~ soundtracks ~

Call for Contributions to Poetryfilm Magazine on Sound and Voice-over in Poetry Film

Poetryfilm Magazine, the multilingual, digital and print publication from Poetryfilmkanal, has just issued a call for essay contributions to its next issue, which has the theme “Ton und Voice-over im Poetryfilm” (Sound and Voice-over in Poetry film). I’ll reproduce the English-language version below. There’s also a version in German.

Dear reader,

a film poem might be seen as a visual illustration of a metaphoric text. Beyond that, the sound is a fundamentally important element. Music, voice and sound design have to be considered as essential aspects that add to the whole of the audiovisual experience of a poetry film.

Particularly the recitation is of central importance. No matter if visuals and sound were adapted to the poet’s recital of his text or if the visual part was created prior to the voice-over, the poetry film genre has always been an important experimentation field. More than in dialogue-based fiction films, single words play a key role.

The voice itself is not a neutral media. It intensifies and interprets the poem. Maybe it comments, parodies or even attacks it instead of bringing it into its service. Moreover, it has to adapt or to be adapted to the complex rhythm of the moving imagery, the edit, the foley, the sound and the music. This can happen in various ways. When the relation between the visual and the sound level is redundant, it might be perceived as a disturbance. Complementing one another, the two might create a third level which can add an additional meaning, an audiovisual surplus (Michel Chion) to the text.

Sounds, tones and noises have an impact on the emotional value of a film and guide our visual perception. What we see depends on what we hear. Even what we don’t hear can gain a presence through the sound. As poetry films live from their mood and their atmosphere, they rely fundamentally on the sound design’s qualities.

In her contribution to the first Poetryfilm Magazine’s edition Stefanie Orphal states that the fascination of the poetry film genre can be pointed out particularly well through the consideration of the sound. This is why a charismatic voice and an experienced sound designer should be engaged in the production process wherever possible.

When the music dominates and the beat remains a minor element, the poetry film draws near the genre of the music video. Music videos and video installations can be seen as poetry films, whereas songs and tunes can be interpreted as poetry. Various transitions and crossover forms can be found in this field regarding the visual language, the way of singing or reciting as well as in the complexity of the texts.

Call for Essays

We are looking for submissions for our Poetryfilm Magazine’s second edition, which will focus on aspects of sound and voice-over in poetry film. We are interested to initiate an interdisciplinary exchange of views on and experiences about recitation, music, noise, sound and artistic sound design in poetry film. Essays can be based on a historical research, a film analysis or a theoretical reflection – important to us is the practical approach, through which the filmmakers as well as the audience can gain a better understanding of the genre.

The contributions in the magazine’s first edition »Fascination Poetryfilm?« were held short on purpose, as we wanted to give as many authors as possible a chance to raise their voice. From now on, we are planning to publish longer texts of up to 10.000 signs (without footnotes wherever possible). We are hoping for submissions which lead us to open discussions and unexpected perspectives onto the topic. The second edition of the magazine will be published in time for this year’s ZEBRA-Festival, which for the first time will take place in Münster.

Aline Helmcke, Guido Naschert

For those who may not have read it yet, the inaugural issue of the magazine is available as a PDF.

Marc Neys in front of the camera: The Swoon interviews

I visited Marc Neys this past July mostly for a social visit. We’d really hit it off the year before at the Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar, Scotland. Also, I’m a big fan of strange beers and Medieval history, and Belgium has plenty of both. (See my photo essay at Via Negativa, “Embodied Belgium.”)

But I certainly didn’t want to let the week go by without filming the filmmaker and getting Marc to talk about how he makes his videopoems. After all, he’s one of the most productive poetry filmmakers in the world right now; his work as Swoon is inescapable at international poetry film festivals, not to mention at Moving Poems.

Fortunately, Marc was game. I originally thought I would make a single, twenty-minute video — I’d shoot a couple hours’ worth of footage, then edit and condense the hell out of it. The problem is that Marc really had a lot of interesting things to say, and what I’ve ended up with instead is a 42-minute documentary split into four, semi-independent sections. These can be watched in any order, I think. I’ve put them all into an album on Vimeo for easy linking and sharing.

I’ve also added closed captioning to each of the four videos, as I do with all Moving Poems productions these days, to make them as accessible as possible — but also to facilitate translating. If anyone would like to translate the videos into other languages, please get in touch. Vimeo will host and serve as many subtitle files as we want to upload.

Swoon on Sound

Marc explains how he creates the soundscapes he uses in his videopoems and other projects, despite not being a musician. He then takes us up into the bell tower of the cathedral in Mechelen, Belgium, famed for its massive carillon.

Swoon at Home

Where the handle Swoon comes from, and why Marc’s home and city double as a film set for many of his videopoems.

Swoon’s Secrets to Filming No-Budget Videopoems

If you only have time to watch one of these, watch this one. Marc lays out his basic DIY approach to making art, talking about the usefulness of water footage and other home-made filter effects, filming to music, cheap editing software, and more.

Swoon on finding a new angle in videopoetry composition

Marc talks about a new direction he’s recently taken: composing videopoems with the poem in text on the screen rather than in the soundtrack. Along the way, he talks about the influence of theater and classic film, and why he never follows scripts and works mostly by instinct.

New addition to web resources list: Free Music Archive

How is it I’d never heard of Free Music Archive before? It’s the newest addition to the Free and Creative Commons-licensed sounds and music section of our Web resources for videopoem makers page. According to FMA’s FAQ page,

The Free Music Archive … is an interactive library of legal audio downloads directed by legendary freeform radio station WFMU.

The Archive revolves around our Curators, who select and upload all the music you’ll find here. Curators come from all over the world and have a wide range of experience with good music. They include freeform radio stations, netlabels, artist collectives, performance spaces, and concert organizers. If FMA were a radio station, the curators would be our awesomely obsessive DJs.

In addition to enjoying and downloading free music, site visitors can set up their own accounts on the Archive, make profiles, become friends with other listeners, create and share mixes of FMA music, and write posts on a their personal blogs. Listeners can also show their appreciation to FMA artists by adding them as Favorites or even “tipping” them directly through the site.

Together, our Curator-driven library and our distinctly social architecture create a platform that both guides and is guided by listeners.

I’ve had good luck finding Creative Commons-licenced music for videopoem soundtracks at SoundCloud, Jamendo, ccMixter and the Internet Archive, but it’d great to have one more option — especially one so tightly curated. I’m also impressed by how well the above-linked FAQ page explains the different Creative Commons licenses. If you’re still unclear on that, check it out.