Thursday, 31 December 2015

the sea calls me

still from "the sea calls me" video on vimeo
This new video "The sea calls me" to some extent summarises my year and is a good excuse to make a note of how it came about.

Both the images and the audio were systematically produced.

The video runs just a little over 6 minutes and comprises 12 clips of "abstract video" each between 24 and 40 seconds duration. The audio comprises a 30 second loop of ambient sound overlaid with a 3 minute instrumental, which uses electric piano, bass and drums playing a serialist composition "composition 29A", repeated twice but faded out early.

Each of the steps in the production has been scripted and the published version of the video was arrived at by experimentally twiddling with the parameters in those scripts, such as the geometric transformation of the video to make it "abstract" or, equivalently, the geometric transformations applied to the serialist "tone row" that derives the soundtrack.

You may be interested in the fact that I persist in calling the transformations applied to the video and the audio as "geometric", but that is how I think of them and that is how they are implemented.

The geometric transformation of the video uses the techniques described in this earlier post. Specifically, the images comprising a video clip are transposed (in the sense of transposing a matrix) so that the time dimension is exchanged with one of the physical dimensions. This has the effect of retaining the impression of a seascape (all the clips are clips of waves and shoreline, although at different locations). The audio contained in the video is unaltered. Mostly it is discarded. I have retained the best bits for the ambient sound. The wind was the problem, as usual.

The geometric transformation of the audio uses the techniques described in this earlier post. I need to write more about those in detail, but the gist is that as well as the usual serialist transformations of transposition, inversion and reversion (i.e. make retrograde) of the melody, I apply those transformations separately to the rhythm. For this piece I chose a "tone row" that is tonal and transformations that largely keep it that way. The "tone row" is not the traditional 12 distinct tones from serialist composition, in this case, it is a clip (four bars) from a familiar tune, excessively slowed. However, geometry is the composer, since I simply juggled the transformations until I achieved the effect that I wanted.

The audio and video are synchronised at the 12 clip boundaries by trimming the video and audio appropriatley.

My Cageian moment here is that, while working on the video, I was listening to Julia Holter and channeling Gerhardt Richter