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Applied Science Fiction

Essence over Existence: what does it mean to be human ….

The very idea of existing is often a perplexing concept, but once the human mind gets used to this contemplation, what becomes of the responsibility of life the species is relegated to? In Blade Runner, set in 2019 Los Angeles, one comes face to face with a highly unnatural world in which humans have forgotten their responsibility of life and bypassed any attempts of conservancy for their power of rationality, while exploiting the privilege of independence. In Blade Runner the world exists on top of the ruins of life, the end of empathy, and the vacancy of autonomous valor. The sounds throughout this film create profound meaning and go beyond symbolic reference or ambiance, acting more as a direct fabrication for a fragmented world. The elements of sound call the attention of the audience and to where he or she exists in this world, urging the contemplation of their own autonomy, why choices are made, and eerily foreshadow the end of the line for the current human social standards. This paper does not intend to argue there is only one particular meaning in Blade Runner, because like one single human life, there is a near infinite strata of complexities to the content of this film.

Why is this important? Through acute attention to the sound design of a film, a specific syuzhet and style is constructed. The syuzhet and style come together to tell a limited set of stories, but are powerful in their ability to shift focus, urging a cerebral-meets-emotional response, and therefore illuminating complex issues that reside within the bigger picture or fabula. In the case of Blade Runner, I am certain there is a mode of construct, or what I will refer to as style. Equal of importance, is the set of specific audio principles that are used to bring complex meaning to the surface for the audience, meaning is the score ‘clean and minimal’, or is it ‘full and layered’. The choices in sound, both diegetic and non-diegetic, are not a sidebar to the image, they are in fact a place where sound and space come together to convey a faith in reality. By this I simply mean: in the case of Blade Runner the audience knows this is a science fiction film, the audience has been marketed to see a story about the future, something that is not supposed to replicate reality but offer a fictional reality, it is a film about the future and about things they should not assume to be true, therefore they can by no means escape the make believe nature of Ridley Scott’s 2019 Los Angeles and a world of replicants. Yet the sounds throughout the film draw a clear line between the audience’s sense of self and the reality of the world around them, outside the theatre. Again I ponder why is this important? Because: sound is a strong vehicle for meaning. It is a sort of diegesis with or without ever saying a word. Sound is often the thing viewers believe enhances images, but in the case of Blade Runner, I am certain that the sounds fabricate the story, and without them, this same story could have been a convoluted action adventure, using science fiction as its genre vehicle.

Ridley Scott, and largely Vangelis’ musical score use a constant twisting of diegetic sounds which test our ability in fidelity, and non-diegetic sounds which engage our emotions throughout the score. The meshing of the two in such a strong fashion represents a cyclone of emotion on Vangelis’ part, resulting from the gravity of a story which warns a 1982 audience that trouble is on the horizon for contemporary culture. Fast forward to the 2000s and the planet is suffering large scale or global consequences of unnatural patterns. There is a constant need for technology to fix what previous technology has destroyed. Designs for beach cleaning arrays that will empty the sea of its millions of pieces of toxic materials have been made, over 1000 species of animals die per year, and many other things that align with the ‘more human than human’ motto of the Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner. The sounds that communicate this on screen in 1982 are relevant to the type of thoughts one must confront in the real off screen world of 2013. This essay intends to prove that the sounds in Blade Runner do, in fact, support the conceptual nature of the film from an existential epistemology, exploring the human relationship with the world around them. “Sound is fidelity, emotion, and illusion” (Cossar, 2013), what is meant by this? Soundtracks and scores are a fabrication of what needs to be heard to make the image believable, or to conjure intended emotions; it is not simply a replication of the reality of objects or of a world, it is a strategically arranged collection of sounds that ensure a direct relationship to the image within the film. Fidelity is our belief or loyalty to sound, emotion is how we respond to the sounds, and the illusion is what sort of reality is being fabricated through the sounds.  In fact the English Literature Professor and Film theorist John Belton (1985) argues that the evolution of sound technology and its purpose in soundtracks is to capture an idealized reality, in which filtering of sounds is crucial to ensure that there are no sounds included that fall outside of understanding or significance. To quote (Belton 1985, 66) “every sound must signify”. To further the power of sound in Blade Runner, one must consider the amount of modern synthesized sound used throughout the film, it seems this choice mirrors the nature of the story. Take for instance sound technology and it’s constant attempts to conceal the apparatus (Doanne 1980), now consider the audience views a film in which the main ambition is to conceal the true identity of characters; are they human or are they more human than human. There is a clear parallel between non-diegetic score and diegetic sound, and the pace of human relationships with the natural environment.

When the filmmaker, Ridley Scott, was asked about his hand in the score he said he did nothing except for choosing Vangelis, stating “I chose Vangelis, but he’s pretty much the kind of man you leave alone to it” (Goldberg et al 1995, 126). With this said the literature review following is nearly used to prove there is a correlation between the sounds within Blade Runner and the abuse that contemporary society relinquishes unto the planet.

In Techno-Noir, Paul Meehan (2008) explains how Vangelis seamlessly layers symphonic themes, futuristic synthesizer music, and sultry jazz into the score to demand contemplation from the audience. For Meehan it is often difficult to distinguish between the non-diegetic soundtrack, diegetic music, and bleeps and squeaks added to the special effects sounds. Meehan also discusses another important component of Vangelis’ desired outcomes is his use of layers of reverb. He explains how reverb creates a sense of space, and or emptiness, in fact stating that Ridley Scott uses ‘hall reverb’ in many key scenes of dialogue to evoke a sense of dread. The use of reverb positions sounds within an artificial space of specific dimensions, in the case of Blade Runner, this is to create a reality in which the audience questions what is truly real. In addition, consider: spatial properties of sound have undergone an intense technological evolution, in which John Belton (1985) argues sound has become unreal in a quest for realism. Furthermore, reverb as a coloration of the sounds, creates feelings like sadness, and nostalgia, both of which insight reflection and contemplation, in this case for the fallen society of Los Angeles 2019. For Meehan (2008), the use of synthetic sound and natural sound along with reverb were used to a great degree by Vangelis, to inspire distance between the audience and their comfort zones, commanding them to think back, and to question themselves.

