), but to kick you like a soccer ball into a parabolic trajectory, with usually a 7-hour interval between the going up and the coming down. Your body suffers through the DJ set of happy hardcore – crushing waves of relentless beats pound a machine rhythm into your feet while the perpetually shifting, morphing timbres of the synthesizer travel up and down your spine, stretch out your skull from the inside, creating a space (grimy and vast, like a warehouse) for the free play of endless sonic variations. Happy Hardcore is brutal in the sense that it locks you into a logic of acceleration – like driving a car with your foot spastically pressing down on the gas pedal – and that, at least within the context of a DJ set, it never stops. Not delivered in discrete packets of consumable “songs” but turned on like a tap – for a given period of time you swim in it, fight with it, ride with it, drown in it; it becomes your medium, a total texture for a parallel reality, a cognitive landscape apart. When they turn the music off and the night is over, it’s as if the air had gone out of the room – your ears, surreptitiously, have metaphorically started to function as lungs, allowing sound to bond to your bloodstream.
Why happy hardcore? If you look up happy hardcore on youtube, you’re likely to find tracks played to a still image that looks like a smiley face with angry eyebrows and a ferocious, toothy, grin – and that is exactly what it feels like. It can only be described as a mean joy, an apocalyptic celebration – the kind of happiness you would feel if you were being catapulted over a chasm, your feet treading air.
still in the room. player squeezes a knob when he hears a prompted word (s) a voice speechifies on possibilities
determines which set of footage from the database will be edited into another set of footage (not completely haphazard) or running simultaneously on different screens??
editing algorithm, blackout, obeys a subterranean rhythm, cuts words in midstence, faces in mid-expression
cutting between this, this, and this ? CLOUD OR SHAPE, SPECTER OF SENSE – sampling of the cultural whirl – not quite arbitrary drops (it’s all water)
Peter Greenaway – Prospero’s Books ; David Bowie ; Jem Cohen: sea change, becoming, wishing, wish fulfillment, riffling through, collecting books, collecting memories, collecting personalities. databases all.
Playing with the idea of a haunted portrait _ the ghost appears like the absconded presence of the camera, staring out from the double mirror of the photograph. The idea of the dead coyly sitting in on the poised, posed family pictures of the living – unheimlich at it’s most potent, what is buried won’t stay buried but leaves secondary evidence, leaves tangible traces of doubt.
The inappropriate sneaks up behind your back, the camera becomes the eye in the back of your head: new weapon against the uncanny or projector of hidden horrors?
The fake spirits accusing the photographer of fraud – first betrayal of the photographed image’s promise to reproduce reality. William Mumler in the 1860s already destroying the metaphysically automatic/newly automated line between reality and metaphor, conjecture, phantasie. The sought for and unwelcome guests usher these bourgeois families into modernity.
Don’t these apparitions look TRAPPED? Their imprint gelled, their first effort at substantiation caught in the middle. Nothing left to do but appear, put on an appearance without the evidential accoutrement of an indexical relationship…ontologically exiled, phenomenologically virulent. First clue that the photographic apparatus is a creative as well as a reproductive machine: “documentary is the creative treatment of actuality”, according to Grierson and these spirits are products of an indexicality machine, they document the ghostliness of the apparatus, they rise out of the machine, immanent smoke that manufactures a referant for the new photographic sign…
photographic sources (in order): Hans-Christian Schink, Cassio Vasconcelos, Osama Kaneimura
soundtrack source: Venetian Snares
Style frames feature the work of photographer Cassio Vasconcelos (depicting the uninhabited, alien feel of marginal urban landscapes, but also exploring the aesthetic pleasure of pure space), Rutt Blees Luxemberg, and breakcore/IDM music artist “Venetian Snares”.
This animated short explores the question of the ‘liveability’ and humanity of contemporary planned urban landscapes. The title is a play on the two meanings of utopia, as a place of designed perfection and function and as a ‘no-place’, a transient and indefinable place recalcitrant to human occupation.
The short presents segments of animated photography featuring spaces in the city whose ambiguous purpose or lack of identity evoke a sense of ‘psychological vertigo’, what I think of as a hypnotizing mixture of fascination and alienation. These spaces are tunnels, passageways, roadsides, bridges above freeways, abandoned buildings, unkempt infrastructure, closed strip-malls at night, streetlights, subway tracks (above ground), empty parking lots, apartment façades with closed/dark windows.
These spaces will alternate with live-action segments in which a person in a room ‘enacts’ the atmosphere, mood or “being” of the different places put on show, through the play of expression on their face or through gesture and bodily movement/posture. The actor will be as textureless and smooth as possible, preferably androgynous: thin, medium height, dressed in black pants and a long sleeve black T-shirt, bald, with large (‘frightened’) eyes. I want to keep my options open in terms of ‘the room’ that provides the environment for the actor. I want to shoot the actor with a green screen background that allows me to place the actor in a different room depending on the space he/she is enacting – this series of rooms will actually be one room that I get footage of and whose visual characteristics (brightness, hue, saturation, texture, patterns) I have modified to correspond to/evoke the visual characteristics of the urban space that the actor is enacting, hopefully strengthening for the viewer the bond between the urban landscapes/the actor. The framing/shot of the room will be the one invariant – three walls (the back wall a frontal surface, the left and right wall slightly longitudinal surfaces), all of equal or close to equal surface dimensions. However, in case the green screen option does not work out (technical difficulties, mistakes…) I also want to shoot the actor in a real room. The connection with the urban landscapes in this case will be emphasized by changes in the actor’s makeup/ facial paint (color, patterns). For example, if the space I have shown involves striking patterns of light and shadow, these patterns will be reproduced (in a stylized way) on the actor’s face, or if the space is drenched with a red light, the actor’s face will be painted red.
