Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Orator sounds....

a week ago Hinemoana and i went to see The Orator (O Le Tulafale) by Tusi Tamasese. There has been a lot of buzz about this film and we were really keen to see it because of this but also because the sound design and music had been done by Tim Prebble. I follow Tim - he is one of the few twittery tweeters who's tweets come direct to my phone so i get to see his day to day thoughts and workings on sound design and whatever else is of interest to him. Tim is an amazing blogger - his site Music of Sound is posted regularly and contains all things sound from the internet that are of interest to him, and as if he hasn't got enough to do, he has created a new site Music for films. Tim has done sound design in numerous films - most recent examples include Boy and Home by Christmas. From what I've seen of him through his work and writings, he has a minimalist aesthetic, a high attention to detail, a love of a wide range music and sound. 

In much the same way that i delighted in following blog snippets during the making of the Radiohead album In Rainbows before savouring the final product, i was able to follow Tim's bloggings about his field recordings for the film so it gave me an added bonus feeling of having been there in just a small way in the creative process leading up to the finished product.

because of all this, i was determined to pay special attention to sound design aspects of the film - this could be detrimental to the viewing of a film but i decided to trust that the story would hold up even though i was viewing with one eye on the story and one on the sound so to speak.

i really enjoyed this viewing approach and it didnt take away from the experience at all - The Orator is a strong story which is beautiful in every aspect - visually, in sound/story and acting.

i won't say too much about the story itself except to say that it addresses some powerful themes around relationship estrangement, forgiveness, courage, vulnerability, isolation (physical/psychological) stubborness, ritual and more besides. it is a film that stays with you in that it is multi-layered. hinemoana and i had a lengthy conversation all the way home about different aspects of the film. i highly recommend it.

i am not a film reviewer by any means but wanted to note the various sound design elements that were a highlight for me - this is also a week later so they will obviously be the ones that have really stuck!

  • Atmosphere - because of my concentrated listening i gained a lot more appreciation of the role of general sound background in creating a sense of place and atmosphere. these were numerous and included the sounds of wildlife - both near and fact the distant sounds (dogs, chickens) added to the sense of separation that was experienced by the main protagonists as they were, either through choice or in punishment, banished from normal village life. the echoing animals added to this sense of distance and detachment from normal village life.
  • Voices - this same effect was created many times by the use of distant and off-camera voices which either taunted the main characters or provided another contrasting joyful and communal sound to contrast the isolation they were experiencing. it was a fabulous tool in that often we would hear these off camera voices but wouldn't see them. this added to the sense of disconnection and loneliness and we got to experience it too.
  • Change of shot = change of sound (sometimes) - this is kind of obvious but the realisation of the attention to detail required in every shot came through very early in the film. There was a very dstinctive shot which was upward looking through holes in large leaves through to the sky. from memory the sound was that of general landscape (air, animals, wind etc) - what was interesting was that the next shot was of the dirt and the sound changed right at edit point to reflect really was like if you're standing in a bush and then you duck down, the sound of the atmosphere becomes muted and the bass frequencies more prominent.
  • multiple places interelated - one of my favourite sound design elements was in a climactic part of the movie. a lot of powerful elements were coming together in the thought processes of multiple characters, so the edits were moving more quickly between them - from Saili cutting yam plants to his wife Vaaiga who  rapidly declining in health, to shots of the Ifoga (offending party seeking forgiveness). the sounds used reflected what was happening on screen but were used against different visuals - eg. from memory the sounds of the machete cutting came in early before the actual shot and maybe against images of the Ifoga or Vaaiga's face....conversely Vaaiga's laboured breathing appeared over shots of Saili thinking. this was a powerful device for me as it served to link together metaphorically the destinies of the characters and illustrated that whatever decisions they were making or processes they were going through were each going to affect them relative to each other and as a community.
  • sound to emphasise dialogue - another scene that captivated me sound-wise was when Vaaiga is reprimanding her daughter...she says 'my words are going be emblazoned on your mind' or something to that effect. as she says this the sound of distant dogs barking appears which, to my mind, emphasised the 'doggedness' of Vaaiga's determination that her daughter should never forget this the way that dogs barking in the distance can be a form of aural torture - so were these words going to be. at the same time another processed sound appeared that reminded me of a distant choir of altered voices.
  • soundtrack - i didn't realise til the conclusion of the movie that Tim was responsible although i should have been able to tell from the subtlety of it...i can't remember what the source material of the score was and i think this is a good thing - Tim has put up excerpts of it for us to listen to or download here. i have chosen not to listen to it while writing this as my response here is based on memory. whatever the sound source was - the remarkable thing about the score is that there was no discernible melody - in fact the score could almost have been linked with the sound seemed to be mixed in with it - not separate from or out front of but a sound design device itself.
    this was truly a stunning film, exquisitely paced - slowed down to the speed of life you could say...immersive, restrained and powerful.
     thanks too Tim for sharing your skills and experiences with us.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

sCratchings aND duMpiNgs

i have woken in the small hours of morning to another itch-fest and thoughts about the oil spill in the Bay of cat is expecting an early feed and is staring at me wide-eyed around the corners of the table.

i woke as per usual these past four months only this time four hours after going to sleep, not two - and this time decided to try and curb the incessant itching by reading so i grabbed an old favourite from the shelf "Original Blessing" by Matthew Fox and mentally chose a page number - 96.

"...King Yahweh preserves creation and sustains it by being a just king. Justice preserves creation  and makes it thrive and blossom in ever fertile ways...

