roundabout
Film/musical composition ; 2010 ; Duration 7:36

Composer: Allan Schindler
Filmmakers: Peter Byrne and Carole Woodlock

    Performance formats:
  1. DVCAM
  2. Laptop computer (best for for high resolution multichannel audio playback)
  3. video DVD (lower image quality)

It was a great pleasure to collaborate with Peter Byrne and Carole Woodlock once again in creating this work. I had previously worked with these two superb and insightful video artists on our 2007 experimental film/music composition passage, and also had collaborated with Peter in 2005 on Second Sight.

roundabout is an inquiry into landscape and memory, movement and flow. Peter and Carole have provided the following notes on the visual imagery in this work:

We use gesture, layering, randomness, pattern and color to evoke a sense of becoming. Live action footage, with hand-drawn and computer generated composite animation sequences come together in order to establish a shifting and layered sense of time and place. Interrupting ones sense of balance and location, a cascade of imagery interweaves and sweeps on a circuitous journey. A fragmented sense of place evokes a shifting center and viewpoint in which we seek to unearth the interaction and collapsing of virtual and real spaces.

Despite frequent variations in tempo and pace, occasional use of ambiguous tempi (seemingly fast and slow at the same time) and passages employing two or more simultaneous tempi in different layers, the computer-generated music is designed to convey a sense of continuous motion and gravitation, perhaps analogous to the current of a river or, alternatively, of tidal-like fluctuations in inflow and outflow. The music employs 19 tone equal temperament tuning throughout, so some of the chordal progressions and melodic lines initially may sound "pinched" or piquant (or perhaps simply "offkey" to some listeners), while other passages might suggest a hollow or "distant" quality owing to the use of acoustically pure (and thus hollow-sounding) intervals afforded by this tuning system.

Many passages are constructed from distinct, overlapping textural layers that employ different collections of sounds and often move at different tempi. However, I also attempted to interlock these layers and to thread them through one another, so that the music moves and breathes, swells and subsides as a whole rather than in a stratified or lumpy fashion.

Many of the textural layers are anchored by one or more defining sounds -- short, prominent melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, textural and/or timbral ideas that recur in varied, transformed or expanded form several times throughout a work. Some mp3 audio examples of recurring defining sounds in roundabout include:

  • a series of related jazz bass riffs, illustrated here by one of the initial presentations of this element, followed by one of its later transformations, and then by a subsequent expansion of the transformed version.
  • an oboe-like melodic fragment, in which long "floating" tones alternate with brief oramental turns, presented here in two variants from early and late in the piece
  • 4, 5 and 6 note melodic fragments of "gentle" bass metallophones (possibly suggestive of large steel drums or gongs) that amble up and down throughout many sections of the piece and that provide a braking motion or slow moving temporal counterweight to more active rhythmic layers; four examples are presented here; the source sound used to create these synthetic metallophones is this high pitched cencerros (cowbell) strike
  • diaphanous flickering or pulsating textural ribbons that rise into the air and then evaporate, as in these three examples

Concurrent with the gradual development of these defining thematic ideas, the piece also often employs rhythmically animated background textural layers that provide "surface motion" and a backdrop, as in this skittering example.

JPG stills Here are four stills of the imagery from the work and, at the bottom, a montage of these four images.

MP3 audio excerpt
Duration : 1 minute 44 seconds ; size 3.2 MB ; encoding 256 kBit stereo

This excerpt, from the opening minute and a half of the work, exemplifies some of the ways in which the musical elements discussed above, and other elements not mentioned here, are fitted together in the piece.

Links:
Peter Byrne, 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 Woodlock 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.
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 2010  Allan Schindler
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