Kathleen's Final Project: Soundtrack to Robert Breer's Blazes
Blazes is a three-minute film directed by Robert Breer, a well-known avant-garde artist, animator, and film director. Created in 1962, this short film displays Breer’s signature style: animation, playful abstraction, and fast-moving images. In Breer’s own words, Blazes is essentially “One hundred basic images switching positions for four thousands frames. A continuous explosion.” Indeed, the film consists of stills resembling abstract paintings of basic shapes in basic colors, cut and combined in different ways and rhythms.
For my final project I have composed a soundtrack to Blazes. This extraordinary film does have an original soundtrack; however, my composition reflects my own interpretation of the film. Through experimentation with rhythm, timing, volume, filters, chords, and other elements, I have tried to highlight the interesting contrasts of the film. Clear and blurred sounds, sustained and staccato notes, deliberate rhythms and spontaneous randomization, discernible basic shapes and frenetic abstractions, and discrete parts and the unified whole are some of the pairs which I have explored in parallel to the visual images.
The objective and challenge of this project has been to create an interesting composition that is neither accompaniment nor mere enhancement to the visual images, but a subtle and vibrant soundscape that can stand alone. While injecting my own creativity, I have tried to capture certain inalienable qualities of Breer’s film and soundtrack: the humor, play, and especially the kinetic energy. For example, I have incorporated cartoonish .wav files to underscore the light-hearted animation, while using more industrial and mechanistic .wav files of more jarring and grating sounds that are synchronized to images with sharp, jagged brushstrokes. I have played around with continuity and temporality by including sounds that are sustained throughout the piece, serving to unify the amalgam of sensations, while interspersing the piece with short, unpredictable flitters. Long, tonal notes, manipulated with filters, of increasing volume create tension with the chaos of other sounds files, some more discernible and accessible than others.
Just as the viewer strives to discern shapes and colors as the thousands of similar but various frames flash past--sometimes in a halting fashion, at other times in blurring rapidity—the listener simultaneously will strain to make out the different types of sounds, rhythms, and relationships.
Note: Blazes, unfortunately, is not available on DVD and is difficult to obtain in its original 35mm format. Try finding a bootleg copy?
Let's Hear It
Instructions on Downloading and Playing the Code:
- Do you have ChucK or miniAudicle? If not, download it here: ChucK
- Download the code here:
- Add the .wav files to the directory
- To view a video clip of Blazes, click on the YouTube website link: video
- Remember to mute the video so you can hear my soundtrack!
- Run the ChucK file and film at the same time (if that's not possible, play the ChucK file first)
- Watch and listen!
Like what you see?