A PATTERN LANGUAGE; (2010); Tara Merenda Nelson; 16mm; TRT: 3.00
Charles Zehnde’s Kugel Gips house in Wellfleet Massachusetts, and the Romanian B Minor scale.
What was the inspiration for this film?
In 2010, I was invited by filmmaker Ericka Beckman to participate in a residency through the Cape Cod Modern House Trust. I lived in the Gips Kugel house (the house in the film) for a week in March, 2010. Most of my time was spent at a beach about 5 miles away, where I was shooting the black and white sequences for HULL. But I wanted to pay tribute to that house, as it was truly an awe-inspiring structure, so serene and yet so formal. I began thinking about analogs between film and architecture, specifically how the process of creating a film compared to the process of designing and building a house. So I set out to “build” a film using primary elements: duration, repetition, interval, and image (color). Sound was later added but was not part of the original design.
This film was designed frame by frame on the page before it was shot. I was thinking about architecture and wanted to draft a sort of “blueprint” for a film that, once shot, would be a complete structure. While shooting, I manually exposed each frame for varying amounts of time, changing the color filter by hand as well. It took about 5 hours to shoot the entire 100 foot roll of 16mm film (roughly 4,000 frames).
Do you want to say anything about “A Pattern Language: Towns-Buildings-Construction” by Christopher Alexander?
During the residency we had dinner with the architect who restored the house (who is also the Director of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust), Peter McMahon. We talked about conceptual design and building practices, and he told me about the Alexander book, which proposes practical solutions to the existential problems through “good design”. Peter leant me his copy for the week and it made a tremendous impression on me. I still use the wisdom I found in that book in my daily life.
Why use music as the audio?
I don’t consider the score “music”, though it does correspond with a musical scale.
Sound was not part of the original design of the film, so when I decided to score it I wanted the sound to follow the picture, rather than to “narrate” some sort of emotion. I chose a scale with 5 notes, assigned each note a color and sustained the note for the duration of each color. No note is played for the frames that do not use a color filter. I didn’t know what the outcome would sound like but I was interested in the idea of using a single design for both sound and image.
I play each note on my Casio SK1, which is a 25 year-old toy keyboard.
Why the Romanian music key with these images? Is the Romanian key different form other music keys?
I have always been attracted to B minor. I don’t know why. It feels deeper than the other notes to me.