“The Beatles still sell for €5,99″ and other tales of everlastingness

I noticed on my visit to the music shop today that a new batch of low-price The Beetles CDs had arrived. Now I already own all of The Beatles, so I really had no reason to pick up the disc set to inspect it, but I did and one thing stood out: a €5,99 price tag; which is roughly $8 or £5 or ₹500 I suppose.

It is fascinating how a rock band that was active for ten years sells, nearly forty years later, for the same price as Beiber’s enhanced My World disc on Amazon.

Without meaning disrespect to anybody, I think that this shows just how popular The Beetles had become by the time they broke-up. In contradistinction, it is an issue of concern that every music group’s gospel — performing every single one of the Beeth’s excruciatingly hard-to-perform symphonies — sells far cheaper than the mediocre music made today solely for cash. Perhaps that is because everybody does it; but should repetition of a classic make it any less of a classic?

Speaking of Beethoven, I recently answered myself a question that had been bothering me: what on earth does Beethoven mean? As it turns out, Beeth is beetroot (yes), and hof is farm. So that gentleman we all so admire is Ludwig from Beetroot Farm.

But are classics really held far less worthy, or does everything modern generally take precedence when it comes to setting prices, or are our tastes as a society changing, or should there exist a very different kind of motivation to last, as former US Labour Secretary, Lynn Martin, put it:

No matter what your religion, you should try to become a government program, for then you will have everlasting life.

Even more interesting is that most of what we listen to today may be heavily modified; whether it is really done that way or not, nobody can deny that we have enough technology today to make person X sound a million times better than he really is, especially if that Mr X agrees to hand over the producers a greater percentage of profits than the better-sounding-poorly-sharing and more deserving artiste, Y.

I have, bookmarked, this 1919 photograph of Cxechoslovakian violinist and composer, Jan Kubelik, from sometime back. It really is a reminder that we came from a time when state-of-the-art music refinement was done using cones taped to reduce reverberation.

Jan Kubelik (R) with Bruno Seidler-Winkler at the Piano.
Photo courtesy Flickr/painting in light

Today, refinement has come from meaning getting musicians’ unadulterated sound to helping them by making it sound better. It has become Photoshop for audio.

A counter argument I can suggest myself is that the term classics is too loosely defined. Our renaissance classics were modern works during the renaissance. While desperate efforts were being made to save the then-classics, what was really being celebrated — being the centre of attention — during the renaissance was the day’s absolute modern attempts at art.

It then does not seem far fetched to say that Beiber may become a classic singer around the 2050s or later. And we are only paranoid in saying the classics are on a decline. Or that they are in any way comparable to today’s approach to art and society — both of which have inherently changed a lot between the 16th and 21st centuries.

But even such an argument does little to explain why The Beetle’s low-price disc should sell for close to €6.

 Cover image: Flickr/erin 

Featherwave goodies: The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks and new opening credits

2013 has been a good year for my short films. A lot of finalisation of Telltale was complete and that book was closed. Then my friend, Raghul, and I, under the Featherwave banner successfully produced our latest, and arguably best, work till date, The Abel Photographer.

New opening credits

Starting 2014, the second year for our planned Featherwave project/s, we welcome two new members on-board our small team. With The Abel Photographer, although the house debuted with its first short film, the opening credits were never judiciously worked on.

As a necessity, the same sequence was re-worked maintaining a similar idea but with very subtle enhancements. What lies beneath this video represent Raghul’s and my beliefs and approach to making a film.

It has been lengthened from 7s to 10s, includes a brief new soundtrack while maintaining the same geometry as the first sequence. This will be our permanent opening credit henceforth. It is very simple, so it does not fight with the film itself for more attention.

Update #1: corrected opening credit sequence

After I put up this credits sequence, I got a few emails from my readers. Thanks to some of their patience, I was able to point out the problem, which was one of two things: some of you only saw a black video, while most others found the title disturbingly invisible around the edges.

The second problem was because the video was getting sized wrongly on some browsers, mostly due to caching. It is very likely that you experienced one of these problems, and now that it has been rectified, I request that you spare another 10 seconds and appreciate it in its actual form.

