passage
Film/musical composition ; 2007 ; Duration 7:00

Composer: Allan Schindler
Filmmakers: Peter Byrne and Carole Woodlock

    Preferred performance formats:
  1. DVCAM
  2. Laptop computer (for high resolution multichannel audio playback -- see discussion below)
    Lower quality alternative performance formats:
  1. DVD video
  2. Beta SP (NTSC and PAL)

The official web site for this work is at http://www.passage.byrnestudio.net/
Currently, however, most of the information on that page is duplicated here.

Synopsis: passage reflects on the peripheral. An inquiry into memory, landscape, and departure, this work visually catches sight of experience as it moves past. The artists have sought to create a layered encounter with streams of visual and musical imagery and color.

The video imagery for passage includes computer animation and live action footage digitally processed. To my mind these two principal imagery sources have been wonderfully interwoven and inter-cut by Carole and Peter to form threaded textures and varied recurrences with haunting undertones.

The computer-generated music exclusively employs 19 tone equal temperament tuning, which acoustically provides many very pure melodic and harmonic intervals (especially the thirds and sixths) but also, in particular contexts, many "blue" notes and many intervals that tend to sound "stretched" or "compressed," seeming to "pull outward" or "inward." The music is anchored by a segmented, slowly-evolving melodic theme, generally presented by "hollow-sounding" flute-like or aerophone-like timbres, that is threaded through a constantly changing and evolving soundscape of harmonic and rhythmic textures and sound colors.

The tone colors of the principal melodic theme were generated primarily by means of resynthesis of Fourier transform analyses of saxophone, duduk and various types of orchestral and ethnic flute sampled tones. In this resynthesis, however, I altered some of the upper partials so that these frequencies would correspond closely to frequencies that occur in the 19 tone scale used in the piece. The 19 tone temperament thus not only determines the melodic and harmonic pitch content of the work, but also informs many of the timbres that "play" these melodies and chords.

Some of my previous collaborative image/music compositions , including some of the passages I am happiest with today, required considerable revision, cutting, stretching, sliding, tedious editing and tweaking before the music and imagery came together in a manner that seemed fluid, sharply defined, and (ironically) "spontaneous." With passage, however, the visual imagery and the music often just seemed to fall into place, with minimal revision and fussing. In several passages, when Peter, Carole and I first superimposed drafts of the music and imagery, we looked at each other somewhat incredulously and said, "That's it! It works!" Sometimes, with art as in life, things just work out, or one is the beneficiary of dumb luck.

This is my first piece written exclusively in an alternative tuning system, however, and at the beginning of the project it took me a couple of weeks to acclimate to the melodic and harmonic qualities of intervals that are larger or smaller than their twelve-tone counterparts. During this period some of the germinal melodic ideas and chords were constructed almost brick-by-brick, note-by-note, and I found myself continuously asking "Do I want the big interval or the little one?" (and also wondering, "How am I ever going to finish this #@^!&% piece at this rate?"). Some day, while sipping a Pina Colada at the beach, I'd like to write more about this process, which I found instructive. I'd also like to construct some musical examples that illustrate, if only for my own edification or diversion, how different this piece would sound and feel had it been written in standard 12-tone equal temperament tuning.

Limitations of DV format for multimedia production

The DV (digital video) format employed in the most readily available "professional" digital projection media, such as DVCAM and MiniDV, limits audio quality to stereo 48 kHz (or 44.1 kHz) 16 bit resolution. (Four-channel playback is possible, but only at unacceptably low 32 kHz 12 bit resolution). I find this limitation increasingly irksome. The fact that advances in audio resolution since the 1994 standardization of DV format have not been accommodated suggests that audio remains today a secondary consideration, or post-production afterthought, in most video production, and ultimately makes DV format an inadequate, compromised medium for presentation of works such as passage.

The music for passage was designed for playback over four or eight loudspeakers at 96 kHz 24 or 32 bit resolution. In these formats, the intended spatialization (and the subjective "spaciousness") of the sounds, and the detail of the musical textures, is (to my ear) much more vivid, compelling and immersive than the compact disc-quality stereo folddown available on DVCAM tape. Sometime soon, Peter, Carole and I hope to be able to produce passage as a continuous-play installation piece with multiple screen projection and high resolution, multi-channel audio playback.

JPG stills

MP3 audio excerpt
Duration : 1 minute 58 seconds ; size 3.7 MB ; encoding 256 kBit stereo

This excerpt, which begins about 2/3 of the way through the piece, exemplifies the cyclical alternation of the primary flute-like melodic theme with purely harmonic passages and with more animated and coloistic rhythmic textures.

It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with graphic artists Peter Byrne and Carole Woodlock on this piece. Peter, an Associate Professor in the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is an interdisciplinary artist and designer. His work includes experimental animation and digital projects, paintings, and drawings. He has exhibited nationally and internationally.
Carole is an artist who investigates visual culture through drawing, painting, digital media, and writing. She has exhibited her work regionally and internationally, as well as presented at numerous national and international conferences. Carole currently teaches in the School of Art at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

passage was premiered on 2007 ImageMovementSound multimedia shows on March 8, April 1 and April 15, 2007 at various venues in Rochester. Subsequent screenings and performances through May 1, 2008 have included:

    2008: Atlanta Film Festival, Atlanta, Georgia; Santa Cruz Film Festival, Santa Cruz, California; Ohio Independent Film Festival, Cleveland, Ohio; Maryland Film Festival, Baltimore, Maryland Johns Hopkins Film Festival, Baltimore, Maryland; Reynolda Film Festival, Winston Salem, North Carolina; Big Muddy Film Festival, Carbondale, Illinois; Oxford Film Festival, Oxford, Mississippi; Park City Film Festival, Park City, Utah;
    2007: Anchorage International Film Festival, Anchorage, Alaska; Montezuma International Film Festival, Montezuma, Costa Rica; backup_festival, Weimar, Germany (backup award citation for excellence); MidAmerican Music Festival, Bowling Green, Ohio; New England Film and Video Festival, Brookline, Massachusetts ; Antimatter Underground Film Festival, Victoria, B.C.; Atlanta Underground Film Festival, Atlanta, Georgia; Crested Butte International Short Film Festival, Crested Butte, Colorado; San Antonio Underground Film Festival, San Antonio, Texas

For performance/exhibition information on this work please send e-mail to:
Composer aschindler@esm.rochester.edu or
Filmmaker pjbfaa@rit.edu

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Copyright 2005  Allan Schindler
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