Sight + Sound: Iceland [3/2/17-5/15/17] by a zugunruhe

The Trip

I hadn't been back to Iceland since 2013, so being given the opportunity to live and work in a tiny town in the north seemed like a wonderful escape from New York City.

Skagastrond proved to be a perfect area to chill and work. I produced a handful of works while on site including Lightwaves and LoveDeath. The culmination of my time of the island is reflected in this video.

The Video

The theme of the video is the Ring Road, the most notable travel aspect of Iceland. Route 1 navigates the entire island and the video is a near-chronological timeline of driving the road counter-clockwise. 

When driving around Iceland, the scenery changes every twenty miles. Instead of linking similar shots together, the goal here was to show how abruptly the landscape changes and using this unique experience as the driver of the video.

I also wanted to give the video breaks from the assault of landscapes. These came in the form of tourists, animals, and vehicles.

Since I first visited in 2012, Iceland has exploded with tourism. While there were a fair amount of people then, it's more than quadrupled since. There are now actual parking lots at attractions on the south shore and people casually walk all over the place. At this point I'm pretty familiar with the main attractions, so it was like showing someone a movie that you love, but they've never seen, and waiting for watching their reactions. 

I also wanted to bring focus on mundane things that seem extraordinary in the context of Icelandic topography. Seagulls resting on a large chunk of ice, sheep feeding on grass in a fjord while camouflaged by their food, a main street in small town overshadowed by a serrated peak.

The Music

I wanted something ethereal for the music. I didn't want to copy Sigur Ros so I landed on recording my friend Tahseen matching an octave of notes in ohhh's and ahhh's then looping a small part of the recording into minute-long notes.

The music came together very quickly once I had the first note of each movement.  I was aiming for sounds that represented the wonder and space that the country gives travelers. I wanted sparse but lush arrangements that accentuate the already unreal views and the serene feeling that accompanies them. But again relying on video/audio syncopation. 

The Intro, First, and Second movements are purely her voice sampled and processed. The Third is primarily a melody recorded on an OP-1 with backing from Tahseen.

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Sight + Sound: Cuba [3/31/17-4/6/17] by a zugunruhe

The Trip

Thanks to a miscalculation, and my inability to realize that Switzerland and Iceland are in the same visa area, I needed to escape Iceland for a bit to extend my legal stay into May to catch the midnight sun.

I caught a last minute trip to Cuba with friends and stayed over a few extra days just to wander Old Havana. Although gouged a few times, the city was incredibly inviting. The plentiful rum aided and took away from the experience. The lush green of the northern part of the island was a beautiful compliment to the buildings in disrepair throughout the city.

The Video

These are simple shots meant to give the viewer a taste of what it's like to walk the streets of Havana, continuing with the idea from Sight + Sound: Switzerland

I decided organize the shots from morning to night, and begin and end at the Malecón. Morning traffic and joggers give way to the lively streets and loud car stereos playing mp3's from USB sticks. Everything cycles back to fishermen just off the road with the skyline of Old Havana in the background.

The Music

The music was influenced by the man playing in the bar at the end of the video. The sad D minor progression felt right to introduce the video, but didn't represent the country that I experienced or the footage that I shot. I settled on a simple three chord F major progression to keep the same feel in the notes and improvised a few lead parts to move the piece along.

I used a few filters to give the music a tinny sound of an old radio to match the romanticized antiquity that most Americans think of when imagining Cuba. Although my experience of Cuba was a bunch of old cars blasting "Despacito".

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Sight + Sound: Switzerland [1/31/17-3/2/17] by a zugunruhe

The Trip

In late 2016, I left my position at a healthcare startup and started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. At the time I was also working a lot at the gallery in Greenpoint so I started researching what to do in the art world. I applied for a residency in Iceland and was accepted. 

While planning, I tacked on a month long stay in Switzerland, because why not?

Staying with friends in Zurich, I bought a $500 USD Travel Pass that allowed me to use nearly every railway in in the country for free. I used this to my fullest advantage, taking trips on scenic railways and to explore the other large cities in Switzerland. I probably pulled $2000 USD of value out of it.

This is the fruit of those daily trips, which often had me back in Zurich by nightfall.

The Video

A few weeks before I left the country, I was able to duck and dodge my way around Sundance Film Festival in Park City. 

One of the films I caught was World Without End (No Reported Incidents) by Jem Cohen. The film centered around a small town in England with beautiful, static shots of daily life along with interviews of a handful of residents. The framing of shots and the blending of audio throughout truly hit me as something I could incorporate into the travel videos I have always loved shooting.

Once in Switzerland, I began taking video whenever I took a photograph that I liked. I framed these shots not only around basic composition and movement, but with the audio happening in the environment as well.

My aim was to build a sense of what it is like to be standing in these places. Too often are parts of the world portrayed through over-processed photos taken over long exposures and through filters. I wanted to add in the noise of tourists, the screeching of vehicles, and the ever present wind. These come together to offer sense of humor and realism that I love.

While editing, I composed the music after setting a timeline of video and edited from there. After establishing a flow of video, the most important thing for me was joint audio and video syncopation. the main trigger I used was the pass of melody without a descending note at the end. I timed the lack of note with a swan cleaning itself, a watch ticking, and a train gaining speed. I made sure everything matched as well as possible.

The Music

I had a lot of thoughts about what to do for the music. At the center was the yodel. I did my best to use the traditional vocal technique in the score for the video. but my synthesizer simply could not replicate the unique break that occurs when pushing the human voice to a falsetto that quickly.

Beyond that idea, I decided to replicate Swiss precision in machinery. I thought of a toy music box that unraveled the wonder of the country, starting with a simple melody that unwinds slowly, leading toward the bass and percussive elements of the mountains.

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