NB This is in 3.2 kbps, our films will use a higher 5kbps version. (Why? Too huge to upload; bear with me).

On behalf of Raghul too, I thank you very much!

Update #2: the spirit behind this video

I was fighting against myself to speak nothing of this, but when over ten to twelve readers asked me the same (or a similar) question, I thought I would add it in here. The question, paraphrased, was an interesting one: what does the sequence represent? or, as one reader asked me, what was your thought-process while imagining this credit sequence?

Firstly, interesting and well-put. Secondly, the answer itself: if you observe the video rather than watch it, you notice three stages of development; under other circumstances, I would have chosen to represent this physically using several characteristics, but this time I decided to throw all the responsibility on a single property: colour.

The video goes from near-grey scale to blue to orange-yellow. It is merely a representation of what we believe in behind the scenes, the yin and yang, that a film must contain the good and the bad, the dark and the bright, the greedy and the generous, the horror and the joy, the question and the realisation; and a grey area between it all where the viewer stands, deciding the meaning for themselves.

While this is what intended/worked with, like all of Featherwave’s productions, this one, too, is open to your interpretation.

The Abel Photographer short film soundtracks

We have, lined up, an abstract-drama production to be filmed in early 2014. As most of our other works are doing their rounds, we’d like to give out the four soundtracks from The Abel Photographer short film to end 2013 and start the coming year afresh.

Abel’s theme

Abel is a fictional photographer in the film. A very famous, almost legendary figure, the entire story begins with Adam discovering one of Abel’s lost works. This is the late Abel’s theme.

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Adam’s theme

Adam Weathers, the main character in the film, is a photographer in professional capacity, who soon learns that he has a very long way to go after a realisation comes over him in the film.

Actor Raghul Selvam (Telltale) takes on the role of Adam Weathers. This is his theme.

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Fermez les yeux: the Judgement day theme

Abel’s lost photograph discovered by Adam is popularly known as Judgement Day. This piece, following the photograph, is stormy, inspiring and structurally complex to abstractly represent the picture itself.

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Les poèmes sans parole: realisation

This is a minimalist theme that reflects Adam’s realisation; it makes him stop, think and understand much better exactly what it was he was trying so hard to do. The piece ends on a ringing note summing up the entire production of The Abel Photographer.

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We hope you enjoyed whatever bit of our work you saw, heard or watched. It has been a long time since I replied to some of your requests both through this website and elsewhere who so our film, who expressed their wish to listen purely to the music. You can download that as well:


From Raghul Selvam,

Actor and co-founder of Featherwave

Fresh off the closed tab where I saw Featherwave’s new opening credit, and I must say it’s simple and yet appealing. I keep getting reminded of the niche that our films are creating. This just makes me more excited about our future projects. The way we shoot and work together, is on a different level. Starting from the very less use of words on-set and the understanding between me and V.H. Belvadi is uncanny!

I am always the lazy one, trying to push the film faster and to get over with it as soon as possible. But V.H. is a perfectionist. He will get what he needs out of the shot in a very subtle way, as in, he knows how to get work done out of people. And I hope that will be helpful with the addition of the two new members of our production in Origami! I have no words or expectations as to where we might go ahead or how big this “Featherwave” will become. I, for one, am an optimistic, and I don’t think we would stop churning out films until our house turns into a big production house. I think V.H shares the same enthusiasm in films as much as I do. And I know he won’t stop short of my expectations.

I have heard a lot of short films do not care about documentations in India, and one of the new recruits was elated that she had to sign for a film, which meant legal rights and et al!

My efforts and intentions are big for Featherwave, and I hope V.H. Belvadi shares my thoughts. After all, we do share a lot in common!


And back to me for a few closing words:

There is a lot of truth in what Raghul says — we have good communication and understanding, and that goes a long way in making a film. And there is some lie — he is not as lazy as he thinks he is, although, yes, he does try to finish a film as quickly as he can and I can only attribute it to an enthusiasm we share to watch our finished work as soon as we can!

We intend to grow big, no doubt, but that can only be achieved by keeping up all we have so far and adding to it. Introducing two new members to the team is just a start. They are the many faces of Featherwave.