Another film theorist, Giuliana Bruno works from a geographic film theory perspective, exploring temporal and spatial value, which in the case of Blade Runner results in the idea that Scott’s film is the metaphor for the ‘postmodern condition’. Bruno suggests that the representations of time and space in Blade Runner bring to light the dark side of technology and the process of disintegration. She summarizes the overall interconnected patterns or modes of the film as ‘consumerism, waste, and recycling’ (Telotte, 2001) which aligns with the human relationship to its environment.

With the 2013 release of Mark J. Bartkowiak ‘Sounds of the Future’ he features an essay that discusses the sounds in Blade Runner focusing on the emotional link between the audience and the score by Vangelis. The essay argues that the work of Vangelis evokes a Wagnerian cadence. Wagner, best known for his layers of texture, harmony, and orchestration, used leitmotif- which are compositions closely associated with ideas, ideas in the case of Blade Runner are about the natural being replaced by the unnatural. The essay goes on to point out the dense layering of traditional instruments such as saxophones, percussion, and xylophones, and electronic sounds such as bleeps and machines. These mechanical sounds are, at times, further layered with recordings of natural environmental sounds like thunder, and inundating rain. This author again, focuses largely on the strong use of layering and the strategic blending of types of sound to create a thick soundscape dancing between artificial and natural sound. In the next section I will use two scenes to deconstruct the aforementioned sound style and syuzhet.

Vivian Sobchack reflects on Blade Runner’s sense of real humans and replicants interchanging experience through site and sound. Sobchack recalls Walter Benjamin’s “age of mechanical reproduction” in which the inquiry into the unique status of the human being emerges. The author goes on to discuss the excessive nature of style in the narrative of Blade Runner focusing on ‘excess scenography’ but, this extends into the soundscape as well.

The first scene I will focus on is the sidewalk street scene in which the Blade Runner, Deckard (Harrison Ford), has found one of the ‘skin jobs’, Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and is chasing her down for the kill. The scene is of a complex nature unto itself as it is traveling through a busy city. Some diegetic sounds are made up of an array of languages, some of bagpipes, and harikrishna singing. The array of languages is constantly changing as the characters are running through the streets, this collection of languages incites confusion, and introduces a world dimension. This is practical for a busy city street scene, but none the less is a layer of sound that creates a cycle of contemplation, from its lack of actual clarity. It is chaotic and lost, building urgency in the audience. Added to the sounds of disparate background dialogue, there is the layer of computer generated walking directions which fade in and out, in sets of repetition similar to an environmental arpeggio, they say ‘and walk…and walk….and walk’ and ‘press the hand…press the hand…press the hand’. Fading in and out seamlessly with the sounds of the emergency sounds, this effectively suggests a world out of control, a sense of loss, a sense of helplessness. At the same time, there is the rain, here it is different than the traditional static presentation of rain. The rain in this scene is saturated in reverb, and goes between sounds of actual water, to mist, to the residual wet activity of movement within a city. Finally as Deckard (Harrison Ford) fires the first shot at Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), is the part where time seems to stand still, in for only a blink of the eyes, this is when diegetic sounds subside, and the sounds of Vangelis fade in, suggesting a totality of self-awareness in this scene. The notes of the non-diegetic sounds are of a sultry nature, they are ambient in form, and frame the death of Zhora (Joanna Cassidy). Instead of creating an emotion, the classic jazz chords that fade in, create stillness in a moment of complete chaos and devastation. The street gun-down of a person, even a ‘skin job’, would normally seem more appropriately framed in a high energy composition one that would guide the audience on the path of valor for the protagonist, but not here. The viewer is left alone, in his or her own thoughts, yet all the while dealing with a juxtaposition of moving images of the murder of a life. The Vangelis score and the diegetic sounds here use reverb, as well, notes are sustained, both creating a sense of temporal and spatial isolation. Let me explain further, recall that I stated “the use of reverb positions sounds within an artificial space of specific dimensions”. In this case hall reverb sets the sounds into a large hall shaped space creating cascading sustain on certain frequencies. This effectively lengthens the sound by simulating the early and late reflections within the space, causing fragmentation of the sound’s unity due to the deadening effect caused by all these reflections. Each time the sound is reflected it loses some of its amplitude and frequency content, paralleling the loss and decay that Blade Runner takes place in. Furthermore, the diegetic sounds of bullets and breaking glass are then layered into the smoky jazzy score, to remind the viewer not to forget the violence and decay, but never stray too far from self-reflection. This scene lasts for nearly 4 minutes, in the life of sound, that resembles forever, so it is a scene within a film, that shows the events of a Blade Runner hunting a replicant, but due to the layering of natural sounds, un-natural sounds, disparate arrangement of language, and classic descending jazz composition that it is no longer just about a Blade Runner and a replicant, it is about the hunter and the hunted, about the haves and the have nots, about the reflection of one’s own priorities and how one exploits or conserves their world around them. 

Zhora played by Joanna Cassidy

Zhora played by Joanna Cassidy

The next scene I have chosen is the love scene between Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachel (Sean Young), a replicant. The complexity of this scene derives from the premise that Rachel (Sean Young) is learning she is not truly human. This distinctly parallels the complex sound design featured within these moments. The scene starts off with the familiar and natural diegetic sounds of a rain storm; this establishes a form of human connection, through familiarity. Then shortly after the initial thunder tracks, you hear both inorganic synthesizer sounds, and a familiar mechanical instrument, the saxophone. All of this dancing back and forth between diegetic and non-diegetic, between organic, and technological. Then Rachel (Sean Young) begins to play the piano, introducing a crucial layer of diegetic sound, a replicant with the programming to play music. The instrument of choice a piano, a symbol of learning, of knowledge, and of culture; is being used to convey an emotion, but an emotion for a character who is not even human, who is void of autonomy, and of true empathy. The diegetic sounds of her piano piece balance back and forth with the sound of the Arp synthesizer, and then again the saxophone washes in with its descending composition. All the while each layer of the soundscape is framed by a hyper-space age synthesized sound emulating a teardrop, or a release, possibly a drop of knowledge, then in with more waves of the Arp synthesizer. The twist is that even the sounds which are physical or mechanical in nature, are merely representations of what the audience identifies as a saxophone or as a piano; they are in fact all synthesized sounds created by Vangelis. Why does Vangelis do this? It would be novice to suggest because keyboards and synthesizers are the only things the composer has access to, the choices are all layers that are critical in creation, they are comparable to the real thing, and create a truth in identity, but they are in fact only representational. Remember Belton’s argument about the technology evolution in spatial representation “sound has become unreal in a quest for realism” (Belton 1985, 66); this seems most appropriate when considering the choices made to frame a rather spatially and emotionally tense interaction. Again the idea of realty being fabricated by technology reappears, and begs to question the value of life forms, and our interactions with the world around us. So we wish to take care of what we have already, or do we seek to recreate what once we already had by nature. 

