Sunday, 11 January 2015

Three videopoems and a piece of music

Creatively, 2014 was a year of video making here, with a music collaboration too. This is likely to continue in 2015. I haven't posted to this blog for some time and there are now too many recently completed projects to write about in one piece (I'll try to cover things a bit more regularly this year). For now, these are some notes on three of the most recent videopoems, with new music at the end...

Only the Lonely

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Read the poem

This is a second collaboration with Dubai-based poet, Neil Flatman, whose writing I regularly follow, admire and enjoy. The poem and voice recording were sourced from their site of first publication, The Poetry Storehouse. Neil and I have had some great net-chats about poetry, video, creativity and life in general since we met online via the first project, 'Belief in Unicorns'. I'm hoping for more of both. A few months ago I read his piece, 'Only the Lonely', and was drawn to it straight away. Loneliness is universally recognisable and I find it so well expressed in few words in this poem. But it wasn't until more recently that the images (sourced from the stock footage site, VideoBlocks) and the music came together with the writing. The music is by Paul Foster aka Dementio13. Over the years we have made much music together between here in Queensland, Australia and his base of Cardiff, Wales, with my vocalisations woven into his sounds. The track in this video is from his back catalogue of solo composition, which is his main project. It's a piece called 'Get Away From Me', the title of which coincidentally fits the theme of the poem. The original video footage makes use of time-lapse photography. I repeated a single image twice so that it flowed together as one longer shot. The first time the image appears, I reversed the motion and stretched the duration, slowing down the time-lapse to better fit the rhythm of the music and voice. Plus I liked the simply odd effect that slowing down time-lapse brings. The second time (about two thirds of the way through the video), the image is exactly as it was originally shot (with an added fade). I love online remix culture and my only regret in remixing commercial stock footage is that the people who shoot the images remain anonymous, as their names are not given on the website. If the videographer happens to be reading this by some random chance, big thanks to you and your wonderful eye.* The poem is short and succinct and the video is likewise economical. We were delighted that it was recently featured on the Moving Poems website, which I recommend as a first-stop place for video poetry from around the world.

The Red Drum

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The Poetry Storehouse recently published some writing by Cristina Norcross, poet and editor of the online journal, Blue Heron Review. I was immediately taken by this poem in its first line, 'Your heart – a red drum', and again by the mantric end repetition of the words, 'beat the drum'. In between is a lovely array of phraseology elaborating the theme. We can always do with some joyfully heartfelt drum beating so, as is often the case, I got going on the video making process with the audio recording. This was voiced by the extraordinary Nic S., who manages The Poetry Storehouse as well as writing poetry, making outstanding videos and generously recording endless very beautiful readings of the work of so many other poets. Once again I found the music in the back catalogue of long-time collaborator Dementio13. This particular music piece attracted me for its delicate, melodic, electronic sounds throughout, with a steady build up of instrumental layers and energy, to a final outburst of joyous drumming. Once I had cut the music and voice together, I visited VideoBlocks for some footage to play with. When making videopoems I like finding both literal and oblique connections between poem and image. With a poem that so strongly features the colour red, I knew I had to find reds in the images too, though not necessarily a predominance of that colour in every image, just enough for it to be a visual motif. Visually, this piece was an experiment in bringing together diverse pieces of video footage into a hopefully coherent videopoem. Making a first video for a poet via the Poetry Storehouse means flying blind in a way, as I usually don't otherwise 'meet' the poet before an initial piece is completed. To my delight, Cristina loved this video and I was surprised to learn in our Facebook chats of some points of synchronicity between her personal life and the images I had chosen. Online collaboration is magic like that.


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Read the poem

I have been reading poetry by James Brush lately and love his writing. He is based in Austin, Texas and also edits a new poetry journal, Gnarled Oak. Again, I found the particular poem this video is based on at The Poetry Storehouse, where I stumbled upon it while randomly searching keywords on the site (a game I sometimes play to explore the archive). I've been wanting to make a video for James' writing for a little while; I saw the opportunity with this piece. To find images I again visited VideoBlocks, searching keywords suggested by the poem. I found first the underwater diving footage, which evoked to me deep dream explorers, and seemed related to the poem's motif of dream submarines. After this I explored various other possibilities and finally settled on additional, separately shot footage of frozen seascapes and a solitary vessel slowly picking a path through surface ice. This clearly related to the thin ice mentioned in the poem. The alternation of these two series of images suggested to me that the divers were under the thin ice, and appealed as a metaphoric play on surfaces and depths. I then selected an ambient music piece by Masonik, a great experimental outfit in Fremantle, Western Australia. I only used a part of the track and recommend listening to the complete piece. I've made video before with Masonik's music via the Pool creative group, and am always on the lookout for opportunities to include their sounds in what I'm doing. Once I had all the materials at hand, this video took a couple of long and very enjoyable nights of work to complete, a substantial part of which involved sound editing and mixing experiments. Sound is an area of my skills I'd like to improve a lot more over time. An odd detail about this poem is that it was written in response to another video by Lori Ersolmaz. This layering of creativity appeals to my love of remix culture on the internet, which I see as a uniquely 21st century art form. I'm happy to be a part of it and very grateful to the contributing artists who share their work so generously and make it possible.

I have run out of time to do write ups for the other wonderful poets whose work I've been translating into video over the past months. The videos I've missed mentioning here can be found at Vimeo.

On The Beat of a Breath

2014 would not be complete without a new music collaboration for its own sake with Dementio13. This is an electronic music piece featuring my reading of a poem by Rachel Dacus. We were free in our treatment of Rachel's poem, which she happily didn't mind. The sound is a trip-hop vibe and is downloadable at Soundcloud. It's available on a Creative Commons remix licence. I don't usually talk about projects in advance but you might well see new tracks with me singing poetry to Dementio13's music before the middle of the year.

Special thanks to Jutta Pryor and the Pool group, and to Nigel of the many pseudonyms, who gives fantastic pre-release feedback. The best of 2015 to all!

* Since publishing this entry, I have been contacted by videographer, Gene Cornelius, whose stock footage features in four of my recent videos. It's great to be in touch and, happily, I am now able to credit him on projects.