2014 promises to be a good year for Featherwave, and I for one hope that this is just a start of a successful journey for our humble four-man team.

And, if you have not seen it yet, do not miss the trailer for The Abel Photographer:

Have a great year ahead and join us for more short film fun!

VHBsign

The quest for a music cassette, “The power of love”

Everybody’s childhood has something they hold onto even after considerable years. Mine lives in a bucket under the stairway at home, but that is only one part of it. The other is missing.

A thing of the past

Funnily enough, what I call a part of my childhood was never really mine; it even dates back nearly a decade before mine. It was a little, red music cassette known as “The Power of Love” and belonged to my parents.

Once I got around, I used to carry it with me and play it over and over again in-between my classic children’s tales cassette on my personal Phillips Walkman. I was no older than six years of age. And I understood very little of whatever they said in those songs, but it did not matter: for me, it has always been about the music, the rhythm, the tone, the pitch and the feel.

When things begin to change

The songs in that cassette stayed for a very long time until, when I was just reaching around nine or ten, we moved house and a lot of cassettes and large, black, gorgeous looking vinyl records (among other things) either got unwound, broke or were lost. This was one of them. There was also a large, posh-looking gramophone from my grandfather’s era that we got rid of.

Sometimes, when I walk around in melancholy, I can still hear those tunes at the back of my mind. But I realise it is only an illusion; an innocent (freudian?) manifestation of my yearning to get that cassette back.

Amazon lists this under the name Power of Love but neither the art nor the songs match the one I am looking for.

It is most prominent when I come across select songs, and I seem to know them. It is not a déjà vu, it is quite real, because I can pause playback and hum through the song (sometimes right to the end) even when I am listening to it the first time. Of course, this does not happen with every song, just a couple of them, or three at best, in an entire year.

My explanation is that I listened to those songs for so long, it is in my subconscious — just like how we remember bits of history even if we never took out a book and dedicated years to study it. Now, when I actually want to buy that cassette, I cannot: nobody makes cassettes anymore. Things have begun to change, but that is not even the weirdest part yet.

Another novel quest

If you remember I was once stuck with a song playing itself repeatedly in my mind and a brief quest and a lot of examination later, I learnt that it was a Japanese song used most popularly in the film “In the mood for love”. This was back in late 2010. About a year later, during a local film showcasing, my friend, Raghul, and I actually watched that film and I, for one, loved it.

Now that made me launch a quest back in 2011, to search for this cassette and buy it at any cost. I have looked up and down, turned the earth inside out, asked people, poked them to answer, tweeted, traced sources whenever I heard a familiar song and generally jumped around in vain.

A.K.A. fine times
Photo courtesy: Flickr/Freshly Diced

Having searched for two whole years now, I can confidently state that that music cassette does not exist.

How does something just vanish into thin air? I even remember the cover art and a couple of songs, so, as yet another try, I am going to describe the first and put down the latter before you.

Roses and wings

I distinctly remember that the cassette cover had a red rose on it, with the letters The Power of Love written in white. It was, I think, volume 2, but do not quote me on that. I remember the font was something very similar to Elephant.

Several aggregation, chronicling and e-store services from last.fm to Amazon list a product by name “(The) Power of Love”, but none of them are the one I am looking for. My indication? I am positive there was no Luther Vandross song in my old cassette.

And how do I know what was in there? I recognise some faintly, while others my mother or my father (both who owned the cassette in their youth and adulthood and not as kids of six years) who are clearly better judges at recalling their own (rather vast, I should say) music collection, tell me in passing that some song I happen to be listening to was in their collection way back when.

Lost
Photo courtesy: Andrevruas (own work) [CC-BY-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

 

I can say for sure that some of my current favourites (none of which are current songs) were in it: there was Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after time”, Bette Middler’s “Wind beneath my wings”, George Michael’s “Faith”, George Benson’s “Nothing’s gonna change my love”, Kieth Whitley’s “When you say nothing at all”, Paebo Bryson’s “Tonight, I celebrate my love”, MLTR’s “Paint my love”, Chris deBurg’s “A lady in red”, Richard Marx’s “Right here waiting” and a version of “Green, green grass of home”, among many others.

