Vimeo.com is similar to YouTube except without commercials. Amateur artists and professionals alike upload their own creative videos to share with others and use paid subscriptions. While searching for something interesting that might fit any of the arrangements among our Halloween selections I ran across the crow video titled “Even After Death, Good Beats Evil“. It was accompanied by an eclectic tune titled “Bloodflowers” by the punk rock band, “The Cure”. (By the way, the percussion work is awesome and fits the tempo of Dark Hollow perfectly.) It was close to the same length as our recording of “The Phantom of Dark Hollow”.
I sent a facebook message to the artist — former Disney Imagineer, Eric Robison — asking for permission to show his video as we play Phantom of Dark Hollow at our concert. Instantly he replied with, “Aloha” and said it sounded fun. Once asked, he sent me the sound effects files so that I could make a no-music version suitable for a live stage. With some minor edits to the video and tweaking the sound effects to fit the story, I was able to export two versions — one with sound effects and music, and a second with sound effects and no music. The password protected version contains the recording of Greater Greenwood Community Band basically sight reading the piece in the band room. It’s “private” until I get copyright permission to publish otherwise. My thought is that the many other bands that play Phantom of Dark Hollow would also like to perform with video accompaniment. IMO: a video like this will make his music even more marketable.
In the past when we played songs accompanied by a projector and screen, the audience was watching a slide show and the band had no clue about what they were experiencing, because we sit on the dark side of the projector screen. When showing slide shows, someone manually clicks through slides and follows the timing of the conductor. Video is different. The video’s starting time, tempo, and total length is predetermined before you click the “Play” button. If the conductor feels inspired to push the musician’s tempo to be faster than usual, the band finishes early and the last portions of video continue in awkward silence. If the conductor feels compelled to go extra slow, the audience sees the video reach an end before the band gets the last cut-off.
One might think that the solution is as simple as having the projector screen positioned so that the conductor can watch the video while conducting. No. The conductor has enough on their mind already. They have to pay attention to the ensemble without losing track of where they are in the printed score sheets laid before them. A conductor leading a band while watching a video would be akin to texting while driving a school bus. His eyes have to be on the page.
Music directors at churches watch videos that come prepackaged with the musical arrangements they buy, but that’s because the videos show the lyrics that the music director sings to lead their congregation. Those are basically karaoke with video loop backgrounds. Videos for large ensembles and orchestras is different.
The hardest part about using video in a live performance is the timing. Sound effects are the solution. With sound effects, you can create audible “rehearsal markings” as cues telling the conductor where the ensemble should be within the score so that he or she can align the ensemble with the video the audience sees. One detail I realized while imagining Tom trying to conduct under the guidance of the video’s soundtrack is that the video has to start first. Its sound track provides the cues for the conductor to deliver the downbeat at exactly the right time and tempo.
This effort is a “proof of concept”. The feedback from the audience and from our conductors, Tom Dirks and Ora Pemberton, will greatly help steer future video efforts. A grander aspiration for this project is to inject an artistic layer that makes live wind and orchestral music performances more captivating to modern audiences.