Rachel played by Sean Young

Rachel played by Sean Young

Furthermore, the melodic structures of these parts of the score use descending pitch, and manipulate psychological pressure, isolation, anxiety, and a depressive mood. This type of composition renders highly introspective emotions, again urging the kinds of questions leading to the meaning of human existence. Where pitch descends, the mind pursues clarity, a sort of way out, so it is apparent that Vangelis approaches these compositions with an earnest attempt at designing a quest for omniscience in the soundscapes. To compare and contrast the contemporary tech based movement and loss of appreciation for natural life, or more simply put; the human relationship to the environment, with the sounds from Blade Runner seems a given.

This essay is not intended to only parallel the way the sounds throughout Blade Runner symbolize ideals or evoke emotions, it is about choices and how they can transform a film to the perfect transparent vehicle for a story. Scott apparently did not want to create an action adventure, a good guys vs. bad guys film in the genre of science fiction. Scott wanted the public to consider large sets of concerns; the loss of empathy, the future of the planet, and our own identity of self, and our relationship to the world around us. Take for instance Søren Kierkegaard, who believed it was the individual who was solely responsible for giving meaning to life, and when applied to Blade Runner, Scott conveyed this message of essence over existence.

The film’s most irreplaceable component for the syuzhet and style is the sound design. Where language could have created social unity, Scott chose to go against that by choosing a fragmented array of languages. Where high energy scoring could have created the exhilaration of the chase, and often the win, Vangelis chose jazzy romantic juxtapositions. And continuously throughout the film, the manipulations of synthesized sounds were replaced for real world instruments. Furthermore, stylistic choices in reverb, stratified soundscapes between organic sound and hyper-synthesized sound, and descending pitches carried on throughout the entirely of this film, replacing more traditional selections of adventurous and heroic compositions which would have created a high energy adventure in a post-apocalyptic future. It is because of these sound choices that Blade Runner is not just a story about a Blade Runner hunting replicants, it is an existential response of faith in reality, through a strata of questioning what is real. Finally, it is because of the syuzhet and style through sound choices that Blade Runner asks you to look at the story within the story, and within yourself. 

Roy Batty

Roy Batty played by Rutger Hauer

 

I am very grateful to be so touched by a film, and by a musical score. I think of those I knew who have passed on, most recently: my aunt Alberta Howlett, and the rad Ria Pell. I wonder if they now know what it means to be human.

Works Cited

Belton J. Technology and Aesthetics of Film Sound”. Theory and Practice Film Sound. Weiss,   E., J. Belton eds. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Book.

Doanne, M.A. “Ideology and the Practice of Sound Editing and Mixing”. The Cinematic Apparatus. Ney York: St. Martins Press, 1980. Book.

Goldberg, L. Randy Lofficer, Jean-Marc Lofficer, William Rabkin. “Science Fiction Filmmaking             in the 1980s” Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 1995. Book

Konzett, M., “Sounds of the Future”. London: McFarland, 2013. Book

Meehan, P. “Tech-Noir; The Fusion of Science Fiction and Film Noir”. Jefferson: McFarland &    Company, Inc. Publishers, 2008. Book

Sobchack, V., “Screening Space”. New York: Ungar Publishing Company, 1987. Book

Telotte, J.P. “Science Fiction Film”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Book

Installment 3, Applied Science Fiction

There are many reasons to watch a film, yet we often forget how important it is to listen to a film, to hear the story. Rarely do we say “I am hearing a movie”, or “I am listening to a film”, when prompted, the reply is usually “I am watching a film”. This is a parallel of how out of touch humans are to their natural environments, and how modern culture needs constant reminders of compassion, constant reminders for the species whom don’t speak, or for the humans whom don’t have voices. Images make the greatest impacts, yet it is images baring pain or destruction that usually strike movement; socially, physically, or spiritually. How far from balanced this seems when  we could consider ‘seeing’ realities as the added bonus to our senses, and hearing as what we do with our ears and spirit. In Blade Runner, the sounds are not only supportive to the things we see with our eyes, they are supported by the things we see. This cycle in Scott’s film design harkens a real or authentic emotional inversion, one of which is more natural than natural, by todays standards; more real than real. The sounds, much like intuition, can seep deeply into our cognition, encouraging empathy to the world around us.

Blade Runner Still

Blade Runner still

Arguably one of the strongest pieces of evidence for meaning in Blade Runner can be found in the non diagetic underscoring. Pieces of music through the film, such as Memories of Green, Blade Runner Blues and Love Theme of Blade Runner, feature a similarity in composition. The melodic structures are descending in pitch and manipulate psychological pressure, anxiety, and depressive moods. This type of composition renders highly introspective emotions, again urging the kinds of questions leading to the meaning of human existence. Where pitch descends, the mind pursues clarity, so it is apparent that Vangelis approaches these compositions with an earnest attempt at designing a quest for omniscience in the soundscapes. In fact the portion of the score called Memories of Green is crucial in binding the entirety of the soundtrack together, due to its use of natural emotion, old americana melody, organic instrument sounds, fabricated sound, and hyper synthetic sounds.

Vangelis in the studio.

Vangelis in the studio.

