My final project was a short performance video. It was an exploration of sounds created by using various materials to play a violin. The reason I chose violin because I have played it for eight years and I'm really familiar with this instrument. I started it based on my interest, so it has taken a significant part in my life. I always enjoy listening to violin, but I'd never tried to see how many interesting sounds it can make. By having the opportunity from this final project, I would use different objects to explore the music of violin. Two major focuses for my project were to search uncommon sounds from it and examine various video effects.
My idea for the project was inspired by John Cage and his prepared piano. John Cage, a talented American composer, developed many playing styles in music performance. His works often involved using chance, unstructured composition, improvisation, and multiple techniques. His most famous work was 4'33", performed by the "silence" technique. 4'33" was consisted with three movements. When every movement started, the performer would closed the lid of piano, sat in front of it, and kept quite until the whole performance was ended. Although 4'33" seemed like a simple piece, it had applied many music theories. Because the instrument did not make any sound, all the sounds heard were all depended on how they interacted with the environment at that certain moment. In other words, the audience was the performer. 4'33" could be performed differently every time depended on how audience wanted to react during the performance. It was a typical work that had used chance and unstructured composition. Among many Cage's works, I was really attracted by the prepared piano. He inserted objects between the piano's strings. When pressing the keyboard, various and unusal sounds came out based on which string contacted with which object. Furthermore, he made it as an improvisation piece, so the prepared piano was also a work performed with chance, unstructured form, and multiple techniques. The part I liked about it was its interdisciplinary. It combined a classical instrument with the objects that were usually not considered as a part of instrument, and created a playful way to perform music. A performance of the prepared piano was not the same as what we used to see in a concert, but it was not hard to understand the meaning of it either.
In the beginning process, I was planning to present my project as a live performance. Then I changed my mind to an interdisciplinary video because I wanted sounds had ability to interact with each other. By a video, I could overlay and rearrange the sounds.
Unlike piano, I thought it was more difficult to find objects that could make unique sounds to a violin. I also had to be careful to select items would not hurt my violin. After few days of searching, the final objects used in the video were: two strings tied around the violin, two pieces of a vinyl record, a 12 inch-long ruler, four key chains, two Ping-Pong balls, and a feather which was meant to pay Cage's respects. My most favorite sound was the on created by the Ping-Pong balls when tapping on the strings. Because the hollow structure of the balls, they made a funny twisted sound. Even though my project's idea was come from the prepared piano, nothing was placed on the strings or any part on my violin. The objects were only used for playing note and tapping the backside.
Originally, I wanted to use GoPro as my filming camera, but the one I borrowed might be broken because I wasn't able to turn it on. Therefore, I used my own Canon camera to do the filming. Before starting, I placed a navy blue blanket for the background so the viewer would not be distracted by anything on the back. Without using GoPro, setting camera to place I wanted really became a challenge, and it also limited filming angle. But in order to film from many angles, I tried to set my camera on violin by a stand, to tie it on some objects with rubber bends, and to held it by one hand when performed the sounds by another hand.
I edited my video by Adobe Premiere. I divided the performance into three parts. In the video, the first clip shown as the beat, and the other parts were just showing how I made the sounds. The three clips were not exactly match with each other was to show that it was an unstructured piece. To emphasize that point, I also put various visual effects, changed the size and moved the position of clips around. The problem I had faced was trying to completely overlay a clip on top of the other. I tested every effect in the blend mode of opacity section but many of them switched the footage to a strange color. Finally, I picked Color Dodge mode. Although it made the clip be slightly transparent, at least it did not change much on the color.
I got a lot of responds in the final critique. Most people reacted my video with a feeling of strangeness, even though I wasn't intentional to do that. More feedbacks were like wishing to see a score or to film myself when I was performing. I thought the score suggestion was good. I found out some audience was confused with the sound pattern because there was nothing served as the guideline. Filming myself was also a useful suggestion. But the reason I didn't do it was due to my discomfort of showing myself in front of a camera.
If I were going to redo the project, I would keep searching the perfect effect for the overlay part and made the transition smoother. At 1:37 in the video, there was a gap between the two clips. The disconnection was done on purpose, but the black screen was popped up as an accident. Also, I would make a graphic score so my audience could more relate to my performance.
One way of trying to set the camera
Took almost three hours for one of my sequence to be encoded