Since I've been on vacation, I've been doing lots of non-musical things like yardwork, housecleaning, and paying attention to my kids. This has slowed the output of Songs Without Singers, score visualizations, and the like, but I do have another little musical visualization to post about. My daughter and I spent the odd hours of a few different days assembling a Hogwarts castle from Harry Potter building cards she got for her birthday. (Full Disclosure: I've never read any of the HP books, which I suppose makes me a muggle, or some such. However, Daughter of MMmusing is a true fan.) In order to show off our creation to the various Harry fans among her far-flung cousins, I took a few pictures and a little video. (The castle was filmed on location in a thoroughly uninspired setting atop my Steinway. Hey, I'm just glad I can see the top of the piano, which often looks like a remainders table outside a Borders.)
Naturally, we snagged John Williams' lilting little waltz theme to accompany the montage. I'd never even paid any attention to this soundtrack, but it was remarkable to me how the music made the images seem to come to life. In fact, the music inspired some cool visual effects that I'm proud of, and I now wish I'd thought through the camera-work more purposefully - for example, I should have saved a wide-shot of the whole castle for the second statement of the theme, about 48 seconds in. As it happens, that second statement underscores the second pullback of the camera, the swirling strings seeming to lift the perspective upward as the spires and steeples are unveiled in a dizzying manner that exaggerates their height.
I mention this not because I planned it that way, but rather because the video and soundtrack just fell together that way, purely by chance. I love it when this sort of thing happens, because it shows how naturally the mind is conditioned to find meaning where meaning wasn't intended. Here's the other thing I like about this little video creation. As it begins, it's quite obvious that we're looking at a roughly assembled card-castle - windows oddly placed, brick colors not matching, misaligned joints, a few randomly added pieces that should've been removed, etc. However, as the video progresses into a few still pics, it settles on a slightly blurred wide shot that could almost be mistaken for a real castle, partly because the piano surface is less apparent. Then, just as gradually, this virtually realistic image becomes more and more abstract, shifting from three to two dimensions and becoming unreal again, but in a quite different way than we saw at first. A series of impromptu visual effects suggests a magical transformation that seems to lead the cardboard castle off into the world of fantasy, a world in which magic is more real than what looks real.
I know I'm overselling this - and yet, the evocative music really does make me see these images as poetic, certainly much more poetic than they deserve to be given how casually they were produced. At the end of the day, I come away more than anything with an appreciation of Williams' craft - particularly his ability to write suggestively. This and all my other humble video/animation creations also make me excited about how easily anyone can now create interesting motion pictures. Surely we're just at the tip of a whole range of possibilities when you consider how technology that once would've required a whole studio budget is now available to pretty much anyone. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this democratization of the film medium opens up extraordinary new art worlds.
Regular readers here will know that I see enormous potential in using visual imagery as a catalyst for musical understanding. See here, here and, of course, MMtube. Also, check out the cleverly executed text visualization (not my work) of a Family Guy discussion below. (Thanks to Youngest Sister of MMmusing for the link.) Notice how, in the absence of the original animation, the visuals animate and elucidate the dialogue - like subtitles on steroids. [Youtube has removed the video, sadly. Here's the original scene on which it's based.]