Again, through out this film, the sound is met with the visual support needed to remind the viewer of real life, while constantly facing the issues of the ‘fictional’ future. In several scenes there are fabricated animals, an owl, a snake and even warehouses of human replicants, these props are there to remind the viewer of where the future of the planet is heading if certain social approaches are repeated. When a scene features an owl as Rachel’s pet, this prop is instrumental and the viewer knows automatically how to relate to that. But when the fact that the owl is a replicant of a real owl becomes exposed, this prop goes from being exclusively instrumental to both instrumental and metaphorical and even cultural. While an owl is a common enough life form, what is to be considered when owls no longer exist and the fabrication of an owl is all that is left? A few things that are called to attention are, the fact that species face extinction, and that humans will continue to create whatever they need, not affected by the destruction and chaos along the way. Another concern this fabricated pet brings to mind, is, how can human’s feel fulfilled with a fabrication of reality? This owl again draws upon the meaning of human beings and their relationship to the world around them.

A Lobby Card Image

Rachel's owl.

Rachel’s owl.

There are some that analyze Blade Runner to be flat, two-dimensional, without any real meaning. I will share some of their thoughts soon, but for now I wonder if I will ever stop thinking about this film. I feel very much connected to a culmination of sound and sight, I hear Memories of Green whenever the city is ripe with industrial smog, I hear the Love Theme, when I learn about the potential loss of a species, and so many other instances. I am haunted by Blade Runner, in so many places throughout my days.

Roy Batty and Dove, closing scene.

Roy Batty and Dove, closing scene.

Installment 2, Applied Science Fiction

Does autonomy need vocal ability? Why was there not a relationship or bond established when moving to the New World, in lieu, of slaughter and exile? Why do cars rush to red lights? Why do people think it’s ‘funny’ when someone doesn’t know something? I have no idea, but, I have a million more questions where those came from!

I was sitting in the research level of my university’s library working on this paper. I played the love scene between Deckard and Rachel over 100 times, it was on a loop just playing over and over for about 5 hours in my head phones. As I wrote, I had tears coming from eyes and I did not care about a soul around me. This is a moment I will never forget, it’s the moment in which I have felt the closest to ever understanding an artist or their art.

Rachel and Deckard, love scene

Rachel and Deckard, love scene

In a romantic scene between Deckard, the Blade Runner, and Rachel, a replicant, sound and visual details create a cyclone of activity twisting between natural and synthetic. The scene starts off with familiar diagetic sound, such as light thunder and rain. There is also familiar non diagetic sound of the saxophone in the song “Love Theme” by Vangelis. The twist is that, the would be organic sound of the saxophone is actually a programmed synthetic sound. This was not the only option for the scoring of this scene, it was the choice by the composer Vangelis to fabricate reality. This theme of fabricating what actually exists, twists into knots of ethical question. What is the responsibility of the human to the world around them?  Are humans more interested in destruction and recreation, rather than caring for what they already have? So many other choices could have been made in this scene, from modern sounding sequences to hyper-space age synthesis, and yet the choice was made to fill the scene with the sounds of a familiar instrument. Rather, a programmed sound of an instrument that would normally only be coming to life in the hands of a human.

Rachel, love scene

Rachel, love scene

Also in this scene Rachel, the replicant, begins playing piano, an emotionally commanding lead instrument. The very presence of a diagetic piano piece in this scene layers yet another depth of human intellect. Consider the piano, a symbol of learning, of knowledge, and of culture. Now consider that this symbol of culture and intellect is actually being played by a character whom is not even human, this is where another example of sound and mise-en-scene come together. All the while Vangelis brings in more layers of modulated and synthetic sounds to the score through his use of programmed sounds. Aesthetically, the sounds are also propelled by the blocking and lighting in this scene. The textures created through low key lighting suggest an intimate, complex, and introspective situation. The scene’s lighting makes the profound features of the replicant’s face stand out, while leaving dark and empty space around her face. The emptiness, the contrast, the dark verses light; frame her face as a window of emotions, projecting concerns of fear, compassion, and vulnerability. At one point the positioning  of the characters in this scene places them in an area where the window light is streaming in directly onto them. However, it is not just a square window of light; the illumination is coming through the semi open blinds, creating symmetric rows of dark and light. This illuminant result symbolizes the complexity of the mankind and mirrors the many layers of scoring that are twisting between synthetic and organic. A lost meaning, or possibly, a meaning man kind may never get to? It is clear that Ridley Scott toys with definitions of the self and fleshes out the human compulsion with fabrication and destruction in this culmination of sight and sound.

Wait for me, The Love Scene

The Love Scene

Installment 1, Applied Science Fiction

I am posting excerpts from an academic paper and hope that my insanity plays out somewhat legibly to you.

I am obsessed with relationships for better or worse, what do we see our relationship is to world. There are answers, ugly and beautiful. I am fortunate enough to find answers everywhere around me, in every stride through my day.

I study geography and environmental issues for justice and conservation.

I am affected…..

The very idea of existing is a perplexing concept, but once the human mind gets past that, what becomes of the responsibility of life the species is relegated to? In Blade Runner, set in 2019 Los Angeles, one comes face to face with a synthetic world in which humans have forgotten their responsibility of life and bypassed any attempts of conservancy for their power of rational, all the while exploiting the privilege of independence. A world exists on top of the ruins of life, the end of empathy, and the vacancy of autonomous valor. Sound and design through out this film create profound meaning and go well beyond symbolic reference, acting more as a direct fabrication for a fragmented world. These elements work together to call to attention the viewer, and where he or she exists in this world, the meaning of Blade Runner is not a statement as much as it is a question; what is the human relationship to the world around him or her. Sound and mise-en-scene urge the contemplation of what human choices are why they are made, and eerily foreshadow the end of the line for the current human social standards. I do not revisit this film to dissect one particular meaning, because like one single human life, there is an infinite strata of complexities to the content of this film. I have an ongoing relationship with this film because I am certain I have found a parallel in this film between the film makers choice in sound and set design and the pace of human relationships with the natural environment.

2019 Los Angeles

2019 Los Angeles

“We are only at the dawning of (as far a SF cinema is concerned) a visual sociology-fiction of the first degree, which shows much more than it explains by borrowing its images from the proliferating decors of comic-strip art”, this from an academic essay about Blade Runner in which the author claims the film falls fatally short of meaning, and exists only as a visual spectacle. This is an alarmingly stunted perspective, because both the sound and mise-en-scene of Blade Runner prove otherwise.

