Film-Poem Alchemy

This afternoon was the last day of the Christmas holidays, unexpectedly sunny, crisp and breezy. After the departure of some visitors, Robert and I were about to go out for a walk and some tea and cake, when he suddenly pointed to a patch of light on the wall behind me. The reflections from the garden of waving branches and the wrought iron of a clothes post were casting flickering shadows onto the wall in an astonishing fashion, almost like a silent movie. Robert grabbed his iPhone and captured some video. “You could use that for a poem-film, “ I remarked, thinking about the beautiful short videos some friends had made recently.

When we got home from our walk, I began improvising to the footage on the piano, while Robert listened and wrote.  Within twenty minutes we both had something. Remarkably, when Robert read his poem aloud, it was exactly the right length. He recorded it, synchronized it with the video, and then I recorded my part on top onto a different track so that we could experiment with individual volume and colour.

I’m not a recording engineer, but I know what works when I hear it. In this case, I knew we needed to take the ‘edge’ off the sound on both tracks. It took a little whole to find the right effect for the piano part. It wasn’t until Robert added a little reverb that it harmonized with the imagery. It sounded as if it had been recorded many years ago in a dusty, cavernous ballet studio on a slightly tinny upright. Perfect.

We both could hear that Robert’s voice was also cutting through the texture in a way that sounded too immediate, modern and dynamic. When he equalized it, using an effect called RCA Victor 1947, it all came together.

Result: a film-poem in one evening. If only making art could be this easy and graceful every time.

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