 

From the songs, it is apparent that the cassette was an early- or mid-80s release, and that timeline fits perfectly. I actually have a list of more songs somewhere, but these are the ones that come to mind right now, as I write this, too lazy to fetch the list itself.

Unfortunately, my quest to track this cassette down has not been very successful so far; but it is far from over. My sole reason for writing this and requesting you to take your time to read this is if you already know, or happen to stumble upon this cassette anywhere, do send it my way.

A favour begets a favour. Besides, this will fit in a lost piece of a jigsaw perfectly.

 Cover image: Flickr/Coralí Cros  VHBsign

Telltale Pre-production Day 2: Screenplay Finalisation and Music Composition

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Update: Now you can listen to a quick preview of one of the Telltale background scores!

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This is part two of the reports on my second short film, ‘Telltale,’ inspired by Poe’s ‘The Telltale Heart.’ Follow the link at the end to read the next/previous reports.

TODAY WE ENTER the final day of pre-production. With Raghul returning to shoot and the Telltale filming beginning tomorrow, I have taken it upon myself to have one last look at the script, and finalise that and the music composition (lietmotif only) for the film. Besides that, you can read more about test shots and sample editing below.

The screenplay

The screenplay I wrote for Telltale is actually one of my older older works — to some extent a spec script — that I merely tightened and shortened specifically for this project. The story is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart, a ghostly, horror-tale of how a murderer bends under the strain of his guilt and confesses to his crime before the police. For various reasons I have not adapted this work but written a story based on the same lines and hence given credit (which Poe rightly deserves) in the manner you have seen.

The script is highly symbolic, not pictorially, but more in terms of what the viewer hears, what the viewer sees and what the viewer assumes. This is where I was hesitant to tread on shaky grounds. While viewers of my last film caught onto the story with ease and caught on rightly (although I did get inputs of some who had not quite got the point) this time Telltale goes ahead to expect more on the viewers part.

I would hate to reveal the plot points right away, but I can state freely that the film relies heavily on good direction, camera movement, editing and — believe it or not– music. There were times when I thought I was putting too much strain on myself considering there is no assistant director, no specific cameraman, no separate editor or music composer; this was what happened with my previous film too, but since that panned our beautifully, I figured I would give this a go. Personally, I love music composition, so that is not a problem, and, although it would certainly help to have a hand on-board as crew, that is a little far of right now.

[pullquote_l]What came to me as a revelation was the use of rhythm in developing an overall structure in music. I just thought it was very interesting… How do you write a 30-second piece? Everything is extremely compressed.

– Phillip Glass

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And this all adds up to clarify my original point: the screenplay this time has so many subtleties that I am sure not one viewer will get every single one of them. But that is where the fun lies, in everybody getting parts and in viewers getting together to add up their bits and pieces to paint a larger picture. Well, so much for the screenplay!

Voice, dialogue and editing

Annoy Me was a silent film that fared just as I had expected. But it is quite obvious not everybody has the class (yes, class,) or taste for silent films because they are so used to being spoon-fed that they hate to use their lovely little brains for an instant. I, for one, am against such straight-from-the-reel-into-my-head filmmaking; that is the rock bottom of filmmaking. In this regard I made certain that my screenplay got just the right amount of dialogue which viewers can hear while none of it gives away the plot straightforwardly. The point was to get the balance between telling and showing just right, and after several revisions I believe I have got it quite well.

The dialogues for Telltale will be voiced over the entire film, not as narrative but as —

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the protagonist reading his confession from a different timeline!
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Anyway, there is no lip-syncing, and no trouble of on-location recording which, on the one hand, means the shooting becomes a tad easier, but on the other, means that the editing becomes a lot difficult what with multiple layers of sound (up to five) that need to be handled this time. (In contrast, Annoy Me had only two layers.)

I have also decided to try out a little colour-correction magic and fast paced editing in a couple of areas (mostly because it is a necessity, not just a vague fancy of mine.) If all goes well, the editing should stand out on its own, if not the direction and acting will surely keep the film together.

A few test shots I took turned out to be excellent, leaving very little work to be done on my side of the camera which means I can concentrate entirely on my actor. The digital editing also turned out fairly quicker this time as when compared to my last project (although I have not yet cut shots or combined them.) Either way, I have made sure that there is very little to mess up that cannot be undone at some point of time in the future!

