Haiku 2 is the second in a series of very short pieces (1 to 3 minutes) I am doing between October 2012 and December 2014. My goal is to make a piece every three months in collaboration with a different sound artist. Each project involves boundaries being placed on both the audio artist by me and on me by the audio artist.
For Haiku 2, I worked with my good friend Chantal Vitalis, an amazing guitarist who’s toured in Canada, Europe, USA, and Australia as a solo artist and also as a member of The Lovebullies, Kris Demeanor's Crack Band and her former bands Same Difference and maud. She’s played on several recordings and has her own CD’s “Today’s Special” and “Beautiful Light”. She’s composed for films, and been in plays. Oh, and she’s even won an award for best voice over for an animated film (“The Empress” where she plays the character Jean).
The restriction I gave Chant for the music was that she had to de-tune her guitar randomly, get into a groove and play, and that the whole process for her couldn’t take more than an hour to do. I was looking for a really organic, crunchy piece of music you’d be able to demolish things by, and damn, I got it! At first I was a little put off by the drum machine, and was able to get her to tone it down a bit, but I think it really works with the piece, and I even tried to incorporate a few shots with a direct reference to it, for example I was going to end the piece with John (thats the old guy) shaking a tambourine while smoking his cigarette, but it looked a little too crazy, so I changed it to its current ending, which I wont spoil for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet.
When I was figuring out what visuals to make for this film, it occurred to me that the music really wanted car chases and explosions, a gun fight maybe. So I decided to go the complete opposite and have a guy waiting for a phone call. It became important at some point that he was smoking as well, I had just seen Quique Rivera’s film El Delerio del pez Leòn which had a really effective shot of a fish smoking a cigarette under water, so I stole the idea but didn’t add any actual smoke effect to the film, just a rolled up piece of paper that I occasionally shone a laser pointer at to make it look like there was a glowing tip. The other thing that kept creeping into my mind was the opening sequence to Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee where he has Rosey Perez dancing around with boxing gloves on to Public Enamy’s Fight the Power. So if the sequence where John is boxing seemed a little out of place, thats what I’m referring to. I think the film came out in 1989 so I was a lot younger, and lets just say it stuck. Again as a contrast I thought it would be fun to have a decidedly un-sexy puppet recreate the scene.
I asked Chantal if she had any restrictions for me, and she sent an email with 2 words in it: strobe effect. I did this in a couple ways, first I wanted a traditional Strobe light feeling, with a light flashing on and off, but I wasn’t sure exactly how quickly a strobe light flashes or how quickly the flash ‘decay’s’ which is quite important when your isolating 24ths of a second. I solved this by shooting each frame with different camera settings, one with the aperture open for 3 or 4 seconds, to give a very bright exposure, and one with the aperture open for only a fraction of a second to give an underexposed photo. Then I layered the 2 sequences with the bright exposure on top of the underexposed and just played around with the opacity levels of the upper layer frame by frame until I got what I wanted. The other way I did the strobe effect was by shooting the boxing shot with two cameras and shifting from one view to the other every frame.
OH, and very special thanks to my mom for making John’s awesome pants! Well, that and the giving birth to me thing.