Thursday, May 22, 2014

1.) Tulips

The start of this project coincided with cherry blossom season in Brooklyn.  It's really one of the best times of year here.  After a long, less-colorful winter, the cherry blossoms are a powerful display of rebirth and energy.  So I had the idea that the cherry blossoms would be the first subject of this project, but these tulips, just a block away on Albemarle Road kept calling my name.  They were impossible to ignore.  These were the same tulips after which I titled the last piece of the Messiaen Project.

These beauties so embodied the upward Spring energy.  They were trying to be so tall, swaying in the wind, begging to be noticed.  They appeared to be stretching up, trying to look over each other's heads.  Their rich color was so satisfying to look at.  I loved how this particular variety of tulip spread it's petals wide during the day, soaking up every possible ounce of sun.  At night they closed up a bit, as though they were conserving the energy they captured during the day.  For about three weeks I'd walk past them every time I took the dog out for a walk, and they never failed to inspire.

After capturing the footage, I played around with it for a few days until I had an edit I was satisfied with.  Then I spent a week or so improvising at the piano along with the video.  Certain ideas and themes started emerging.  I enjoyed taking my time in this process - a nice contrast to the last two years of composing, during which I had to finish something every week.  Eventually a 12-bar blues form with an angular line of varied-length patterns took shape.  For the recording I improvised the line on the third of four choruses. 

This film was definitely a learning experience.  I struggled a bit with the idea of replacing the natural sound of the video with my music.  I considered keeping the natural sound and blending it with the music, but it wasn't consistent enough from shot to shot.  There were plenty of lovely birds throughout, cars passing, but also lawnmowers that were blasting in some shots, while absent from others.  It just couldn't have worked with the amount of shots I was using.  That actually brings up one of the things I learned this time around - that I should have taken longer shots that would have allowed more flexibility in editing.  If I had done this perhaps I would have been able to create that mix of ambient sound and music.  But learning is what this project is all about, so onward I go.

The process of creating Tulips brought up some questions.  Notably, what should come first, the video or the music?  As far as I know, most film scores are added at the very end of production, except for music videos I suppose.  But since I am foremost a pianist/composer, and a novice film maker, I might do well to start with the music.  I foresee experimenting with the order of this going forward.        

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