We were asked to participate in the North America BDA Promax Videophonics session with The guys at Big Machine. The brief asked us to create a music video for a piece of music "Pre-MTV". We decided to take one of Composer John Cage's tracks as opposed to selecting a more popular/ recognisable piece. This was a bit of a experiment both in process and result. Want to know how we got here... please read further.
The teacher-composer Arnold Schoenberg once called him "not a composer, but an inventor—of genius." To Cage, "everything we do is music." He believed that the function of art is to imitate nature's manner of operation, and to this end he tried to make music that resembles forms of organic growth—taking into account ugliness, chaos, and accidents, as well as beauty, order, and predictability. In addition, the manner of nature's operation appears to change according to scientific advances. One can find roots of Cage's experiments with "chance" and "indeterminacy" in the work of such French Dadaists as painters Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst and the surrealist poet André Breton in the early part of the 20th century, when quantum theory and the theory of relativity in physics were giving rise to new ways of conceiving space, time, and causality.
He received awards and grants; a few important music critics wrote perceptively and enthusiastically about his works. However, to most of the public and even to many musicians his compositions—especially the late ones—remain baffling and outrageous, an anarchic world of noise that cannot even qualify as music.
"John Cage." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2012)
"In a Landscape" Video Rationale:
We specifically choose one of the last pieces Cage composed before he entered his more controversial phase which he is now famous for. "In a Landscape" is a beautiful meditative piece written for Choreographer Louise Lippold which is reminiscent of Erik Satie's music Satie was a great inspiration to Cage and was pivotal to his musical and creative development. At the time of its creation Cage would have been in a transitional phase which would see him move from a place of traditional and rational music composition to one of organic indeterminate chance operations.
Our approach to the creation of this video was to emulate some of the philosophies Cage explored in his career with the purpose of representing this pivotal transitory phase of his music career. In order to do this we set ourselves a couple of rules:
1) Design the process not the final product.
2) Trust the process over rational thought and decision making.
3) Avoid traditional applications and pipelines as far as possible.
Using Google earth we allowed a camera to travel in a linear flight path across a randomly selected part of the African continent for the duration of the song. Using this path to control new cameras we recorded several new movies which allowed the operator to look around at areas that interested them along that path. We then used the new recordings to plot paths of each cameras point of view onto the landscape using Google Earths native tools, thus creating sculptures within the Landscape. We then proceeded to generate multiple versions of these recordings using different terrain heights which we could spool through to create the illusion that the landscape was pulsing. All Clips were then taken into a edit suite where we randomly cut between the multiple cameras to generate the edit you see in the final video. Finally we processed the video through photoshop and a vernoi pattern generator before pulling the two videos back into the edit suite for a final round of random edits.
Ultimately we hope the final video reflects not only some of the conceptual philosophies employed by Cage during his musical composition but also reflects the organic, yet minimalist, exploratory sounds heard in "In a Landscape".
Production company: Tennant McKay
Director: Hilton Tennant
Editor: Jonathan May
Footage capture & generation: Hilton Tennant, Jonathan May
Grading & Finishing: Hilton Tennant
Illustrator: John Steven
Sound Design: Givan Lötz