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Theme music and background score

THIS IS ARGUABLY the most awaited part for most of my readers on this website. As for others too, it may just prove to be very interesting!

The reason I say this is because of the emails I received over the weekend, after I had written my report of the first day of pre-production. I had not publicly written such reports for my last film so it was, understandably, a welcome piece of writing for most of you; especially to the ones who were interested in knowing what went on behind the scenes of my first film. While the emails consisted of things from screenplay queries to thoughts about the location, it was evident that almost all letters enquired of the music. If you will recall, I had released the theme score last time and it had received many positive thoughts.

For Telltale, however, I have decided not to release the music (it is meant to be a surprise) but, after giving some consideration to the matter, I have decided to release the notes of the leitmotif (see picture above!) If you cannot comprehend it, ask a friend who can and I am sure they will be more than happy to help you make sense of these weird markings.

Another interesting feature this time (except for the conjunction music which I will write only after the editing) is that there are two four-minute pieces of music (separate exclusive background score,) which means, on reel (and that is just a metaphor,) the music is actually longer than the visual. Needless to say, some of the music will be cut out and only that which is necessary to bring out the emotion will go on as part of the film (with repetitions, even more music will get cut out than you might imagine at first!) So I will certainly promise to release the entire soundtrack after the film is released.

So the big question is, what to expect from the music? In short it is semi-minimalist and semi heavy-bass so I would perhaps say, think Phillip Glass meets Hans Zimmer. But rest assured, the music is going to suit the film and its atmosphere just as well as the teaser poster (although it is till full MIDI.) I am also contemplating releasing a part of the background music (not the theme music, mind you!) here just to give you a taste of it. Let us see what time has in store…

On behalf of Raghul Selvam, I feel I must thank you for staying with us through pre-production and wish us luck as we head for the actual, powered-up filming come weather-friendly tomorrow!

Read the report of pre-production Day 1 (Location Scouting)

The Rembrandts – I’ll be there for you

The Rembrandts – I’ll be there for you

The Friends theme song, written by its co-creators Matha Kauffman and David(?) Crane. Performed by The Rembrandts, this is perhaps the best theme music I have ever heard, for any TV show; and its lyrics? Fantastic!

So no one told you life was gonna be this way *clap*clap*clap*clap*
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s DOA 

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year

but.. 

I’ll be there for you
When the rain starts to pour
I’ll be there for you
Like I’ve been there before
I’ll be there for you
‘Cuz you’re there for me too…

You’re still in bed at ten and work began at eight 
You’ve burned your breakfast so far… things are goin’ great 

Your mother warned you there’d be days like these
Oh but she didn’t tell you when the world has brought
You down to your knees that…

I’ll be there for you
When the rain starts to pour
I’ll be there for you
Like I’ve been there before
I’ll be there for you
‘Cuz you’re there for me too…

No one could ever know me
No one could ever see me
Seems you’re the only one who knows
What it’s like to be me
Someone to face the day with
Make it through all the rest with
Someone I’ll always laugh with
Even at my worst I’m best with you, yeah

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear 
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, 
or even your year…

I’ll be there for you
When the rain starts to pour
I’ll be there for you
Like I’ve been there before
I’ll be there for you
‘Cuz you’re there for me too…

I’ll be there for you
I’ll be there for you
I’ll be there for you
‘Cuz you’re there for me too…

Claude Debussy – Claire de Lune

Claude Debussy – Claire de Lune

Claire de Lune, Claude Debussy, Third Movement of Suite Bergamasque.

Somebody once asked me what my ten most favourite pieces of music were. Well, this is number four. However the list itself is subject to changes inasmuch as I have, quite naturally, not listened to every single piece of music every produced on Earth.

Apparently, Debussy took a good 17 years to write this movement alone. Claire de lune, thanks to my French classes, I know means moonlight. The movement is one of four in Suite Bergamasque and is based upon the following lines in a poem by Verlaine, and also contain the word Bergamasques which gave the Suite its title.

Votre âme est un paysage choisi

Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques

Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi

Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.