Perhaps there’s no science to transforming music into visual medium, any more than there is a single way to translate a poem from one language to another, or a single way to feel.
But because music is a tongue that can speak in a mysterious syntax, it’s all the more fascinating when the image we see is one we can share. It’s like sharing a dream.
So, as Sigur Rós shares their new album Valtari with a series of filmmakers, with no instructions or intervention on interpretation, you see some images resonate. While shifting perspective, there’s a thread that speaks to human gesture and its ability to touch intimacy. In one work, the music triggers a ballet of hands, in another, a poignant duet. Two films become a love letter to New York City’s fleeting moments of transcendent calm, one with a figure skipping barefoot down Manhattan streets while shedding a comet trail of glitter, another finding gentle release of lizards and urban dwellers alike.
Then, in a static tableau, one film is notable for its difference, with unmoving figures and glowing orbs of light set against a snowstorm. It’s an Advent calendar for some fantastic end-time.
The brief, from the band:
sigur rós have given a dozen film makers the same modest budget and asked them to create whatever comes into their head when they listen to songs from the band’s new album valtari. the idea is to bypass the usual artistic approval process and allow people utmost creative freedom. among the filmmakers are ramin bahrani, alma har’el and john cameron mitchell.
“we never meant our music to come with a pre-programmed emotional response. we don’t want to tell anyone how to feel and what to take from it. with the films, we have literally no idea what the directors are going to come back with. none of them know what the others are doing, so hopefully it could be interesting.”
The series continues for more weeks, with more films to come. We’ll be watching.
And, in the work that I think is most different – and perhaps most elegant of all – Inga Birgisdóttir.