Thursday, July 24, 2014

3.) Bird Bath

So far in this project, my subjects have come to me.  I haven't needed to go looking for them.  For Christmas, my father, Bob Stacken, made us a bird bath.  It's molded concrete, and it added quite a bit of weight to our load on our drive back from Minnesota to Brooklyn.  It's a wonderful addition to our garden, and we love watching the birds bathe.  It seemed correct to dedicate this film to my dad.

The idea of trying to capture these birds in the act of bathing was natural.  The question was how to do it.  I thought I might need to leave the camera rolling for a whole day, and then have to edit through all the footage just to see if the birds had come.  But after thinking about this, while still working on the previous couple videos, I began to notice patterns in the birds' behavior.  Conveniently, bath time was often while I was cooking lunch, and it was easy to observe out our kitchen windows.  So I kept the camera standing by, and when I noticed a bird in the early stages of bathing, I would as quietly as possible bring the camera out, set it up, and press record.  The birds were always scared off, but usually returned rather quickly.  The camera didn't seem to bother them, but did arouse their curiosity sometimes.  I was thrilled when they came back to finish their baths.  The birds we see here are Robins and male and female Sparrows.  Some of the Sparrows look young, judging by their fuzzy heads.  There is a Yellow Warbler in the background of one scene, but unfortunately he didn't get in.  We also have frequent visits from Northern Mockingbirds, Mourning Doves, and a male and female Cardinal, but they would never return after I spooked them.

My wife, Akiko, and I enjoy watching the Netflix series House of Cards.  In one episode, Kevin Spacey sings the song Pretty Polly.  I liked the song and in my searching for recordings of it, I came across and musician named Dock Boggs.  Boggs, a vocalist and banjoist, had a brief early recording career, but his wife didn't allow him to do much with it.  Much later he was discovered and brought to the Newport Folk Festival and became an overnight star.  His banjo playing is great, and his singing is an interesting combination of Appalachian Folk and Southern Blues.  I thought his recording of the banjo solo "Coal Creek March" would be interesting on the piano, so I began to play a long with it.  I didn't transcribe it note for note, but rather approximated it again and again - I had time - until I was getting pretty close to learning it note for note.  Then I began to just play it myself.  Interestingly, the note patterns really make the piano sound like a banjo.  We think so often about the timbre as defining the instrument, but the note choices, patterns, and technique of a particular instrument are also give it it's unique sound.

Banjo music seemed like it would fit bird bathing quite naturally.  After recording, I messed around with some clips and opted for a different editing style.  Tulips and Snails had many slow transitions and fade ins and fade outs.  The same may have worked here, but I decided to experiment with some sharper cuts and black frames.  It definitely gives the film a more energized and playful feel.  This time I coordinated these edits with the music recording, which is different than I had done for the first two.  I guess this one is more like a music video, although I left the audio from the camera in the film as well.  The sound of wings and water was too good to mute.  I hope you enjoy Bird Bath.

No comments:

Post a Comment