Nineteen Thirteen debuts “Tango Obscura” video
In the age after the aughts, musicians are expected to represent their projects on multiple fronts. Nowadays it’s de rigueur to be everywhere: streaming and downloadable music files, Facebook fan pages, websites, documentaries, music videos and whatever else may gather a few more fans to their musical cause.
Local chamber rock ensemble Nineteen Thirteen recently took on the challenge with a self-made music video for “Tango Obscura,” a charming tango-cum-cello tune released in the spring on the group’s EP, Infinite Prelude.
Cellist Janet Schiff, along with drummers Victor DeLorenzo and Scott Johnson have been mesmerizing Milwaukee audiences in their current incarnation for just over a year (though the group has existed since 2005), playing their way through the city, including a residency at the Jazz Estate, and playing live on WMSE and Radio Milwaukee.
The video, as Scott Johnson describes it, is not a narrative but a series of portraits of Schiff and the 1913 cello, for which the ensemble is named. The camera that Scott and Victor used is a Panasonic DX 100 V, which renders filmic motion with many single frame shots. At times, the editing highlights this technology by quickly transforming the speed at which the shots are shown, transforming a still image into moving film in an instant—highlighting a turn in the music.
The tone is sensual because its subjects, colors, lighting and music are sensual; there is a built-in rapture in seeing the woman in a red dress and the human-proportioned instrument laying on the bare wood floor, all while hearing the entrancing, repetitive, looping phrases of the cello.
When I ask Schiff what role desire plays in her music-making, she explains confidently.
“Desire is why I am sitting here. I’ve strived for this, and often accomplished what needed to happen.”
Johnson is more tempered in his response.
DeLorenzo’s perspective of desire is much like his drumming style: out-of-left-field, but at the same time, boundary-exploding. He mentions the shruti box, an instrument used in Indian music that creates a lush tonal drone. Suddenly, we’re talking about the poetics of desire.
“There’s a drone of desire that never ends…” Says DeLorenzo.
I ask them all if making the music of Nineteen Thirteen is the medicine to soothe desires, or the outcome of them, and there is a three-beat-long pause.
“Music is the fuel for desire,” says DeLorenzo.
“There’s also the will and the strength to do,” adds Schiff. She starts laughing, and I ask her why.
“I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about this. When someone says they’re going to do something…” She shakes her head, bemused, but doesn’t explain further. So, with the conversation at a close, please enjoy this visual adaptation of “Tango Obscura.”