If December’s dwindling daylight and low temperatures have you longing for the lingering sunshine of a summer day in Portland, this new video by Sean Morin and Jay Brown will make you happy — or get you weeping with the knowledge that we have at least three more months of winter left to go.
At least a year in the making, the seven-minute mini film called “Music for Big Band,” features an extended piece Morin wrote for The Fogcutters, a 19-piece band. The visuals include seemingly a million scenes from sunnier days downtown, shot and edited by Brown.
“I don’t even want to make a guess at how many hours it took,” said Brown last week. “I got lost in the edit. I sometimes sat there for eight hours at a stretch.”
You’ll even see me and my best furry friend, Hook, at about the one-minute mark. He died of a brain tumor just a couple months later. So, this little film makes me think fondly on warmer days, especially.
Brown showed me an nearly finished version of the video last week. I had some questions for Morin. Below are his slightly abbreviated answers.
How did you and Jay Brown come up with the idea for this video?
The video’s main source of inspiration was from the film, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out Of Balance, from director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. My take on Koyaanisqatsi was that it provided the audience with a slow or sometimes hyper speed focus on our everyday life, the repetitiveness of each action, and our sometimes mundane and monotonous routines. With Music For Big Band, Jay and I took all of those same themes and put Portland at the center while also depicting an intimate view of one woman’s morning and evening routine and The Fogcutters’ rehearsal.
You’re not in The Fogcutters. What’s your relationship with them?
The Fogcutters musical director, John Maclaine, approached me to write a piece for the group’s previously annual Big Band Syndrome event in December of 2015. Typically, the group provided big band arrangements to Maine singers and two of their most popular songs (Anna Lombard, Dave Gutter, Spencer Albee, and Sara Hallie Richardson to name a small selection of their previous talent), but I don’t strongly resemble that tradition. Which is not to say that I don’t respect it, rather I don’t release music often under my own name or associate with just one band and instead work as a co-writer, arranger, and musical director/producer with several artists in this region. John recognized that and gave me the rare opportunity to write a piece of music of my own for The Fogcutters, essentially commissioning it through their event.
What kind of music is this, anyway? How do you describe it?
This music could be described as modern jazz, contemporary orchestral music, or both, or some sort of further pluralism. Most people react to it as if it were a film score, which is what initially drove me to set it to film. When describing it, I end up referencing its musical language and instrumentation which is mostly modal and consists of a typical big band ensemble with saxes doubling on flute and clarinet. There are also electronic elements and field recordings embedded into certain sections.
Finally, what are you really trying to say with this piece of music and this video?
Colors and textures are all I’m ever interested in when writing music and I’m rarely trying to ever say anything specific or directed at any one subject matter. There are moments of pensiveness, reflection, brightness, hope, chaos, confusion, longing, mourning, eeriness, and embarrassment sounds like a recap of 2016!