Performance #1: Duke Ross – STRINGS

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Faculty mentor: Miriam Sobrino

Artist’s Statement: One of the many things I love about film is that it is the marriage of several different art forms: visual art, literature, and music. Music in particular seems to have the ability to elevate cinematic moments into something not just pleasing to the senses, but transcendent. The death of O Ren Ishii’s father set to Luis Baclov’s “The Grand Duel: Parte Prima,” Chow Mo-wan and Mrs. Chan’s farewell set to Nat King Cole’s cover of “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” and an idyllic stroll through a small suburban neighborhood set to Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” all take what would be relatively standard cinematic beats and give them an extra emotional undercurrent.

When I was young, my father would put on his collection of blues CDs as we made our daily commute. B.B. King, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert King, and Muddy Waters played in a constant rotation for much of my early life. There is such a rich and fascinating history surrounding the blues, all leading back to one incredibly storied man, Robert Johnson, who allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical prowess.

With “Strings,” I loosely adapted Johnson’s story and gave it a contemporary twist by utilizing the visual style of neo-noir film. Neo-noir cinematography is very similar to traditional noir cinematography in that the images are grainy, the lighting is low-key, and the overall tone is dark and moody. The key difference is the use of color, as seen in films such as “Taxi Driver,” “Nightcrawler,” “Blade Runner,” and “Drive” among many others. Every shade of red has an air of violence about it. Every shade of green pulsates with a sinister, neon vibrance.

The purpose of the film will be to reignite interest in the American folk tale and its relationship with music and visual art. With the combination of haunting imagery, a swelling soundtrack, and the accessibility of Robert Johnson’s story, I want “Strings” to feel like a contemporary, cinematic campfire yarn. 

Watch my performance below!
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