Void Kampf Empathy Test

Void Kampf Empathy Test

In an early scene, where Deckard is sitting in the city, use of an array of diegetic sounds including, rain fall, people talking in the foot traffic, street minstrels, flickering neon lights, advertising campaigns playing on megatrons, and sounds of food vendors cooking, the film create a congested and crowded atmosphere. The arrangement of multiple sounds in this scene is crucial because this scene is the introduction to the urban climate for Blade Runner. Additionally when Deckerd approaches the food vendor to order food, there is a foreign language being spoken by the cook, and then by the approaching character Gaff. The language from Gaff is called “City Speak”, and is a fabricated hybrid of actual languages including Hungarian. The sound of the made up language, is harsh or gutteral and choppy, which supports a feel of disparate socialization in 2019 Los Angeles. To make this clearer, the use of recognizable languages such as Spanish and English in this scene would not create the same chaotic resonance, instead it would have been more comforting or identifiable languages. Also, the fact that all three languages are introduced in this one early scene is a reminder of the vast differences, the complex variations and potential in human beings. Often, in the real world, people are charmed by melting pots and forced to confront differences. With these differences comes challenge for people to explore new thoughts and this is manipulated in Blade Runner through the array of languages in this single scene. Flattering the sounds, mise-en-scene supports the development of meaning and work seamlessly with the soundtrack to establish a city in which human beings are dismantling the world around them. The establishing shot opens with cars that fly through the sky, yet the sky is never actually seen. There are skyscrapers, cables and megatrons in every direction. Once the camera tilts to the ground level, the blocking shows a crowded city, in which people are everywhere yet appear faceless. Often the people in the city are masked by either use of blocking or costumes. Cloak style clothes, goggles, and umbrellas are everywhere in this scene, limiting the identity of individuals. This would be suggestive of the irrelevance of human life, yet the umbrellas play with two sides of meaning. The umbrellas hide people while establishing the idea that human life is not affected by the natural environment. In fact, neither weather nor time of day is a factor for human consideration, as both elements of the natural environment are subterfuged by the technology of light up umbrellas. Why pay attention to any climate change if a device can be made to evade the nuisances? A key moment where sound and mise-en-scene relish together is when the reframing pans and tilts down over a neon light, the sound of the light is exacerbated to call attention to the synthetic prop, one of the many neon lights. “More than simply a device then, to ensure the plausible appearance of the city’s buildings, the process of “layering” or “accumulated progress” also serves to develop metaphoric argument based upon sight which answers the question raised by the film about what makes one human.”

New Delhi daily traffic landscape

New Delhi daily traffic landscape

Shenzhen China

Shenzhen China

Any and all sources used for this collection of work will be credited at the end of the installments. If you are interested in knowing where a quote came from before then, please feel free to comment and I will post the information to books, films, or scholarly articles used in these analysis. Thanks!

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The Ocean and Clothing Design.

Previously I posted about making my own clothes. Well this is a collection of images of pieces I have made. A total of about 140$ was spent of fabrics, mainly organic and environmentally sensitive manufacturing. Not everything is here, because some pieces have gone to new homes already, but lets just say, I got my moneys worth!

Going forward I think what I will focus on is tops and swimwear. My rationale is that I want to truly learn a couple of items, and get really strong at variations of those items. Leaving pants and shoes to be my only shopping needs.

Finally, I have to say, that since I have been making over 1/2 of all my clothing, trading with and/or gifts friends, I have been able to salute two of my core interests. The ocean,  and clothing design.

I get to stay current on the looks I love…
I get to save money for a few true designer pieces every year…
and most importantly,
I contribute far less crap into the world for land fills and ocean dumping…

Inspired by Blade Runner and Old Soda Fountain Counters.

Sleeve assembly

Reverse headbang always a good thing.

Organic slub top, shape inspired by Manta Rays.

Organic slub top for Anna. Inspired by the old Cousteau crew.

Organic slub top, inspired by the Bradbury Building Los Angeles and the flight of the Manta Ray.

New organic cotton top paired with Italian wool dress pants for a day at the office.

Working my own designs, paired with Osklen leather shoes and Hussein Chayalan blazer, at the office!

Cowl neck swimsuit transforms to high neck, across the shoulder shape. Very open back.

Pant skirt and racer back. Organic stretch tonal stripes. Very whaley in feel.

Jungle, the scraps bikini.

Recently in a Geography lecture Dr. Leslie Edwards, an impassioned expert of biogeography, shared a fact about ocean issues that was frightful! The weight of plastic in the ocean far outweighs the plankton. While this fact is most crucial in ocean gyres, no place in the ocean is safe. Another examination finds that washing machine waste water puts enormous amounts of fibers from clothing into the ocean, 1900 fibers can wash off a single garment during one wash cycle. Now consider this, if you will, the types of fibers washing off each garment can become a real issue, so if you’re using organic and natural fibers such as organic cottons, bamboos, wools, beechwood, and seaweed, you will not be washing away the same detrimental particles that are found in fabrics like polyester and acrylic. This should be a simple choice, even if you’re not making your own gear, you can choose sound fabrics. All you have to do is ask yourself; in order to look good, do I really need to take a dump on the ocean?

Chris Jordan shares images of what happens to sea creatures mistaking plastics as food, tiny fibers are included in this catastrophic outcome:

Midway: Message from the Gyre by Chris Jordan

Style is moot when faced with the pain of magnificent sea creatures. (This does not mean you can not have both.)

You can consider all sorts of items in your day-to-day life and see how it may wind up being the demise of another’s life. The purpose of this post is just a brief example of the direct connection between a superficial luxury love, fashion, and an instrumental worldwide amenity ‘the ocean‘.

Plastics inside the fish that we eat.

Midway: Message from the Gyre by Chris Jordan

(So my post here, is just a follow-up to share some of my complete pieces of clothing.) If your thinking about making your own clothes and are interested in the logistics:

– it takes from 1-5 hours to make a top, depending on detail work.
– it takes under a yard to make a top,
– it takes about 2-4 hours to make a swimsuit, depending on detail work.
– it takes under a yard to make a swimsuit.
– most organic cottons, bamboos and modals range from about 5-10$ a yard.

Or consider the fabrics you buy or the designer you support when shopping for clothing. These two considerations make a huge impact on our sea.

