Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Pied Piper of Hamelin... Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens...

Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre, is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life.

According to legend, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle represented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning. His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.

Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based in an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin.

The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times (the twelve strokes of midnight) which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This then leads to the E flat and A chords also known as a tritone or the "Devil's chord", and the solo violin's E string is tuned a half step lower to create this effect played by a solo violinist, which represents death. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, followed by the full orchestra who then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now in modulation, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section represents the dawn breaking (a cockerel's crow, represented by the oboe) and the skeletons returning to their graves.

The piece makes particular use of the xylophone to imitate the sounds of rattling bones. Saint-Saëns uses a similar motif in the Fossils movement of The Carnival of the Animals.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Krysar (The Pied Piper of Hamelin) By Jiri Barta (1986)...

The Pied Piper is a 1986 Czechoslovak animated film directed by Jiří Barta. Its original Czech title is Krysař, which means "The rat catcher". The story is an adaptation of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a fairy tale originated in medieval Germany. The film was one of Czechoslovakia's most ambitious animation projects of the 1980s, notable for its unusual dark art direction, innovative animation techniques and use of a fictitious language. The art design was heavily inspired by German Expressionism and medieval art.

Jiri Barta's adaptation of the Pied Piper of Hamelin has a beautiful handmade feel, that helps to create a creepy and expressionistic art style. The element of surrealism adds to the dark and twisted mood of this animation which plays to the dark version of the original folktale, in oppose to the more child-friendly modern version. The unusual use of sound and music creates a lot of tension in the animation, which are essential in creating a creepy/eerie atmosphere. I was particular interested in the style Jiri Barta uses for the environment of the town, often using different mediums, including wood carvings and paintings. The characters follow a similar art style, taking shape from wood carvings, and this along with stiff animation helps add to the success of the creepiness the animation achieves. This animation will definitely pose some influence in the decisions i make for my own animation, however i feel it's important for me to distance myself from this as i want to achieve my own unique art style and direction, that could take influence from this version, but doesn't bear too much of a resemblance.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Pied Piper of Hamelin Research...

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is the subject of a legend concerning the departure or death of a great many children from the town of Hamelin (Hameln), Germany, in the Middle Ages. The earliest references describe a piper, dressed in pied (multicolored) clothing, leading the children away from the town never to return. In the 16th century the story was expanded into a full narrative, in which the piper is a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizenry refuses to pay for this service, he retaliates by turning his magic on their children, leading them away as he had the rats.

The story may reflect a historical event in which Hamelin lost its children. Theories have been proposed suggesting that the Pied Piper is a symbol of the children's death by plague or catastrophe. Other theories liken him to figures like Nicholas of Cologne, who lured away a great number of children on a disastrous Children's Crusade. A recent theory ties the departure of Hamelin's children to the Ostsiedlung, in which a number of Germans left their homes to colonize Eastern Europe.

A number of theories suggest that children died of some natural causes and that the Piper was a symbolic figure of Death. Death is often portrayed dressed in motley, or "pied" clothing. Analogous themes which are associated with this theory include the Dance of Death, Totentanz or Danse Macabre, a common medieval type. Some of the scenarios that have been suggested as fitting this theory include that the children drowned in the river Weser, were killed in a landslide, or contracted some disease during an epidemic.

Others have suggested that the children left the city to be part of a pilgrimage, a military campaign, or even a new Children's crusade (which is said to have occurred in 1212, not long before) but never returned to their parents. These theories see the unnamed Piper as their leader or a recruiting agent.

William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire proposes that the Pied Piper was a psychopathic pedophile.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Minor Project Research... The Pied Piper...

In the tale of the Pied Piper, we have a village overrun with rats. A man arrives dressed in clothes of pied (a patchwork of colors) and offers to rid the town of the vermin. The villagers agree to pay a vast sum of money if the piper can do it – and he does. He plays music on his pipe which draws all the rats out of the town. When he returns for payment – the villagers won’t cough up so the Pied Piper decides to rid the town of children too! In most modern variants, the piper draws the children to a cave out of the town and when the townsfolk finally agree to pay up, he sends them back. In the darker original, the piper leads the children to a river where they all drown (except a lame boy who couldn’t keep up). Some modern scholars say that there are connotations of pedophilia in this fairy tale.

I'm interested in the characters in this story, particularly the Pied Piper and the rats, as i feel they would work well being turned into puppet-like characters. The story as a whole would work nicely theatrically, and could be quite dark and sinister if i was to go with the dark version of the story. I'd love to use some quite textured patterns for the Pied Piper's clothing, possibly using some Brother's Quay characters as an influence for the design. Some rag-like patterns could be used to create the rats, making them look quite hand-made and organic. The environment would be set-based, similar to a theatrical set, using surreal and bold shapes.

Here's a quick concept i put together to give an idea of how textures could be used to create both the Pied Piper and the rats in this animation. I imagined the rats to be made of cloth, rags, and material-based textures.