A Silent Film in the Making

Two weeks ago, on a sunny afternoon, I ran into a colleague outside of the Harvey S. Firestone library. He was positioned near the concrete benches and smoking a Galoise cigarette. Initially, we chatted about minor things like our school readings but soon we began to talk about grander things—our passions. He was particularly excited about a new package he received—a Russian-style analog/crank video camera—and I was caught up in my struggles to produce beautiful music. His item was modeled after early twentieth-century analog cameras that were subsequently part of the silent film era. For him, the device was a symbol of his childhood dream—film making. As he rolled another cigarette and I inhaled the New Jersey stench, I decided that it would be nice for us to make a film together that invoked the spirit of the early twentieth century. He would be the cameraman and I would be the actress/composer. In my head, I envisioned a Hans Richter rendition of Rhythmus 21 juxtaposed with the anthropological mood of Katherine Dunham. I wanted the film connect Alfred Gell’s work on art and anthropology. I thought perhaps we should record people watching art but in the end, it was more exciting for us to play with our immediate surroundings. Before shooting the film, Mr. X gave me a brief lesson about the silent film era. We talked about the common motifs in the industry, e.g., the invisible hand and the hyperbolic expression. We also discussed the technical aspects of the film including aperture and positioning. Keeping all this in mind, we went to the public sculptures of Princeton University and played with them. There are moments where I have a “play” card strategically placed in the shoots. Additionally, we tried to capture the movement by occasionally pointing the camera to trees and other moving objects. When we could we moved up close to capture our faces.

Method

  1. The first sculpture we went to was near Richardson auditorium. The sculpture is white and circular. At first, I was the subject moving next to and within the circle. But after a few shots, I convinced Joppan to become the subject and I became the camerawoman. We played with the film and the sculpture for a bit of time.
  2. The second sculpture was outside of Firestone. It is a rusted metal rectangular object that towers over the grassy plain. Again, we played with the sculpture and interjected
  3. After I viewed the processed images, I decided to compose a piece for the viola (attached). I modified “Au Clair de La Lune”. The first two staffs represent the text in the original D major chord. However, I move one octave lower to capture the richness of the viola’s somberness.  Then I go back to the higher register.

Upcoming steps

  1. Transform the film from analog to digital format. So far, the individual reels are in still form (CD provided) but the snapshots have yet to be converted into a movie.
  2. Play an analog/digital version of my piece and collate my recorded composition onto the film.
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