Say among the nations, 'Yahweh is King...Firm has he made the world, and unshakeable; he will judge each nation with strict justice. Let the heavens be glad, let the earth rejoice. Let the sea thunder and all that it holds...(Psalm 96:10)

...God, Creator and King, has entrusted humans the needs of the creation and its preservation.....It was the work of the prophets to constantl confront the kings when they failed - as they so often did - at carrying on creation by way of preservation and justice-making"

(Original Blessing pages 96 and 97)

once again i am challenged at my lack of outrage given the events of the spill - my cat's eyes are still imploring me for food but he has resigned himself to more of a sit-in/occupation response!

i have often been slow towards verbal outrage and often even the feelings of outrage - it must be in some ways a form of my phlegmatic nature - whilst slow to anger it is certainly deeply felt when it arises.

the oil spill is a gutting and tragic event there can be no doubt - i am fortunate in that i am currently not on the beach staring at the waves of black coming in. my partners father lives in Matata so i have grown to love the wildness of that beach - the particular way in which the great swelling waves come right up to shore and then dump suddenly downwards - it is a difficult sea to get out in for a swim as it is a short trajectory from standing on the shore to being in the deep water. Hamu the dog has spent many an afternoon pacing the beach and barking in concern for his dad's safety. Val is a diver and we have gone across the bar with him - he talks about the country down there - it is most probably his first home and the house he lives in his second...

so to think of that whole area covered in black slick is gutting.

in the quiet of the night when my mind races as fast as my skin irritates me, i have had many thoughts about what i feel and think about the tragedy and if i can regrasp some of those thoughts they will appear here in a somewhat stream of consciousness form i'm sure...

like it or not, we have all benefited and live in a world that has been driven by fossil fuels - the navy boats that have been sent to assist in the oil salvage operations have been powered by oil to get to their destination alongside the Rena. Hinemoana's friend who works in the assessment of possible oil drilling sites has on occaision reminded her that the scope of the oil industry is far greater than what we immediately perceive...did he say it even relates to computing and other modern technologies - did i get that right?

my cat has just chirped at me - he thinks i'm getting up - i'm just changing position...he feigns disinterest 'i'm just cleaning myself here...nearby....very near...with one eye on the bowl'...

it does now seem like a very antiquated way of transporting goods - now that we see it in all it's glory...some very run-down looking over-sized barge overladen with huge containers - it all looks very precarious now that it is on a 6 degree, 11 degree, 22 degree list...

in a curious way, it has made me mindful of all the tonnes and tonnes of goods that have made its way in and out of the country for days and weeks and months and reminds me of when my flatmate Fe used to give thanks for our food and she would bless the truck-drivers and the people who grew the food etc...sometimes these disasters, while dotting our newspapers frequently, remind me of the many myriads of ways that humans make things and make things happen and build things and move things and fix things and deliver things and transport things without makes me thankful on a level for the creativity and resourcefulness of humans....but yes, there is that thing about justice and co-operating with the earth...a town that has built itself economically on the back of its port is now in shock that it too can suffer at the hands of industry much as it has witnessed overseas - we are not about those All Blacks.

my cat has now repositioned himself so that his body is full on facing in the direction of the mecca bowl...

i have had to relent and feed him as i needed a toilet stop and he was just going to meow and protest and create i have silenced him with food.

my own microcosmic universe has been having its own toxic dumping - four months of being over-run with eczema - a benign sounding but rather unpleasant affliction and one which the health books and Chinese/Indian philosophies say is the result of too much taxing of the cleansing organs. with nowhere to go and being clogged with more than they can handle, they have unceremoniously dumped toxins out through the skin and like shoreline slavage it clears and reappears and clears and reappears...

at times like this we are forced in a way to consider what our life has been like and what it will be like from here on in...this is difficult enough as an individual to think about - what am i willing to change to make my life better in the future? is a massive undertaking for a global community especially one where it seems that the ones affected least are often the ones holding the cards...but we all get to decide how we can be stewards of the planet, of how we can move towards tino rangatiratanga and co-creation with the planet...i have no doubt that a newer, better way will be found...its a matter of when and how much it will be reactionary and desparate last measures...

through my experimentations with eating raw - i'm well aware that it is easier to make such a change when it is thought of as expansion, as adding to a pleasurable life - rather than taking's pretty hard to make drastic changes cold-turkey unless the stakes are high sometimes - though i have read of some people for whom going raw became a natural transition and one that felt better than what was previously lived.

wouldn't it be nice if we found new ways of harnessing energy that felt expansive and beneficial and exciting and not merely a knee-jerk reaction to catastrophe...humans need a good bit of catastrophe sometimes - it humbles us and reminds us of our place and gives us renewed vision.

i am grateful for the ways in which the body can rejuvenate (and i'm counting on it!), i'm grateful for the ways in which the earth rebalances and corrects itself...i'm so sorry for all the birds and fish that have suffered from this tragedy and from the fallout of our activities...i'm grateful that the earth is the supreme self-healer.

the kaumatua says there was too much hui and not enough do-ey...quite possibly

i feel a little weary now and i'm sure i had some amazing thoughts in the dead of night that i can't quite access now...another time another time... 

"see them mining for that precious black gold
it burns with desire and leaves a mark on your soul
see them drilling without asking why
pretty soon we'll see those toxins fly...

and you - why won't you tell me what makes you happy
why do we have to dredge it up until we're left with nothing".

(from song Easy composed by CW)