In response to a contest hosted by UCSD’s Academic Integrity Matters, a non-profit organization sponsored by Academic Integrity Office to promote the importance of academic integrity, I wanted to do something for the contest.
Strangely, recently an expected incident also challenged my academic integrity, so I wanted even more to respond to it artistically. I used two samples of recordings by two great contemporary composers, Alvin Lucier and La Monte Young, and edited them in a particular way that expresses my feeling; in this case, I wanted to recreate the discomfort and anger provoked by the unwelcoming accusation, from the professor, and the unfortunate betrayal, from the classmate. Since the sound is so abstract, I also think it represents well the feeling of uneasiness when one is cheating. The recordings are Alvin Lucier’s “Music On A Long Thin Wire” and La Monte Young’s “Poem for Chairs, Tables, Benches, etc.” Along with a video, this piece will be submitted to for this contest. It may be abstract, but I hope you’ll like it still.
This is “NOT COOL” (audio).
And this is “Seen” (video).
By using sampling techniques with music by well-respected contemporary composers, the audio is recomposed by Joey Ma and adapted to create the feeling of uneasiness when one is cheating. At the same time, the edited sound design explores the legitimacy of sampling practices in creating new compositions based on personal emotions and visions.
The video is then shot using an Xbox Kinect’s camera and depth sensor for special effects. The low resolution is not only expected but further adds to the lack of a straightforward direction. While the normal camera shots were meant to portray reality of the scene, the depth image shots were meant to portray the main character’s inner urge to cheat. Whether or not the audience perceive the main character as a cheater is less important than the questions provoked: Is it fair? Is it necessary? Is it right? Is it worth the risk?
What would you have done if you were in his position?
project’s conceptual ideas:
The conception of “Seen” was initially inspired by two recordings of great contemporary composers: Alvin Lucier’s “Music On A Long Thin Wire” and La Monte Young’s “Poem for Chairs, Tables, and Benches, etc.” When I first heard the songs, I felt that the sounds represent well an atmosphere of huge dynamic contrast and uncomfortable emotions. Therefore, I sampled the recordings, made minimal changes, and edited them for my specific emotional expression. Since the sounds are so abstract, I also found them useful in representing the development of discomfort when it comes to cheating, thereby implying that cheating is betraying yourself, your own honesty. At the very most, the created music can thought of as a tribute to Lucier and Young, and at the very least, this is simply my creative play of artistic expression using simple sampling techniques.
The title “Seen” can be considered in several ways: the main character’s inner thoughts being “seen,” the test being “seen” by the “cheater,” and the act of cheating being “seen” by the proctor… etc. The ending of this video was also produced in a way that it is suitable for questions and different interpretations. The viewers are left to ponder qualities such as responsibility and fairness. Did he successfully cheat and did not get caught? Was he caught cheating and was on his way to face the consequences? Or did he ended up following his conscious and chose to not cheat, though risking his grade? These are all questions that the audience may think about.
This video was recorded using both the XBox Kinect’s normal camera and depth image sensor. The normal camera views are used to establish the test-taking setting and the apparent struggles of the main character, and the depth image shots give the audience sneak peeks of the main character’s inner feelings. The switching from normal camera view to depth image view is also matched with the musical cues to express his inner struggles at various intensity levels.
cast & production credits:
Directed by Joey Ma.
Produced by Alan Yang.
Special thanks to Stephen Liu.
Alan was an integral part of this project as he had helped me realize the potential of using depth image as an interesting visual element. With experiences from the visual art side of the house, Alan was responsible for executing the camera shootings, using the depth image effects, and editing for the short film.
Also, with special thanks to: Jolie Teng and Rebecca Chen. The produced audio itself was very powerful and open-ended, and thereby provided endless possible ways to approach this topic. With their help, I was able to find a much better direction for the project’s visual story.
Le Monte Young – Poem for Chairs, Tables, and Benches, etc. (1960)
(chairs, tables, benches and unspecified sound sources)
Chairs, tables and benches are dragged across the stage according to pre-determined timing. John Cale paid an homage to this piece when he dragged a chair in the studio during the recording of the Velvet Underground’s European Son (at about 0’55”).
Alvin Lucier – Music On A Long Thin Wire (1977)
Music on a Long Thin Wire is constructed as follows: the wire is extended across a large room, clamped to tables at both ends. The ends of the wire are connected to the loudspeaker terminals of a power amplifier placed under one of the tables. A sine wave oscillator is connected to the amplifier. A magnet straddles the wire at one end. Wooden bridges are inserted under the wire at both ends to which contact microphones are imbedded, routed to the stereo sound system. The microphones pick up the vibrations that the wire imparts to the bridges and are sent through the playback system. By varying the frequency and loudness of the oscillator, a rich variety of slides, frequency shifts, audible beats and other sonic phenomena may be produced.
– Alvin Lucier, 1922
However, Lucier admits a long thin wire is only used to impress, a short thin wire would have worked as well if not better, and he discovered that the best way to produce variation in the sonic phenomena was to pick a setting and leave the setup alone. He praised David Rosenboom for his ability to pick interesting settings
– 91 / Joey Ma