Another Shade, Another Shadow: James Blake and Interacting with Music

James Blake’s music video for “I Need a Forest Fire (ft. Bon Iver)” is gorgeous. Light is cast on sculptures. As the camera pans, shadows take on gorgeous patterns, changing as the light sources maneuver.  

In a way the video serves as an analogy to Blake’s own art. His musical ideas are edifices. Sometimes one will suffice for an entire song (ex: “Wilhelm Scream”). These sculptures are notable by themselves. Is that true? 

It could be how Blake subjects them to light and shadow that makes the difference. With a subtle change of light, the depth and texture of a figure changes. Add in the angle that the camera takes and the sculpture is new. If this process of renewal is constantly occurring within a piece, a simple idea carries impact and profundity. Camera, sculptures, and light fixtures, intertwined, create the mesmerizing effect.

That is James Blake. But could it be us too?

“I Need a Forest Fire” is an ear worm. Or, rather, the song is a sculpture, apart from the video filled with them.

As you hum the song throughout the day, new contexts for the sculpture give way. If you listen to it after a breakup, there is a new light cast on it. If you listen to it while you are gleeful, that is again another new light.

But then you are also manning the camera. Where will the focus be put: the lyrics, their meaning, the melodic ideas, the structure, all of the above, none of the above? It is up to you. Anything is fair game.

And lest we forget the room where the sculpture resides. Sing it in the shower, in the library, or listen to it in the car. Each new context works with the other factors at hand.

Throw in the Internet too. Remix culture, Youtube (where I saw the music video), Soundcloud, torrents, etc. That augments every single factor in the equation.

James Blake’s music video leaves us with a picture of how we interact with music: rearranging and walking through the sculpture exhibit at the same time.


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