Film: Anna Cady and Saira Ahmed
Text: Burning the Rupatta – Deborah Alma, Burning – Joan McGavin
Music: Steven Kemper
My process for composing music based on existing works, in this case video (Earth) and poetry (Carcinoma), is one of “creative reflection” rather than translation. Translation implies a one to one relationship between ideas and events in the preexisting work and the new composition. This relationship maintains the same narrative structure of the existing works, implying both will follow the same temporal structure. Creative reflection, on the other hand, focuses on the meaning, as well as any individual components of the work that can be sonified or interpreted musically. The narrative structure of the original work does not need to be maintained, and the musical composition may unfold temporally in a very different way from the source material.
In both Earth and Carcinoma, it was important for me to react to the meaning of each work, while at the same time teasing out elements for musical exploration. In Carcinoma, this includes the form (the poem is in mirror form), the regular rhythm of the text: “sulphur, phosphate, plasma, soot,” and the image of scalding. Musically, the piece is laid out in a rough mirror form, and rhythmic motives are derived from the rhythm of the text. The notion of scalding is musically expressed through the harsh recorded sounds of Ebow on piano strings. In Earth, I focused on the languid movements of both the camera and the body, the visual “noise” of moving light and shadows filtered through the trees, and the concept of dirt and lowness. I represented these elements sonically through a combination of low and high distorted synthesized tones. Additionally, I both embraced and fought the smooth movement of the video through the introduction of semi-random rhythmic bursts of noise.