Anyone Home is a short digital video by Rosemary Dean. Based in Tokyo, Rosemary’s work merges documentary and a form of visual contemplation. All her videos are largely composed of long static shots of apparently empty spaces. Anyone Home captures the feeling of ‘danchis’ – a type of home developed in Japan in the 60s. As Rosemary wrote as part of her brief to composer Philip Brophy:
“Danchis were the most desired place to live, they represented modern living. The stereotype of the those who moved into a danchi listened to jazz and thought French movies were cool. Now all the danchis are coming down fast. Now people think it's impossible to live in a place so tiny like the danchis and they are all being pulled down. The place I filmed the danchi for my video is a museum which reconstructs in perfect detail a complete danchi apartment. This museum is 1 and a half hours from Tokyo, and it is built on a site where people from the stone age were living over 10,000 years ago. So the museum has old pots and stuff from that time, and then they have the model danchi apartment as one of the first danchis built in Japan. When they built this danchi in this area over 40 years ago it was just countryside by then, so I think they virtually built the danchi over the stone age village without much thought. But now the local government has built a museum to remember the past. They knocked down the danchi and built the museum on the same site as the danchi and the stone age village before it. The bus stop is still called after the danchi.”
The score to Anyone Home was released on the CD Filmmusic Vol.2 in 2009.
Script, direction, camera & editing - Rosemary Dean
Guitars, drums & 5.1 mix - Philip Brophy
Included on FILMMUSIC VOL.2 - Sound Punch Records, Melbourne
DESCORE - Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
Rosemary gave no direction to Philip Brophy, short of simply asking for a score. As part of the Descore events, the project was envisaged as a collaboration. Philip received a brief outline (including the above background information on danchis) of what Rosemary was planning to do with the work, and this became the basis for his score. Being familiar with Rosemary’s previous work – always a mid-way point between objective documentary and subjective reflection and visual meditation on spaces – made this easy, as Philip could envisage the work vividly.
Rosemary’s written description also mentioned the strangeness of this small museum which had recreated the late 60s social utopian domestic fantasy of an ideal small home. Clearly not coloured by any kitsch or camp reading of such a situation, Rosemary was more attracted to the theatrical emptiness of this ideal home inhabited by no-one.
Philip then proposed to compose a score about the emptiness of the space. He developed a concept employing multiple guitars and tuned strings, but overlaying them to sound like reverberant kotos. The idea was to posit the music being like someone trying to play along with something that is being channelled into their mind from the past, like they're hearing something from the past and playing along with it in the present. The temporality of the sounds was thus more important than the sounds themselves. Also, Philip explored the ‘static’ nature typical of Rosemary’s work, and restricted the harmonies to single notes and 5ths. Tuned to the guitar and laid on top are also large roto tom drums. The performance of the drums and guitar is based around finger-tapping and finger-strumming to generate a rumbling/strumming wall of sound that symbolizes the uniquely Japanese sensation of being inside a building during a slight tremor. Relative to the images, the effect is like the house itself is ‘murmuring’.
Philip Brophy’s score for Anyone Home is based around a series of recordings of drums and guitar. Each recording is a single live take, working to a time-frame of about 6.5 minutes, following a series of general directions for building-up and building-down the drama of the music at set time points across the 6.5 minutes. (As indicated earlier, the score was conceptualized and composed before seeing the final video by Rosemary Dean; the second half of the score’s original recording was used for the final video.)
Each recording is is built around a specific placement of two microphones to create a stereo image of the instrument concerned. However the resulting stereo track is then assigned a specific placement within the quadraphonic playback space. With the guitar tracks, a first mic was placed extremely close to the where the string was being strummed, while a second mic was placed extremely close to the resonant body of the guitar. With the drum tracks, a first mic was placed extremely close to the top skin where the string was being tapped, while a second mic was placed underneath the roto tom to pick up the lower-frequency resonance of the drum. The close-micing was integral to capturing the sound, as both the guitar and the drums are performed with fingers alone, and at a near-inaudible level acoustically. So the microphones are picking up a quasi-microscopic perspective of the rumbling drums and vibrating strings.
The recordings can be broken down as follows:
Stereo drums A – first mic track placed in front left speaker; second mic track placed in rear left speaker
Stereo drums B – first mic track placed in front right speaker; second mic track placed in rear right speaker
Stereo guitar A – first mic track placed in front right speaker; second mic track placed in rear right speaker
Stereo guitar B – first mic track placed in front right speaker; second mic track placed in rear right speaker
Mono guitar A – both first and second mic tracks placed in front centre speaker.