Video material in the project
Video recordings were made at several of the sessions for Music Without Borders, starting with the original source recordings made at Kongshaven Studios, Kristiansand, in 2014. Subsequently, video recordings of responses were made at the University of Agder, with musicians from Middle Eastern countries, in Kautokeino with Sami musicians, and in late 2016, Mumbai and Udon Thani, with Indian and Thai musicians respectively.
What characterises these recordings is the intimacy of the situation. Whilst the producers/project leaders were usually at a slight physical remove from the performers, typically situated in the control booth of a studio, as cameraman I was usually in very close proximity to the musicians, sharing the intimate space of their concentrated performance. Each take of the session was filmed, in most cases, and this would mean that every mistake, missed cue, or repeated performance would be documented.
The result of this comprehensive documentation was a twofold problem: firstly, an ethical challenge is presented in relation to the musician’s professional standing and reputation. Rehearsals, false starts, missed cues and so on are rarely made public. We usually encounter musicians in concert, where well-rehearsed performances, even those that are wholly or partially improvised, preserve the professional status of the performer. A secondary challenge lies in the sheer volume of material that has been recorded. Whereas for the final audio production it has been a question of combining those responses that add new layers of interpretation to the original recordings from Setesdal, the video material does not lend itself to recombination in the same way. As a video artist, accustomed to editing, manipulating and transforming raw material in order to create an artistic work, I am here faced with a new set of problems: how to preserve the integrity of the recorded performances, to make a respectful presentation of the featured musicians, and still to produce a result that has artistic integrity and is informative in relation to the project’s themes and methods?
In response to the question above, three strategies have been identified, which will be used to complete the video component of the project:
1. An archive - this will consist of selected, but unedited materials, which are not for publication, but may be used in future research and within a teaching environment. The material may be valuable simply as a method of examining how different performers respond to a given piece of music, how they interpret, and how they perform, vocally or instrumentally.
2. An essay film, which begins with the original sources in Setesdal, and then examines various iterations of the responses that have been made, concluding with one or more of the final multi-tracked recordings that include both sources and responses. In order to give the film focus, a limited number of the source recordings and responses will be used. How a particular song or tune is responded to and re-interpreted will be the narrative content of the film, in addition to commentaries given by the source performers during the initial recording sessions.
3. Portraits of individual performers. This variant will come closest to the idea of a video art work. A limited number of portraits will be made, designed to be viewed on a screen, either in physical space, or online. Each will essentially be a short, intimate video piece, concentrating on one, quality-assured performance by the subject.
In conclusion, the challenges encountered during this project have forced me to reconsider the relationship in my video work between source material and finished artwork. In many ways the process has been closer to documentary or even ethnographic film-making, though I have also consciously avoided trying to use social-scientific or journalistic methods. Music Without Borders has been an artistic research project, not an ethnographic or musicological study, and it has therefore been important to maintain an openness with regard to production method and handling of the recorded materials.