Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday, I think you should know: Mumford and Sons. Actually, I am assuming you already know the Grammy playing, banjo strumming, English folk troubadours, but what I want you to know is their new album Babel. Since its release on Tuesday here in the United States I have listened to the full album at least 10 times. I even wrote a review for my university's paper on it (which will be up shortly).
I may have judged the album too quickly though. Upon my first couple of listens, as you will see in the review, I found to be a little slow and repetitive. However, now that I have heard it a few more times-even enough to remember some lyrics-I think that each song is different in its own small way. As an album they all really come together to tell a beautiful story about love, loss, and religion.
The whole album is great and I recommend listening/buying the entire thing, but the songs I think you should know are "Whispers in the Dark" and "Broken Crown."
"Whispers in the Dark" is the second song on the album and a great fit right after the opening song, "Babel." Since the album is so new it is hard to find a good version online. The one below is good, but the album version is chills worthy.
"Whispers in the darkSteal a kiss and you'll break a heartPick up your clothes and curl your toesLearn your lesson, lead me homeSpare my sins for the ark, I was too slow to departI'm a cad, but I'm not a fraud, I've set out to serve the Lord"

"Broken Crown" is a haunting song that seems fitting with all the political turmoil happening around the world and even in this country with the approaching elections. Marcus Mumford's voice is particularly raw and emotive on this track. Some of the lyrics from this song were previously attached to the song "To Darkness" which the band sang on tour. (You can also find it on YouTube.)
"Crawl on my belly til the sun goes down
I'll never wear your broken crown
I took the rope and I fucked it all the way
In this twilight, how dare you speak of grace"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adventures in Curating: Narrowing the Field

I have come to the point in my semester where it is time to work on my first project for my curating film and video class. That means making my own "festival" using a list of over 200 video links my professor has provided for us. We have to pick at least three videos and the time of the festival cannot run over 45 minutes. 
It is a lot harder than it sounds. First of all, I have to watch all the films which range from the very experimental and abstract to the more narrative based. I actually have enjoyed watching most of them and seeing some familiar names on the list such as Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger. I admit, I did not watch them all because there were just too many. I watched a group in order and then skipped around the rest of this list picking the ones that had interesting titles.   
The problem I found was picking a theme to go with the ones I liked. My professor kept stressing that he did not want us to just pick the ones we like because in a real film festival you have to consider the audience and what you want them to experience, whether it is introducing them to a new artist or style but I would have trouble curating a festival with films I did not like myself. I tried to find something that connected them, a thread running through that would make for an interesting title and provide some structure for my film festival. 
The first video that I watched that I knew I had to find a way to include in my fictional film festival was Tad's Nest directed by Petra Freeman. I thought it was beautiful and so different from many of the works I had previously seen with its creative transitions and unique style. Plus it is animated and I rarely find good, or any, animated avant garde/experimental pieces. My first thought was to make a festival around the idea of animation, but I thought that could be too simple and I wanted to use a mix of media. 
After skipping around for a bit the title We Have Decided Not to Die caught my eye. I think this is one of the most beautiful works I have yet to see in one of my classes. The visuals of rising and falling bodies are amazing. They are so simple, but done in such an elegant manner. The idea of the rituals as presented in the video speak to the phases in life and the changing of identity. 
I knew that those two videos would make the foundation for my project. I struggled with finding connections between the two. I wanted to do something about the body as a spectacle before I saw We Have Decided Not to Die, but I ended up scrapping that idea too. 
Finally, I came upon the idea of identity formation and how our identity changes throughout our lives and even daily. It's something I have discussed in many of my English classes and it seemed to fit the films I had been watching. Other films I added to my fake festival were Anger's Mouse Heaven, a film about Mickey Mouse and consumer culture, Willard Maas' Geography of the Body which objectifies bodies both the male and female form in geographic terms, and James Broughton's This Is It which is an innocent and poetic creation myth.
Honestly, I am just excited to be done with my first project. (If you actually care to read what I wrote, it follows after the break and it's mine so don't go getting any ideas about stealing it and such even if it is the highest form of flattery.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Think You Should Know Thursday