I would like to film the actor in two different kinds of light. The first scheme would involve a flat style of lighting, in which a bright, warm/orangish light evenly lights both the actor and the room. The second scheme would involve lighting the actor much more fully than the room, so that while the front of the actor is brightly lit, the back wall of the room, the far sides of the other walls and the corners are steeped in shadow. The actor’s choreography would then involve playing with this brightness gradient (stepping into the light, moving back into the shadows). I am unsure how to carry on the second lighting scheme in the green screen context i.e whether I need to shoot the screen as evenly and fully as the actor and then change the lighting with After Effects.
In terms of the actor’s choreography, I envision simple, ‘one-liner’ movements rather than complex ones. I want the actor’s physical movement to mirror the movement of feeling that occurs when one goes to/contemplates these different spaces – at this point I feel that dance-like movements would distract from the space imagery and introduce unnecessary signifiers. For example, if I show an empty office space with white walls and gray carpet, a corresponding choreography might involve the actor’s face distorting into a silent scream while he/she crouches down on the floor as if reacting to a bombing/air raid. An interesting option would be to modify all or some of the movements in post (speed up, slow down, reverse) to make them seem more inhuman, in order to emphasize the ‘unliveability’ and artificiality of the spaces shown. A lot can also be done to choreograph movements that express discomfort or un-naturaleness (arms bending the wrong way, a 3-part sequence of a-rhythmic movements)
celebrated mime Marcel Marceau using his body as a site of inarticulable tension
In terms of editing the urban space sequences, I want the spaces to come off as static (creating a ‘face to face with a blank wall’ sort of feeling), cryptic, even unapproachable. The experience I want to convey would ideally be similar to the experience described by Sartre in Nausea when he describes objects in the world, especially the nondescript, random elements one finds in urban landscapes as having “a type of small/petty meaning that taunts you with its indecipherability”. So far I’ve experimented with some options using scanned photographs: simple zooms and pans into/across the picture, in the mode of exploring the geometry and texture of the space (following the lines of structures with the camera), focusing on the ambiguous/incomprehensible space created by zooms and interspersing these extreme close-ups with flashes of the entire photograph to imitate the way one ‘takes in’ a scene and how one’s point of attention jumps from detail to detail and only occasionally embraces the whole picture. Other options that I would like to explore but haven’t really figured out include the question of whether to include some form of object movement in the animation of these spaces. The Dsrukt/Ronin piece was very useful in terms of thinking how movement can be more or less organically integrated into a still image – I can see the same sort of thing working in the case of a photograph of the band of grass and scruffy vegetation next to a highway, where everything would be still except for the leaves of a bush or grass moving in the wind. I can also imagine a form of animation that would imitate the staggering/non-fluid quality of (“bad”) stop-motion, where new elements keep appearing/disappearing in the photograph – for example, changing the color/brightness of the windows in a photograph of the façade of a building in order to create a surreal version of accelerated time. I’ve also thought of creating the illusion of moving objects simply through sound: for example, to create an atmosphere of damp coolness in a tunnel by slowly zooming into the tunnel while the sound of running, cavernous water grows louder and louder.
In terms of the soundtrack, I wish to establish a clear separation between the space sequences and the actor sequences. I see the actor sequences accompanied by nothing more than a droning sound, which simply varies in pitch depending on the sequence. Variety and complexity in the sound-scape is a property of the urban landscape. Theoretically, I am mostly interested in using atonal, dissonant sound mixed with sound effects, in the spirit of ‘noise music’ artists like John Cage and Throbbing Gristle, to create the atmosphere of discomfort I am looking for. I find that noise music creates a strange dual feeling both of detachment/alienation and of almost unwilling immersion or hypnotic engrossment in the viewer. However, I have experimented with editing certain sequences to still atonal and aggressive/distorted, but faster and less monotonous electronic music with some promising results. I find this kind of music introduces an element of the sublime/aesthetic pleasure that provides an interesting counterpoint to the dissonance/distress that it also embraces. The degree of abstraction in the music I end up using will depend on whether I ultimately feel that a sustained feeling of discomfort/alienation in the viewer becomes too monotonous, and whether I need to vary the range of emotional experiences for greater effect (touches of sublimity).
The question of whether to use a single screen or two screens is something I still have not settled upon. This depends I think on whether the correlation between the actor in the room and the urban landscape animation will be most clear and effective through single-screen editing (alternating one with the other, whether simply having a ‘space’ sequence followed by its ‘actor in room’ companion sequence or interweaving both in tighter, shorter edits) or by having one screen play the space sequences while another plays the ‘actor in room’ sequences. The effect of forcing the viewer to shift their attention erratically from one to the other could have either the effect of reinforcing the destabilizing effect I am after, or it could damagingly distract the viewer and inhibit the sense of hypnotic immersion I am also after. Perhaps a two-screen setup that could counteract this last effect would be to have the two screens placed at eye-level and leaning towards each other at a right angle, so that when the viewer steps into the triangular space created by the screens they find themselves ensconced in a sort of immersive head-space (where they don’t really need to move to shift their attention; their eyes just flicker from one screen to the other). According to this scenario the most effective sound set-up would perhaps involve headphones – the complex soundtrack for the ‘space’ sequences and the droning soundtrack for the ‘actor in room’ sequences would be separated in the right and left ear – such an installation could certainly be a step forward in terms of ‘kidnapping’ the viewer’s attention and putting them in a tight psychological spot, but it might also create a sense of aesthetic confusion or being too overwhelmed that would go against the goal of delivering a focused and precise/coherent experience.