“I think, Sebastian, therefore I am” -Pris

The sounds of electronic innovations are surpassed by the language of the Weddell seal. Right now in my world, finals are approaching, and I find sanity, clarity, and inspiration in knowing this twist on the apex of triumph for certain musicians to program the perfect sound. In fact, sometimes a lifetime of experimentation can go into creating the perfect sound. Yet, alive in the same world as us, before musical programming, perfect sound has existed. This perfect sound is the language of the Weddell seals.

Weddell Seals of Antarctica

Fabrications of reality are a reoccurring theme that I am both fascinated and repelled by. Is the air of modern mankind a mirror of the Hollywood style of continuity editing? Currently I am writing a paper about the parallelism of the film Blade Runner and human interaction with the natural environment.

In the coming weeks totally look out for new posts about the awesome things I am learning and trying. For now….

…I will let the ‘sounds speak’ for themselves…

Image still from Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World" (2007)

…one day when I was swimming off the coast of Miami looking back at the mainland….

Odd how things line up, so much meaning and interconnected reasoning vs convenience or happenstance. Whatever the perspective one takes on life, this is a small collection of events that occurred in my life. Connecting them is yours to do with as you wish….

About 2 years ago I found myself at a place where I knew I was not doing enough about the things that mattered to me. I felt as though I was semi a drift in a world that had no advantages left for me. I would talk about the things I cared for with little to no seasoned understanding. I spoke from an innate place of value but not from a competitively developed understanding.

This is when I knew I had to go back to school! I shared this new proclamation with my husband and father and with their excitement I sprung into the world of Environmental Studies.

…where I would land in this only time would tell.

So, approximately 1 month later I was swimming off the coast of Miami looking back at the mainland, at my hotel and the beautiful Deco skyline. When low and behold a new pal came up from behind me and suggested I was looking the wrong way for beauty. It was a “Right Whale“, 1 ton of epic majesty! Right there, no more than 5 feet away from me! He came up and made that story book blowhole sound and I knew it was for me (ok seriously, I didn’t know it was for me, but go with it)!

There was an old treasure hunter 30 or so feet away screaming shark and my husband frozen solid from fear, muttering “baby, what was that ” and then there was me swimming north up the coast line looking into the eyes of a big ol’ whale! I mean the eyes, they were incredible. The size of coarse was also something, but it was the eyes, and the sheer fact that as I was looking at him, his eyes were looking back at me!

This adventure was short lived, less then 7 minutes of my life to be precise. But, never the less, this was one of the most crucial moments of my life for permeating a memory and a meaning.

Exactly one month after this day in Miami, I came across a horrible story. It was a story about the Navy development of military testing in the calving areas of Right Whales. This Naval development could ultimately be the end for this amazing creature! Oh my god, I turned to my husband like a pathetic puddle of flesh and started crying before I could finish my sentence. All I could mutter was “It would just be horrible to know that these guys are all gone…”. I meant to say so much more, I meant to sound so much more intelligent in my response to this article I meant so much, but instead it was just snotty grunts and grade school language. It was devastating.

Less then one month later I was enrolled in college after 16 years away. And I am now studying Geography with a focus on Marine Environments. I know that there are many layers to the loss and gains of different species and I understand that some find this to be a natural ebb and flow. Darwin makes a grand example for this through his theory of Natural Selection. I am not here to argue that or to discount any educated and experienced theories. I am merely here to say, the way the world is today is far from anything natural on all too many parts of the earth or even with it’s atmosphere for that matter . There fore, often I question the validity of dated theories on existence. I do not believe we must loose species, I do believe there is enough room on this planet for all the species that already exist and some! It is humans who have been relegated to a position of responsibility through our autonomous prowess. While I am learning my place in this responsibility through study and exploration, I look to groups like Sea Shepherd and say thank you for lighting up my path and carrying more than your weight on any given day. Because, I personally know someone who is concerned for the future of his species and he told me this one day when I was swimming off the coast of Miami looking back at the mainland…..

I am now selling hand made whales in which 20% of all sales go to supporting the efforts of Sea Shepherd. If you know someone who loves whales or you love whales consider giving one of my little guys a home! 

Handmade organic whales to order.

Handmade Organic Whales!

These guys are already living in Pennsylvania!

 

Made with certified organic and or environmentally sound fabrics. (I research the companies who make my fabrics if they are not GOTS certified).

You can buy them through:
my ebay link or
paypal me directly: paulitabennettmartin@gmail.com

Terms and conditions:

  • Each whale is hand made to order so please allow up to 10 days for your baby to ship (one or more), usually your whale will be shipped in much quicker time!!!
  • Upon ordering please note whether you would like embroidered eyes or button eyes.
  • If you are ordering 3 or more whale calves I will waive all shipping and handling.
  • 3$ Shipping & Handling per whale anywhere in the Continental United States.
  • Handmade means each whale is similar in style yet totally unique.
  • Small whales are between 12-14 inches in length for 20$.
  • Large whales are about 24 inches in length for 45$
  • I can ship worldwide but additional charges will apply.

Organic Activist Whales!

The calving ground….

The lost art of window design, an abstract of the forgotten ‘artist’ in fashion.

The lost art of window displays. I often romanticize about the years gone by where looking into a department store window was filled with wonder. There was a time when I was a youngster that the windows were like vignettes to the imaginations of designers, instead of dead space to house “product”. As a youngster the emotions would come over me, I would look and think “wow, who does that, who gets to go back there”. Not any longer, now windows seem to serve nothing more than product placement, you walk by and maybe at best, you say “oh I need to get some of those”. Well I am sure this is just fine for mass consumerism and big box sales, but there is story behind style, a story that ought to be worth hearing and I for one am listening.

Turn of the Century Kennington's Department Store Location

 

 

 

Recently my mother in law told me her grand father, Dennis Dean, was a window artist, it was really, truly, a job. It was something that took consideration and skill. He designed the windows for high-end department stores in the South called  Kennington’s. Dennis would go in to work and create complete worlds, where there would be a window with high-end hunting clothes, and naturally a scene of hunters would be set. Yet in another display there would be a scene of ultimate glamour and fashion, untouchable fantasy for most. Dennis would set the standard for everyone’s “I want” list leaving the wealthy to deck themselves out in all the finest while leaving the poorer people to save all year round trying! These were stories, little worlds if you will, that he set up to do more than just sell “product” they were to entertain the imagination in everyone.

