Harlan Crichton ’12 & Zak Taillon ’12

“I made this compilation during a 13,000-mile road trip through rural America. These are places that were off the big highways. They are forgotten, lonely places. I attempted to capture their desolate beauty.”

Interview with Harlan Crichton ’12

Can you describe the project?
In 2013, I began a 13,000 mile motorcycle trip around the country. These vignettes were shot everywhere between Oregon to Kentucky.

This film started out as separate shorter films. It was something new for me and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I made a larger compilation but it lacked something. That is when I asked Zak to come up with an atmospheric soundtrack.

What was your process in the making of the film?
This film is a companion piece to the photos that I took on my trip. I feel that they exist as moving photographs. After riding for a number of days, I would come to a place that I was interested in. It could have been the name, the history or the landscape that attracted me. I would then walk around and look. After a day or two it would be time move on.

What was the process of collaborating with Zak for the music like?
Zak and my collaboration was very straightforward. We met up for coffee, talked about the clips and some general ideas I had. From there, I left it completely in Zak’s hands. I’m constantly excited by what he came up with. He did a great job.

What goals were accomplished? Were there things you wish went differently?
This was an opportunity for me to play. I didn’t have an ultimate goal, besides making something interesting. I did my part; Zak completed it.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
MECA was a great place for me. I loved the faculty, students, and the facilities. I hadn’t taken any art classes in high school. But I had taken a few summer photo courses. When I was choosing a college, I didn’t see myself anywhere else but art school.

While I went to MECA I really came into my own. The faculty provided me with the tools I needed to find my own voice. It also gave me the connections with some really great artists, such as Zak.

View Harlan’s work here.

Interview with Zak Taillon ’12

What was your process for creating the soundtrack for the film?
Creating the soundtrack for For the Love of Dolphins was essentially just me responding to Harlan’s visuals on synthesizers. He told me to do whatever I wanted with the sound and gave me the film 100% silent so there was a lot of opportunity for me to explore in this project.

I immediately knew within moments of my first viewing that I wanted to use only synthesizers in the scoring process. I started by brainstorming for ideas by playing a soft-synth version of the Roland Jupiter-8 while I watched the film on repeat, taking note of moments I felt strong emotional responses to. After a few hours of creating and shaping the synthesizer sounds I wanted to use in the 12 scenes of the film, I recorded myself improvising four live sessions in my home studio, each one ranging between 20 and 45 minutes long.

From there, I searched for motifs within the recorded performances that resonated with some of the emotions I felt in the landscapes of Harlan’s film. Those motifs became the foundations for each scene of the film and the rest of the composition process was just building new motifs off of older ones, editing my performances, adding layers, and eventually adding a couple samples to the mix. I completed the score in just two back-to-back 12-hour studio sessions.

The sound design for this film was inspired by the ambient works of Oneohtrix Point Never, Tim Hecker, Brian Eno, and Phillip Glass.

What were the goals accomplished? Was there anything you wished went differently?
The main goal I had in scoring For the Love of Dolphins was to use the color and texture of sound to guide the viewer through the cinematography that Harlan documented on his cross-country motorcycle trip. I think I accomplished this goal by using and reusing musical motifs as if they were characters in the film.

I felt that an unexpected success of this soundtrack was the complexity of the dialogue it seems to bring up about nature, sustainability, industry, and death. I don’t think I would change any aspect of the soundtrack if I had to do it again.

How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
My education at MECA helped me develop a strong visual language and taught me how to creatively respond to my abstract feelings, concepts, and thoughts. Though I did not study music at MECA, the things I learned about art and about myself in my college career shaped me as a composer and visual artist all the same.

View Zak’s work here, and here.