Below is an interview I initiated online with the artists who made the above video to my algorithmic composition for rei as a doe.
CI = Chante Inglis (animation)
CL = Colin Lawson (painting)
KS = Karin Schistek (piano)
ME = Michael Edwards (composition)
ME: What drew you to make a video to this music? [N.B. I’m not fishing for compliments here]
CL: The piece has a particular pace and there is a lot of space which allows you to imagine gradual shifts of texture, of colour, and tone. There is also a slightly icy quality to the sound – this fits with all the white in my paintings.
ME: How many paintings did you use?
CI: 28 in total, not always the whole painting, sometimes just sections enlarged.
ME: Assuming these paintings were not made specially for this project, how did you choose the ones you did?
CL: These paintings were works in progress waiting for the right project – they were always intended for use in an animation, not as physical paintings. When I heard rei, further layers and compositional devices were incorporated in response to the surface texture of the music.
ME: What is the format and size of the original paintings?
CL: They are small, each one is 12 x 11cm, just off the square. They are oil on canvas on board.
ME: Did you use any particular technical or other approaches to digitising the paintings?
CL: The paintings are scanned and saved as high resolution jpegs. Chanté is crazy about getting the highest resolution possible so it takes me about 10 minutes to scan each one. Once scanned Chanté ingests them into Photoshop and animates them.
ME: What do you mean here by scanning, i.e. which particular piece of technology did you use?
CI: An Epson Perfection Photo Scanner. The paintings are never bigger than A4, they are placed directly on the scanner and saved as very high resolution jpegs. The high resolution means I can blow up sections of an image to use in the animation as well as the entire image.
ME: How did you decide on the ordering of the paintings?
CI: It’s really just instinctive. I listen to the music a lot, look at the digital images a lot, and eventually just choose a painting to start with. Once that’s set, I look for similarities between the paintings as a way of blending the images – a common line, colour, or texture which will allow a smooth segue between each image.
ME: So the ordering of the images is yours, Chanté?
CI:Yes all mine.
ME: What influenced the pacing (assuming they don’t all change after the same time interval)? For example, did the musical form and its major/minor sections influence your decisions?
CI: It’s all about the feeling of the sound, the surface of it. Generally I’m trying to find an image to fit that surface, and when the sound surface changes, the image changes. In earlier animations I would try to precisely match the visual and aural changes. But with rei I allowed the visual changes to happen both before, as a kind of precursor to what was about to come in the sound, and, in some instances to come after the change in the sound surface.
ME: How did you make the video, i.e. with what software?
CI: The animations are all made in Adobe Photoshop – literally hundreds of layered images, each lifted from the original scanned paintings, and that have unique timing codes to appear and disappear over the course of the piece. The final animation is rendered via Photoshop as a video file to which I then add the provided sound file.
ME: How did you collaborate with each other?
CL: It’s pretty simple really: I make the paintings in response to the music then scan them and save the images to our shared computer. Chanté then slices, dices, and mixes these into the final animation.
CI: There is definitely a lot of consultation during the animating process. It takes me around four hours to make one minute of animation and I tend to do too much, to overcomplicate the imagery. Colin is great because he helps me strip back the visuals, in order to allow the original paintings to come through in the final piece.
ME: How did you collaborate with Michael and Karin?
CL: Well, Michael and Karin pretty much gave us free reign. They gave us the sound file, I made the paintings, and Chanté made a first pass at the animation. We played it to them after dinner one night, for their feedback – Michael came up with the fade to (almost) black section which happens about two thirds of the way through – this really helped give structure to the final work. I think the most important thing, aside from the beautiful piece of music, was their enthusiasm. This really gave us the incentive to persevere and make what is the longest animation we have ever made.
CI: Do you ever consider the music you’re composing/performing could be interpreted through another medium?
ME: Yes, I do, but at present I wouldn’t consider expressing myself in another medium because I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that just because I have expertise in music, then I have automatic expertise in, say, video art. Also, I don’t think about music in any other artistic forms. I think I’m quite extreme here, as I know many musicians who react with other senses to music. To me though music is extremely abstract and in its own realm completely.
CI: Seeing the animation of rei for the first time, what did you both think? Did it ‘look’ like the music? (You can be honest!)
ME: I instantly loved it, but then, I have a predilection for your (style of) paintings, Colin. I can’t say that the animation “looked” like the music for the reason given immediately above: I don’t “see” music (unless I’m looking at notation, or waveforms) or have any visual experience at all when listening to it.
KS: I was very impressed when I first saw the video and immediately loved the colours, textures, and the pace of the changing images. For me there is a strong connection between the motion of the images and the music, both fading in and out, with very delicate transitions in texture and colour, both constantly flowing. Even when there is silence in the music or an image stands still the flow does not get interrupted; the impression of the music is so strongly in your mind that it carries on through silence, and looking at one image standing still your eyes can wander and discover the depth of the painting.
I’m a synesthete and always associated particular colours and textures with “for rei as a doe”, so in that sense the animation could not “look” like the music as I had “seen” it before. But I very much welcome that as my personal, automatic associations are of no intrinsic artistic value.
CI: Karin, was this piece written specifically for you to perform? What did you think when you first saw the score? Did you relate to it immediately or was it a slow romance?
KS: “for rei as a doe” was not specifically written for me; it was written for the pianist Rei Nakamura, who commissioned the piece. But, I think, Michael was influenced by my passion for working with fine nuances of tone and colour. I immediately related to first score drafts and electronic sounds. At first I welcomed the challenge of finding just the right colour and tone for each chord or single note. Spending more time with the piece I enjoyed discovering new layers of complexity; even though there is an overall calm impression there is still a lot happening within that calmness.
CL: Would you ever consider transcribing rei for another instrument or was it composed solely for the grand piano?
ME: No, I wouldn’t do this. I won’t say I couldn’t, but I wouldn’t want to. It’s the special attack and decay properties of the piano, along with its resonance potential, that’s at the heart of the piece. It’s all about nuance of attack, or “colouring” as we often say in music (though again, I would only use that term because it has established meaning, not because I actually see colours—Karin, on the other hand, is completely different here, as she mentioned above).
CL: Morton Feldman spoke about the relationship between the surface of sound and the painted surface. Have you ever looked at a painting, like the Jackson Pollock print in your hallway, and seen a similar relationship?
ME: I’m sad to say I don’t, unless I’m prompted to, though I can certainly see what he means with that statement. There are surfaces in Pollock’s work that have such energy, directional flow, and density, that I can think of musical works (perhaps by Ligeti, e.g. Atmospheres, or Ferneyhough’s La Chute d’Icare, even Coltrane’s Ascension perhaps) that would seem to immediately correlate. I see Pollock’s painting as incredibly and carefully balanced forms–which might seem completely at odds with the popular perception of his dripping technique–and this would seem to have an immediately apparent musical equivalent, though finding it is quite elusive, I would say.
CL: Michael, you started listening to rock music from an early age, and you told me your first album was ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd. Was there ever a point where you considered working with this form of music?
ME: I’m afraid I have to say no. My first tape was actually The Best of Deep Purple, though The Wall was the first album I bought with my own money. I still love that album, along with many others by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Hendrix, etc. But I also loved classical music back then (at 13 I thought Beethoven was heavier than any so-called heavy rock I knew) and once I started playing wind instruments in my teens I fell in love with the performance of classical music. That was followed fairly quickly by a fascination for composition, as facilitated by notation. Though I’ve since gone on to do a lot of improvisation, it’s much more in the tradition of free improv/free jazz/noise than in any song-based forms.