Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And Yet It Moves

I thought I'd talk a little bit about my doctoral thesis project in the works (well, the main one, at least). I haven't done something quite like this before, so it's probably good I write down the working process and figure it out as I go along. The piece, titled 'And Yet It Moves' is a 15-minute-long epic music video of sorts, and it features three locations on the CU Boulder campus: the Observatory, Old Main, and Norlin Library.

I've written/conceived of music for each section, which will then be recorded and layered on top of one another. Then, the recording will be 'lip-synced' of sorts into a music video, though the videotape will be much more abstract than a traditional concert video. I'm considering it more like a sound and image "collage" like my sound pieces for Origin of the Sun and Moon rather than a tried and true music video with narrative or a concert video showing all the little details of performance.

The three sections of the work all center around the concepts of learning and discovery, and of motion. Firstly, the motion of the sun-- the Observatory piece is about the chemical composition of the Sun and all of the elements in the Sun that give us the visible spectrum.

The section in CU's first building on campus, Old Main, is about the movement of human bodies in time and tells abstractly the story of Mary Rippon, CU's first female professor. Rippon, a foreign language professor, had a secret child with one of her students, and kept the whole affair (and the baby) secret from the University. This story takes place at a time when it was illegal to be a female professor and be married, let alone be a mother. Apparently at the turn of the 20th century, people (likely men) thought that all the intellect would get drained out of a woman if she were not single and childless. I digress. Rippon ended up taking a sabbatical and had the baby in Germany, and her husband/student Will took a boat to Germany later to pick up the baby at a care center. The child was raised as Mary's 'niece' for her whole life, and didn't know that her Aunt was her MOTHER until the baby was something like 60 years old. CU didn't know about this story until the 1990's, and I thought the story was too delicious not to tell. I set Mary's and her husband Will's texts into choral works for the piece.

The third "layer" is in the main Library on campus and is a very John Cage-like piece, with only minimal instructions and very little music score to be seen; people will take books off the shelves and read them in different tempos, and they'll throw papers in the air and generally have a good time being academic. Graciously the staff and faculty from all three buildings were very encouraging about me using their spaces.

I guess it's a bit of a love story, a swan song, to my time as an academic. My (ridiculous number of) years studying in the collegiate settting are coming to an end within a year or so, or so we hope if I can finish everything on time. I think I've selected a few places which have inspired me throughout the years, in one way or another, like the areas of science, and poetry, and architecture, and there's even some electronic music in there too. I like the idea of the large-scale "solar" section in contrast with the "human" section and the "neurological" section of thoughts flying around in the library. If it all works, it should be a really fun time.

Recording everything will be done in a million tiny pieces and then stuck together like a puzzle. Videotaping will probably be the same way, so in a way it is very much like a collage. And recording sessions start soon so I best get to typesettin'!

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