BIG SAD: a video and notes about collaboration, influence and process


It fascinates me how inherently collaborative and interconnected creation almost always is, even if it is not explicitly shown. We don't only stand on the shoulders of giants, we get a boost from everyone.

Big Sad

for A.H. Reaume
Napoleon reaches inside his shirt for a kayak 
Napoleon reaches inside his shirt for a river
Napoleon puts the kayak in the river 
someone—Jacob Wren maybe?—said
the difference between depression and a paddle is
the paddle

Here's an example. I wrote this poem for A.H. Reaume, a writer I know from Twitter. She was having a hard day, so I wrote a poem and DM'd it to her. You know, as one does. Subsequently, I edited it substantially. It appears in a book that is coming out in Fall 2022 with ECW Press. I engaged my friend Donato Mancini to help me edit the MS and there were edits to this poem that we did together. Michael Holmes (editor at ECW) and Emily Schultz (copyeditor there) also contributed.

And the quote which I've attributed to Jacob Wren. He'd written something on Twitter about the difference between melancholy and depression (something to the effect of still liking life when you're melancholy.) So I misquoted him. As one does.

Ok, so that's the poem.

The music? My sister, Kat Palmer, invited me to contribute to a TikTok video that she sang on of the folk song Tumbalalaika. Instead of just singing, I did a kind of algorhithmic accompaniment based on the scale (it was a pitch to MIDI thing, massaged.) As one does.  

To the generated MIDI guitar, drums, and electric piano, I improvised some bass clarinet over top. And I edited it. So the audio track.

My daughter and I had taken some photos and videos in a local field when we were walking the dog. I took these and blurred them and played around with them until they became only strips of slowly moving colour. That's the two stripes of the video. 

Finally, I added the animated text. 

I hadn't planned on doing any of this, but liked how the Tumbalalaika accompaniment sounded. And then I wanted to make some visuals. So the idea of using the dogwalk field videos occured to me. And playing around with the shape of colour of them, I arrived at the two stripes. But though I liked it as abstract colours only, something seemed missing. I searched around for some appropriate text. I liked the idea of the very abstract aesthetized text having this odd and ironic text about Napoleon--it seemed to play against it in a satisfyingly interesting way. 

So that's the story of this video and how a multiplicity of direct collaborations, assistance and influences affected both the process and the outcome of its creation.

Also, thank you Napoleon!


Nadine said…
I loved the video, the dreamy warbling notes instilled in me a sense of calm. I appreciated the reminder of how, in creative endeavors, we are influenced in a myriad of ways. Thank you Gary. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Love your blog and I have enjoyed reading your poetry.