Laura León ~ Doce Percepciones de un Silencio

WIth Doce Percepciones de un Silencio, filmmaker and musician Laura León dissects the relationship between music and image in an incredibly effective manner.  A multitude of musicians contribute their own scores to her short, impressionistic film, creating a tapestry of possibilities.  The concept and process are explained in the accompanying 40-page zine, an inexpensive bonus for those who purchase the physical edition.

In terms of this release, the easiest point of entry is a scene.  A scene’s musical mood may or may not match the intentions of the filmmaker.  For example, imagine any shark attack in Jaws accompanied by the score to a romantic comedy.  But even when a composer matches the mood, he or she may fumble the connection.  Many scores are bland and forgettable, like the dreaded aural wallpaper.  Some are so overblown as to be distracting, attempting to make up for a lack of tension or to amplify what is already there (for example, nearly every score for a Michael Bay film).  Hearing the host of León’s collaborators, the wheels begin to churn as the listener first asks, “Which is the best piece?”, followed by “Which is the best piece for this film?”  Surprisingly, the answers may differ.

So let’s start with the music, with tasting notes.  (Note: this is the Bandcamp order; the YouTube order diverges beginning with the fifth contribution.)

Arthur Zerktouni ~ tender piano backed by dark chords and an impression of fog or mist.
James Vella ~ bright, even-tempo synth with a sense of uplift, like the first hints of joy.
Juan Antonio Nieto ~ dark, foreboding drone, a sense of suffocation and anxiety.
Veronica Daniela Cerrotta ~ bells, male dialogue, shaded pulses and hints of woodpeckers and crickets.
Erick Calilan ~ the thickest drone yet, now oppressive, signaling violence and degradation.
Wirephobia ~ softer, subdued, like slow-rolling smoke beneath a window.
Vinc2 ~ peaceful piano chords, backed with soothing ambient textures.
Laura León ~ exploratory tapping, conveying an anxious or anticipatory feeling; breath, implying pleasure, personal or voyeuristic.
Sebastian Arroyave ~ melodic, suggesting a fuller song ready to burst into bloom.
Jairo Daponte ~ radio crackle contrasted with acoustic guitar and piano, like a decision.
Paraheilo ~ electric guitar and reverberated drone, an echo like the replay of memory.
Guillermo Doylet ~ multiple forms of percussion, including chimes, suggesting the passage or suspension of time.

How to choose?  Cerrotta’s piece is the most intriguing, splintering in different angles; Calilan’s is the most visceral.  León’s is arguably the most sexual, while Arroyave’s is the most memorable as a song.  Is there a winner in this musical pageant?

Now consider the film, and the fact that the subject of these still images is the female body.  Go back to the list.  Pick one.  Shuffle through the different scores.  Watch the film again and again.  Marvel at how it changes.  Now it’s beguiling.  Now it’s lovely.  Now it’s foreboding.  Now it’s uncomfortable.  Each of these is a manner in which we might regard the female form, or the specific female, or the gender.  Our reactions and preferences reveal a lot about who we are.  Are we ready to have this conversation?  We should have been having this conversation our entire lives.

In the zine, León invites us to “compare perceptions.”  The images are the same in each rendition, but the sequencing of the tracks differs; is this important?  What narrative do we impose upon the film?  Do we place a separate narrative on the two versions of the album?  In the Bandcamp version, the ending is peaceful, even poignant, a return to the beginning.  In the YouTube version, the ending is unsettled, open-ended, creating more questions than answers.  In the attempt to be “random … to intervene as little as possible,” León has still constructed a starting point, a fixed order upon which the listener and viewer will comment, as if these were the definitive versions.  The mind always tilts toward patterns, even when none are intended.

The music entertains; the images challenge; the combinations engage the intellect and emotions. The conversation continues long after the music has ended and the images have faded.  Doce Percepciones de un Silencio may open more than one valuable dialogue.  (Richard Allen)

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