I am very excited to have finally started working with my music collaborator the magical and fiercely talented Stephanie Starnes. A snow day (which means one inch of snow that shuts down the whole city of Portland) delayed our meeting by a week but we finally got together and made some progress.
We started by watching the silent video I sent you all last post and talking through the sections. I am structuring the film so that it's in three parts (three trimesters) and each have different feel. So we talked through the first section and what I currently have of the second section.
The first section, representing the first trimester, is the slower motion movement, shot from above. Primarily the sound I had in mind for this is the crystal singing bowl you see Stephanie playing in the video to represent the almost surreal quality of this trimester. I also wanted a few sparse lyrics but really had no idea what the lyrics should actually say. I spent a bit of time before Stephanie arrived going back through videos she has posted (see her patreon page here) to get ideas of some options and I came across something I liked that she had made up on the fly. So the lyrics we experimented with are:
There's a little spark
There's a little spark inside
Just close your eyes
Trust in the light
These lyrics felt just the right amount of abstract and poetic and also seemed to perfectly fit my experience, as time and again growing a human has been quite overwhelming and I constantly have to just surrender to it. I intellectually knew I was pregnant, though the chances for it not being viable were still relatively high as 15-25% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. I also couldn't feel the baby yet and mostly just felt symptoms rather than anything more tangible.
The second section, representing the second trimester, starts in the dance when the heartbeat comes in, the camera angle changes, and I start moving more and faster. In my experience, this was about the time when things started to feel real. My belly was "showing" and not too far in I did start feeling her move. (Now she parties in there regularly). The news was more public which brought on a flurry of well wishes and excitement from friends and family. We found out it is a girl, which makes her feel a little less alien and a little more human. During this time I also found it a bit of a struggle to balance everything I had going on in addition to anticipating the major life changes ahead. I run a non-profit (Dance Wire) that I started 5 years ago and is going through a major growth spurt of it's own. I want to keep dancing, because that's what keeps me happy and sane! Yet I was still struggling to eat, sleep and breathe - my most persistent symptoms of pregnancy.
So at this point I wanted to the music to increase in intensity to correspond with these changes and feelings. Stephanie's idea was to use layering to create that effect. We decided on her riffing off just a single syllable (ma) then laying another track over the top of it with her harmonizing with herself.
Due to technological ineptitude on my part, I don't have a recording of our experimentation paired with the video yet. So the video above is really just to show the behind the scenes process. After talking through the general idea, Stephanie watched the video and improvised vocally to the movement. Then we would discuss, make changes and attempt another recording. Once she got dialed in to the places in the movement I wanted specific sounds to happen we got on a roll. We recorded the baseline, then she watched again with that recording playing and harmonized over the top of it.
Between the crystal bowl keeping a steady sound throughout, her vocal range and the introduction of the heartbeat, the final sound has lots of dynamics and layers, which as I anticipated, really ties the movement together while keeping the energy flowing.
I am two weeks away from starting the third trimester, and I have no idea where either the music or movement is going to go at that point. So we will all be left in suspense until then. But the good news is it feels like it's coming together!