Now a days try stepping foot into a Macy’s, its a wonder if you don’t trip and do a toothplant over a toppled pile if INC sweaters, much less even see a window display of any kind. Along with so many other plague like symptoms of mass production and consumerism, the loss of window art is chipping away at the excitement of fashion and design. I believe the magic of incredible things telling fanciful stories is still out there, but where?

 

 

Cue cymbals:
Kristopher Hegland the artist behind displays for Lanvin is where. An artist before a salesman, a creator before a consumer and a statement before a demand. Lanvin a name which expresses the lavish component of fashion design, has acquired an artist who sinks his own set of madness & calculation into creating an image backed by substance.
Previous to becoming a visual merchandiser for Lanvin, Kristopher was the co creator of the conceptual clothing collections Cardiac. Much of the pieces that came from Cardiac were created with found objects and other curiosities. Hegland, also a seasoned painter, grew up in a backdrop where his toes hung off the southern tip of the United States.
With Hegland at the helm for visual displays, Lanvin seems to honestly be demanding accountability on all fronts or shall I say “window fronts” for fashion. Together they forge forward into an abyss of imagination. Furthermore, no matter what the context Kristopher is working within, his general assembly of objects and style evoke the senses of wonder, darkness and organic connection.

Kristopher Hegland for Lanvin (photo upside down @ artists request)

Last week I had a rad little chat with Kristopher and this is how it went:

P&S: Kristopher, what exactly is your current position with Lanvin?
KH: Sr. U.S. Visual Merchandiser

P&S: How long have you been doing displays and art direction?
KH: Forever! Starting in my front yard when I was a kid, every Halloween I would turn the yard into a graveyard. When I look back at the photos it was so pathetic, you know, 6-year-old stuff. But… I remember it being so good!

P&S: What were some projects you worked on before Lanvin? Do you have any favorites when you reach back?
KH: Cardiac projects for Art Basel. They were just us taking clothes and then creating an entire being.

P&S: With Lanvin, what do you hope to accomplish creatively in an ambiance?
KH: Comfort!

P&S: What would you say is the most crucial skill or expertise that you believe got you to this place in your career?
KH: Persistence and patience…. totally!

Ok wait… really? Are we really going to go through all the same old “oh you’re so important” ego stroking questions??? I do not think so. Hegland is an artist and as such lets take a moment to peel back his abstracts and see what really makes him tick…

The artist in one of his custom costumes.

P&S: Kris, I’m gonna say a word or phrase, your only going to have to rely with up to 3 words. These words should be the most immediate thoughts that come to your mind, ok?
KH: OK

P&S: Coolest Animal

KH: Leopard

P&S: Color
KH: Red

P&S: Place you never stop thinking about
KH: The Caribbean beaches

P&S: Flavor
KH: Ginger stuff in dark and stormy

P&S: Sound
KH: Sound

P&S: Bathrooms
KH: Letters

P&S: Feeling
KH: Baoding balls

P&S: Waking up
KH: Going to sleep

P&S: Shape
KH: Wooden star blocks                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

P&S: Era in history

KH: Civil War

P&S: Internet
KH: Addictive

P&S: People
KH: (grunt!)

P&S: Smell
KH: Not so good

P&S: The sun
KH: I love the sun, it’s warm!

P&S: All right… you cheated on two.

Kristopher at work...

Kristopher Hegland for Lanvin

Kristopher Hegland for Lanvin

Kristopher Hegland for Lanvin

Thank you to Eileen Garcia for permission to use her art and thank you to Kristopher Hegland for sharing some time with me and for being patient in my quest for a more suitable understanding of an artist….

Hegland for Cardiac, Elle Magazine

 

Another face of Kristopher Hegland

Portrait of Hegland by Eileen Garcia

(Wolfman photo courtesy of Eileen Garcia Photography)

One mans garbage is another mans hand bag (and a really nice one at that)?

Is it really the responsibility for a fashion designer to consider environmental stewardship? Chances are the answer to this question comes back with a list of haunting images for what dismantled, discarded, exploited and mass-produced consumerism has replaced a body of work, in which we have forgotten fashion.

Royal Black Collection

 

 

 

 

At one point fashion was more than simple trends, it was more than just a purchase. It was an investment to a statement and an admiration for style and collections were the stories of designers.

Since those days, where ever they went, we have wandered astray and allowed for the ugliest of circumstances to come about. Not only forgoing fashion as art but subsequently oppressing people, animals and land in the process of filling our closets….

 

 

 

Like a phoenix from the ashes rises Osklen by Oskar Metsavaht, an environmentally conscious clothing line. Metsavaht is a designer who takes responsibility for where fashion has gone and attempts to renegotiate an ugly contract with consumers! Based out of Brazil, the Osken collections have single-handedly reinvigorated the fashion world, competitively addressing the classic respects to design while completely obliterating their place in the modern world. Osklen’s silhouettes ebb and flow just as the true form of the human body does, speaking to beauty and awkwardness equally. The collections have meaning, substance and completion for the present world while charging down the path of the future. Osklen’s collections beg for the individual to express them self with subtly avant guard shapes and angles and alongside highbrow innovation. Osklen brings the sand, the sun, the stars and the sea to the urban existence.

“Everybody got mixed feelings about the function and the from, everybody got to elevate from the norm” – Neil Peart, Rush, Vital Signs, 1980

Fenix Collection

Osklen Ready to Wear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Osklen presence is no smoking mirror, it is the real thing, a living breathing house of eco-fashion, a time sensitive culmination that speaks to where the world is and how we must care for our “whole” environment as much as our need for “stuff”. Metsavaht is making great advances in the world of textiles. Amongst the exciting materials being used are discarded skins of the pirarucu, salmon and tilapia. After sourcing another man’s garbage, these skins are processed and tanned using green methods and supplying fare wage jobs for the local communities. Metsavaht is not alone in these projects, he has cultivated a world-class incubator along with others, for the advancements of green textiles within the E Institute, a non-profit private civil association, created and based in Rio de Janeiro, dedicated to the promotion of Brazil’s calling as a “country of sustainable development”. Birth out of the E Institute comes E Fabrics, which I am sure you can guess what their mission is! Textiles, like those being used in the Osklen collections, were nothing more than garbage before groups like these brought heightened concern to fabrics, design and environmental responsibility. Furthermore, textiles like these were also only a “neat idea” until forward thinkers, like Oskar Metsavaht, gave them new life.

