Chet Faker’s video for 1998 is a great inclusion on the topic of sound in coordination with the diegetic space of a piece and the visual elements at play. In the past decade, we’ve seen great examples of this in the science fiction genre, such as Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin(2013) with Mica Levi’s sound score, creating what she calls “the beehive effect”. This term she uses refers to the disorienting feeling the viewer gets which can be liken to the feeling of the alien protagonist as they explore earth for the first time. The director of Faker’s 1998, Domenico Bartolo, creates a feeling of synesthesia for the viewer as they embark on an animated journey with leaping ink blobs that morph with swirling shapes. Each shape and their movement correspond to a sound within the song. When watched enough, the association between the shapes and sound is imprinted onto the viewer and the song can be heard in their head as they watch even with the volume turned down.
Anytime I come across a piece like this and my senses are meddled with, I recall the moment where I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Beeb and hear him lecture. Beeb is core teacher in the art department at Ohio State, specifically the film studies program. Although Beeb’s education and background are in philosophy, his intrigue and experimentation in the film genre has gained him recognition. One such experiment that he showed was clear film leader that you would place before/after a film in order to set it up on a projector. On this film leader, using photoshop, he created a method of printing a design tailored to the dimensions. Stan Brakhage’s experimental pieces, such as Water for Maya are of the same vein. Beeb took his experiment a step further, though, and printed the same visual pattern on the audio portion of analog film. This technique is no longer used with the advent of digital sound recording, even when a piece is being shot on film.
As Beeb began rolling the leader through the projector and the images he created appeared on the screen, I immediately felt overwhelmed. The space behind my throat and below my brain began to vibrate. Not only was I seeing the intricate pattern, I was hearing their frequencies from their shapes as they were being picked up, inked onto the audio strip.
While the shapes seen within Faker’s 1998 aren’t proven to be physical composites of the sounds being heard, the same type of connection the viewer has is similar to Beeb’s experiment. A viewer can begin to expect what sound is occurring based off the pattern and rhythm movements. It’s notable that Faker’s walking figure provide the life beat of the song with his feet hitting the ground. He morphs into the different shapes, his outline just barely noticeable at some points. This is pointed reflexivity, creator becoming he has created.
To see how Faker composes the song, check out the video of Chet Faker performing live KCRW.