This Thursday I think you should know Anais Mitchell, an artist I did not know until Monday, when I saw her open for Bon Iver. Mitchell, with her soft vocal harmonies reminds one of St. Vincent with a touch flower child-she did grow up on a farm in Vermont after all.
Mitchell owes a lot of her success to Bon Iver; not only is she touring with them, but front man Justin Vernon was featured extensively on her 2010 album Hadestown. Described as a "folk opera," Veron plays the part of Orpheus, appropriately named after the poet and musician from Greek mythology with the enchanting voice. Mitchell plays Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus. There are also other singers playing parts on the album including Ani Franco, Greg Brown, and Ben Knox Miller.
Mitchell just released her new album called Young Man in America this year and said in concert that it was named after her father (as well as the song by the same title).
"Wedding Song" is the first song from the album Hadestown. It is one of the many that features Justin Vernon. I had to include a song with him because their voices work so well together. Both singers have a lovelorn, folksy sound that evokes imagery of the forest and the beginning of the myth. "Wedding Song" is one of those songs that brings you some place else when you listen to it; somewhere not very far away, but also unfamiliar and enchanting. 
"EURYDICE/Mitchell: Lover, tell me if you can

Who’s gonna buy the wedding bands?
Times being what they are
Hard and getting harder all the time
ORPHEUS/Vernon: Lover, when I sing my song
All the rivers sing along
And they’re gonna break their banks for me
To lay their gold around my feet
All a-flashing in the pan, all to fashion for your hand
The rivers gonna give us the wedding bands"

"Coming Down" is from Mitchell's new album, Young Man in America. Here, her soft, clear voice is featured more prominently against only a piano. Both the song and the video that accompany it seem to represent a desire to grow up, but at the same time a nostalgia for the past and a fear of loneliness.
Please don't leave
Easy feeling
Don't leave me like that
Not yet
Don't set me
Free, free, free, free, free"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Adventures in Filmmaking: The Start of Something New

To say school has kept me busy is an understatement. My senior year has been crazy as I finish both my English major and cinema minor, continue my job as a resident assistant, lead Habitat for Humanity as the president of the club, write for the school paper occasionally, and also try to have a social life. Plus, it is my last year in college so I am trying to fit everything in that I have ever wanted to do. Which is my way of saying that I am going to try and blog as much as I can this year, but that I am also not making any promises.
This semester I am taking two cinema classes, both of which are different than any of the production classes I have take previously. The first one is my Intro to Sound class, which I decided to take after my summer at CNN. The PA did a lot of sound recording for the show and I realized that I did not really know anything about sound or microphones. Also, I have realized, that in recording my own films I am a person who usually focuses on image more than sound. I am excited because I feel like this class is going to challenge me to think in new ways while I am filming. Already having to analyze a film (Touch the Sound directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer) solely based on sound is different than anything I have done before. It made me realize that while I may pay attention to the soundtrack or score of a film, the sound in general, is not something I usually notice.
Wednesday we got to build our own contact microphones to use on our first project. We had to solder the wires together from the microphone onto the cable that plugs into the recorder. (I wish I could get more technical, but that's about all I got.) It was fun and hands on and the best part is, it actually works. The contact mic picks up vibrations; I can tape the mic onto any object and it will record. I am not sure what our first project entails, but I am excited to play around with it. I hope it rains because I really want to record the sound of the rain on the window.
The second class I am taking is a class called Curating Film and Video where we plan and run our own film festival. I am really excited for this class. We are all assigned different positions, from fundraisers to designers. I am the blogmaster which means I am responsible for promoting the festival online through the multiple channels of social media. It is something that I feel like I am skilled at because unlike most people I understand twitter, I have my own blog, and I know how to get people's attention. I find social media almost a game where you have to use things like hashtags, trending topics, and current trends to win. Plus, I figured it would be a good way to force myself to blog, even if it is not on my own blog.
At first I had really wanted to be the festival curator, the person who watched all the films and decided which ones made it into the show, but I decided to be a team player and take the job of the blogmaster since no one else wanted to do that. Plus, I was not sure if I would have the time to watch all the film submissions that we received. One of the main reasons I wanted to be a curator was because I wanted to introduce the program and the guest filmmakers at the festival because that is one of the curator responsibilities. At first I was really disappointed, but I have gotten over that fact and now I am just excited to be a part of the planning in general.
I think my senior year is going to be a good one. It has to be, it's the only year I have left so I plan on making the most of it and learning all I can while I have the chance.