Oskar Metsavaht is also an appointed representative for UNESCO since 1999. Save it… I know… What does that really truly mean? The United Nations, what do they really get done, another glorified puppetry center? Well I can not answer that for you in one brief essay length post, but I can say that the combination of connections back to the man behind Osklen is completely inspiring. The concept and actions behind Osklen show that fashion and design do not have to leave blood on your hands. These connections draw a profound depth to a collection of clothing. These connections also set a new standard in fashion and push boundaries that were once set for aesthetic beauty. Whether an individual continues to walk blindly through the world of shopping or not, the playing field for style has just become illuminated and I for one know which team uniform I want to be wearing!

So while I have danced around the question “Is it really the responsibility for a fashion designer to consider environmental stewardship”, I have provided an abstract in response. The truth is that whatever part one plays in the world a portion of the responsibility is theirs. To carry a portion of the weight in this is where we depart from the singular identity of a profession and become a presence, Osklen is that presence is in fashion and design introducing endless possibilities in fashion.

“I feel the sense of possibilities”. – Neil Peart, Rush, Camera Eye 1980

The beautiful people I know applying Osklen to their lives….

Lou Dickinson

To read more from Ms. Lou’s fashion and design perspectives visit Gres Matter.

Edgemont

Himalaya Tee

D&K

Optics by Osklen

Conscious Clothing, Less Blood on my Hands.

For years my choices have been limited in clothing due to price verses style. Easily put, I like expensive stuff. Then a voice started to overwhelm me, it was asking who the hell are the actual designers of the things I like? what inspires their collections? do they even have collections any longer? What I found was that identifying any connection to larger label designers is near impossible. With that being said there was a serious disconnect for me concerning the things I wrap my body in every day. This is when I decided to take circumstances into my own hands, I got a Bernina 801 Sport sewing machine and made a conscious decision to begin making my basics and cut back on my shopping. I have learned some really great things about making my own clothes. First, it does not take any longer than days of shopping. Second, it costs about a quarter of the costs of shopping. While I am not making every thing I wear, I have cut down to purchasing only shoes, accessories, underwear and 1-2 pairs of pants a year. As my sewing gets better, I will begin making my own underwear and pants as well.

Now I own a gorgeous workhorse of Swiss design (big up) as well as an ultimately rewarding fact that making my own gear requires less blood on my hands (big BIG up).

Let me share a little win win info with you on the sewing matter, last year I spent less than $100 on fabric, out of this I got a tunic dress and a slub boat neck top, plus three tops for other friends. I also made bikini pieces, all casual but stylized sportswear. This year I will spend right around $100 on fabric again and I will make a minimum of 5 raglan tops a skirt and a full piece swim suit. Leaving me only to shop for shoes and pants again. Pretty much I am cutting out over half of the shopping a normal person does, and I will make clothes that last longer, cost less and look exactly how I want them to. Buying all my fabric at the beginning of the year creates parameters for that year’s look and pushes my creativity. I pick a color palette, usually 2-3 colors and a print, then I am challenged to choose a couple of bodies to design, cut and sew, once I am finished with the 1st round of items for me, I have enough to create a duplicate for another person, usually the 2nd time around is even better. Each item takes a full days work to complete, that includes the deign aspect. Generally I can look forward to 5-7 hours worth of commitment to a piece. The best part about the work is coming out with precisely what I want while remaining in touch with the entire process, even the textiles. Plus with all the money I save from not buying sweatshop crap, I can buy a few actual designer pieces from people like Osklen, Henrik Vibskov, Osbourne Shoes, Industry of All Nations or Dieppa Restrepo. I can also do trade with people like Sarah Green custom leather shoes.

Sarah Green Custom Leather Shoes

Hand Cobbled In The Crescent City

 

 

 

Whatever the matter sewing is making fashion attainable, intimate, rewarding and essential again…..

 

 

 

I have found some great info out there about textiles and have begun shopping with a top-notch independent supplier out of L.A., High End Fabrics. Here I can make my connection with the sewing experience one step stronger, after all, the end does not justify the means. Places like High End Fabrics, and it’s founder Juan Carlos Cardenas, make it accessible to shop for environmentally friendly fabrics. Some of the fabrics are even certified GOTS or Global Organic Textile Standard. What is GOTS? Nutshell, it is a certification that is based on definitions in organic processes from harvesting of raw materials to environmental and social responsibility. While GOTS is not the only thing you need to ensure you are buying from a low impact textile manufacturer you can also look into the practices of manufacturers directly. For example, I purchase many either GOTS certified or fabrics made by companies like Lenzing who use sustainably forested beechwood trees and environmentally friendly bleaching process for pulps. Lenzing produces awesome modals and lyocell as well as tencel and cottons. Both lyocell and tencel are great fabrics for modern design style and are well-respected for environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.

Environmentally Conscious Fabrics from High End Fabrics

Another great way to work on conscious clothing is to shop vintage fabrics, know this folks higher up on the evolutionary ladder of style, vintage fabrics are not all kitchy crafty holly hobby shit! There is some hot stuff out there waiting to become a silhouette…. Think vintage silk button downs with modern Garcons lines! Think vintage Pendleton wool fabric in sharp Gary Numan-esque peacoat! Think about the money you will save to spend on “real” designer pieces to add to your custom-made clothing. Think anything you want, spend a few bucks and some hours and you will have exactly what started as just a thought.

100% Promodal Mini Pique Jersey Knit

100% Promodal Mini Pique Jersey Knit

Lenzing made Linen Rayon Poly Slub Knit

Totally organic oatmeal next to more delicious promodal from High End Fabrics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juan Carlos at High End Fabrics is giving a special discount, 70 cents off per yard to shoppers who mention protectionandstrength.wordpress.com, just go to: High End Fabrics Etsy or High End Fabrics Ebay and upon purchase, mention protectionandstrength that’s it, save on saver!!!

Ed Mass founder of Yes It’s Organic has an awesome article about modern environmentally friendly fabrics in Natural Life Magazine, read it at Natural Life Magazine

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