2-minute soundtracks: a filmmaking exercise

Just thought I’d share this.

I’m rapidly educating myself in the practical skills of film directing and editing. One of my ongoing stratagems is to write and make original 2-3 minute long short films as often as life will allow. To inspire me, and to keep things varied and interesting, I’ve been basing each around an existing piece of music, which then informs the mood and progression of the action. Some of the films are silent, others have dialogue. Some are acted, some are just slices of real life. Sometimes I’ll listen to something and it just suggests to me a line like, “I can’t believe they let me get away with it!” or “how the hell did we both end up like this?” and wherever that comes from I’ll just run with it, put it in the mouth of a character, and see what coalesces around it. It’s quite liberating to write something you’ve no intention to show publicly. Art for art’s sake and all that.

Here’s the list of pieces of music I’ve put together to select from, on Spotify:

There’s a kind of a logic to them, they’re all instrumental (with one exception), all under three minutes, and they all end with some kind of harmonic resolution (with a few exceptions) – they don’t leave you hanging.

Obviously, none of the results of this exercise can be released commercially, not without clearance of the music (and it’s a paradox of filmmaking that it’s almost always cheaper to commission new compositions than to use something already out there, however appropriate), but thanks to YouTube’s licensing agreements, most videos featuring existing recorded music can be uploaded to YouTube non-commercially, with any ad revenue going back to the musicians. I may post a few of them here on that basis in the near future.

In the mean time, you can listen and enjoy, and if anyone out there is getting into filmmaking as well, feel free to try the same approach. It’s pleasingly inverted, if nothing else.

Now Is The Hour music

I noticed this up on SoundCloud today. I think our producer is just using it to send the music over from Farnham, Surrey to Norwich, where the play is taking shape I expect. (I’m out of the loop, but never mind.) Still, if you’re interested, here is all the incidental music to the play Now Is The Hour, soon to be arriving at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich from 19th – 28th September.

The original tracks are by Spesh Maloney, with a few in there by George Lewis and Charlie Haden’s Quartet West.

Misterioso video

Here’s a short video from the 2009 production at Riverside Studios of Misterioso, on which I did some work. The words at the start – Cleveland Watkiss playing Thelonious Monk – are those of Stefano Benni, translated from the Italian by the show’s director Filomena Campus. The words at the end are (mostly) mine – Tamsin Shasha playing Nica de Koenigswarter – adapted and extended from Filomena’s original text.

Thelonious Monk chronological playlist

Speaking to Nat Hentoff in Downbeat, Thelonious Monk was once asked how people new to his music should approach it. In what may have been a throwaway comment, he said:

“Just listen to the music in the order that I’ve recorded it. Get the records, sit down and dig.”

With that in mind I’ve created the following playlist on Spotify:

Thelonious Monk Chronologically

I am indebted to this excellent discography in making this list.

It’s reasonably complete, with all the studio albums in there, including the final sessions made in London on the Black Lion label. What’s missing sadly are a great deal of live recordings released on small labels made on tour in Europe and Japan throughout the 60s. Many have yet to be issued on CD, never mind digitally, I imagine.

Why did I do this? Well, I’m working on a rather secret (oops!) new theatre project involving Monk. Can’t reveal too many details just yet, but it’s going to be quite special, I hope.

Intrigued? Well, you may do the Facebook thing, or follow my RSS and you’ll be the first to know when I can announce more details.

Now go in peace.

Spotify profile

I’m a big fan of Spotify, the music streaming service – it is essentially like magic iTunes – and I’m an even bigger fan now they’ve improved it slightly, with new features including the ability to create a profile and share playlists more easily.

My profile is here, with some playlists I already had linked up on my website, and possibly more to come.

You’ll need to download the new version of the program.

Spotify playlists

I’ve just added a couple of links to some playlists I have on Spotify. One is a very incomplete list of CDs I actually own (inspired by an atavistic feeling of pride of ownership), which I tend to update when I find myself listening to something I already have on the shelf.

The other is called Bedside table, and is a list of stuff that I’ve either been listening to recently or am planning on listening to soon.

…just in case anyone’s interested.