Melancholia is a work for projected video, electronics and live contrabass flute. While a work in its own right, it might also be considered as an extension of the audio-visual compositions included in the Orphans series in that it makes use of found materials and recontextualises them in order to create something new. Ultimately, the work is a study in themes of melancholia, incompleteness and impermanence.
The construction of Melancholia began when I stumbled across a piece of film on an archive website. A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire by the Miles Brothers was made in 1906 and captures images of life in San Francisco a matter of days before the city was struck by a major earthquake.
The film has an almost organic quality to it with its slow journey down a long wide street. There is a sense of things unfolding or becoming revealed as the camera draws closer towards the street’s end. The steady movement is punctuated, particularly towards the end, by an unintended rolling effect (caused by an analogue projector) which occurred prior to the film’s digital transfer.
Around the same time as viewing the film, I heard a recording of music for contrabass flute. I was struck by the deep, breathy, almost animalistic sounds that came from the instrument and I felt that it would provide an appropriately haunting and melancholic element that could function alongside the film.
After arranging to collaborate with contrabass flautist, Richard Craig, I devised a process that would eventually culminate in a live semi-improvised performance. The first step was to make a recording of the player improvising while viewing the film for the first time. He had no knowledge about the film’s historical or geographical context; the only information that he was given was of its duration.