Monday, October 13, 2008

MapMaking: the finish line

This weekend was spent in non-stop rehearsals for the MapMaking performance that finally happened at 8pm last night. A lot of time was spent sitting around and staring at the ceiling, but it all came together too- which is my favorite part of large productions like this one.

There were three sections: Indonesia/Water, Africa/Land, and South America/Air. The performance was about an hour long and flowed without interruption through all of the pieces. About half of the pieces were pre-recorded or electronic music. One piece had both electronic and live music- the film was tape footage of San Paolo that had been covered in whatever the chemicals that are found in acid rain are and then buried. The music was a tape recording of 9lives playing a samba song that was then also covered in acid and buried. The final piece began with the original, unmangled footage and the band singing and playing live and then slowly the footage was replaced by the acid eaten film and audio and we stopped playing.

The giraffe piece or "barrier" which is the piece that Kuku made that I worked on as well- went through many, many drafts. Last week (or the week before?) when we were at Toynbee hall I produced what I had been working on and was told by the various tutors that it was too heavy and dark for the video that Kuku had made- and actually- I can totally see that. Though given the instrumentation available (tuba, bass, cellos) it is understandable that it would be heavy. In any case I went back and reorchestrated it and tried again- but ultimately after much rigmarole it was decided that it was still too heavy and ponderous. So it was back to the drawing board and on Friday I presented the video to the group and started workshopping with them. I think we came up with some good material- but then they all decided that they were far too busy with their own pieces. Fair enough. But Oi.

Jorge, who hadn't had his own piece in the project due to his frequent Portuguese trips was enthusiastic about helping when I showed him the video Friday afternoon. At that point I was just so happy to have someone express interest that when he asked if I could manage to get a hold of a marimba I said yes. On Saturday- the day before the performance I brought Kuku in and worked with the tutor John Miles, Jorge, and Emma to see if we could come up with something. We based what eventually became the piece on Kuku's facial expressions: look of apprehensive confusion? Try something else. Smile? Sweet, it'll work. The piece was ultimately a marimba improvisation using both hands and mallets. It was pretty cool- but when Nell (the year supervisor) told me that it was well done and good job- I couldn't help but think I really hadn't had that much to do with it.

So here is what I will do next time I've got a collaboration with an artist, specifically for a video:

*listen to various pieces of music with the video and see what makes sense and works well in order to get and initial starting idea.
*Create samples to show the artist at multiple point during the process to make sure that they're happy with the direction you're taking it in.
*Double check again to make sure that they really are happy and aren't just shy about making their opinions known.
*Think about *all* of the instruments that are available, not just the ones that 9lives tends to lug around. (i.e, Caroline is a very good pianist, Jorge plays the organ, and everyone sings)
*Start talking about the musical concept either much earlier in the process or wait until the final video is complete. Don't make music for draft versions that won't bear any likeness to the final film.

I did communicate well with Kuku about her video. The film would not have been nearly as coherent and concise as it was without my input. Also, she was very happy with our working relationship- I listened well and did a good job of working with the language issues (Kuku is Taiwanese) which was useful during the final collaboration because it meant that we were used to communicating by that point and I knew how to translate John and Jorge's questions and statements another way so that Kuku would actually understand.

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