Musical Graffiti

This month I’ve been working with Seattle photographer Chase Jarvis on a short video project, with music scored for cellist and frequent collaborator Joshua Roman. It was a real last-minute gig, but the idea for the video was too tempting to pass up: a marriage between the rough criminal/underground character of graffiti with the (supposedly) more refined poise of classical performance. When I found out that the spot would feature a “performance” by well-known Seattle graffiti artist Weirdo, as well as a cameo by Ryan Abeo of the hip hop duo Common Market, I was eager to embark on what would definitely not turn out to be a dull project.

I’m certainly no career film scorer, and my experience with commercial work is admittedly less developed than my main line of work as a concert music composer. But I do have a lot of collaborative experience to build upon from the concert music world, and this turned out to be handy in the end: this whole video was to be something of a “test drive” for the new Nikon D7000, a digital SLR camera with video capability. Thus the film and score went through all kinds of editing and rewrites as feedback from the client trickled in, and being able to view the music as the result of a collaboration between several parties including myself helped free me up from what otherwise can feel very frustrating—having to reject ideas or bits of music that one is deeply attached to or even prefers over other solutions proposed by the party who’s cutting the check. In the end, it’s lack of feedback that’s truly terrifying in a commercial gig, so all the edits just helped to make the final product stronger and more in-line with what the client had in mind.

I remember an episode of “Sesame Street” where Itzhak Perlman absolutely rocked it on a cheap toy violin—after all, it wasn’t the instrument that was important! While the D7000 is certainly no toy camera (it’s set to retail at just over a thousand dollars), it’s a much less expensive camera than Chase and his crew normally use for their commercial work. That’s kind of the idea behind the video, which shows what can be accomplished by an accomplished professional working with streamlined equipment in some particularly unforgiving lighting situations:

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