Saturday, June 4, 2011

Multimedia Moonlight March Madness Mashup

I guess can I start by saying this: if I hadn't created this video, no one else would have. So there's that.

I'm not quite sure how I ended up so far down this rabbit hole, but as always, the journey is at least part of the purpose, even if it's a rather purposeless journey. As I wrote a few days ago, operamission's double bill of Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat and Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire got me to thinking about these classic works as a team; the realization that they feature similar riffs (see below) led to the creation of a little mashup version of the two, which debuted in audio format on Wednesday.

The riffs aren't exactly the same, but each winds its way through a couple of descending triads in a manner that started a sort of conversation between the two works in my mind. And, come to think of it, that's so often what listening to music is about - a conversation of ideas, both as they occur within given pieces and as they converse (via the brain) with all sorts of other ideas. So, this kind of mashup, silly though it may seem, does say something genuine about the musical experience. If' it's true(-ish) that talking/writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then perhaps creating musical mashups is a more logical way of "discussing" music - although that's not stopping me from multiplying words here.

Anyway, once the audio was created, I knew another challenge awaited - creating the video. Partly this just has to do with the fact that MMtube is where so many of my multimedia creations live; somehow an MP3 doesn't seem like enough, especially since YouTube offers the possibility of so many more viewers. But, as with The Rite of Appalachian Spring, Chopin's Ghosts, Canon a 2 Tempi, and many other mashups, the visual component can also help to clarify what's going on.

Speaking of "conversing about music," I found that thinking about how to use the score excerpts helped me to understand the Stravinsky better - as it happened, I didn't have a full score on hand when I started (although I do have one from the library in hand now), just the quirky MIDI-generated score I'd used for the audio. Because this half-baked score doesn't have all the correct articulation markings, I decided I'd rather feature single instruments most of the time, and the idea of having the notes dance around the screen came from not wanting them to be scrutinized too closely.  So, making decisions about how the various instrumental tunes should pop off the page made me aware of how beautifully Stravinsky uses his forces. For the Schoenberg, I did have a full score on hand, but again it proved easier to recreate the notes in Finale (which means, for example, that there can always be a clef, etc.) - and, again, it proved very gratifying to get to know these little musical gestures better.

Although I haven't seen it in many years, I was probably influenced in the basic look of the video by R. O. Blechman's animated film of The Soldier's Tale [see sample here] - especially, the idea of sparse textures and, from what I recall, a sort of dreamscape look, with objects flying in and out. Certainly, Pierrot lunaire should be expected to have a hallucinogenic effect on whatever it encounters. (If you've been following this blog the past few weeks, you'll recognize that I borrowed Pierrot from the little xtranormal videos I made here.) I love the idea of animating musical notes (as in this fantastic video I wish I could say I'd made) and enjoyed this exercise in tossing them around on screen with Pierrot-like abandon.

By the way, operamission's final performance of these two fascinating works is tonight, and if, like me, you won't be lucky enough to be there in person, you can watch the show live online by going here. I believe they'll be performing the two works separately, but they're pretty interesting that way as well.

P.S. In poking around YouTube, I also stumbled across this cool animation of excerpts from The Soldier's Tale. Check it out.

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