Friday, January 1, 2010

Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Rang in the New Year at Tito's house, a member of Viento de Agua. There were no less than 200 people, and more kinds of pork for me to eat. Oh yeah, about 12 different types of cana too. If you know what that is, then you can understand why combining that with filming must be done delicately.

Now, the music that was happening last night are the kind of late night jam sessions that are legendary. There is no shortage of talent, and improvisation is the gold standard for achieving ultimate audience response. Most of the time people talk about musical improvisation in terms of jazz music, and while that is a fine example of an improvisational structure, it is by no means unique. The ability for a music group to come together, and have one person take a solo while the rest holds the backbone is prevalent in many folklore forms and it was present last night as well. Solos are competitive and energetic, and can flip back and forth between drums and singing.

Shooting at a raucous New Year's Party lent special considerations. The lighting was a bit tricky for a while, and I wanted to be able to capture the people playing in the background where it was considerably darker. So I moved around the crowd with some difficulty trying out different shots. Fiddling with the white balance helped, although the light attachment was not always helpful

Audio is very difficult. There was a lot of feedback and background noise in the room, and this transmitted into the recording. There is a lot of fuzzyness, but I'm hoping some audio enhancement could help this.

The best part, was to see the passion and camraderie the musicians had for each other and the audience. Puerto Rico is an island the size of Connecticut, and by some of my conversations, this is why everyone treats each other like family. In one conversation with Joksan (another Viento member) he said he noticed that people from islands tend to stick with one location growing up. Joksan has traveled considerably through his music and acting carrer, so he's been able to see a good part of the world. One observation he stated was that he felt he had more in common with people from Ireland, than people from other parts of Latin America. Island sensibility indeed.

I rang 2010 working on my documentary. I used to always be working at a restaurant during New Years. Last year, I rang it in with a small group of friends. I'm not sure how much symbolism any of it has, New Year's Eve is so rife with expectations and forced symbolism. It is different here in PR, because New Year's is just one in a series of holidays that makes up the Christmas season. And here, it really is a season, but not because its a marketing time period for stores, but because people really get excited and ready to celebrate with each other from December 1st to the end of January. By not having only two days set out to celebrate, there is no need to put so much focus on those two days, that it becomes overwhelming and stressful. You have a two month period to show your family and community how much you love them. And presents are just a part of it, they are not the focus.

Last night, the focus was music, which for someone like me, is one of the greatest expressions of,,, well, I guess universal love. I mean, I am a believer that art is a form of magic, and specifically, good magic. So where else does that good magic come from then out of love? Part of my interest in doing this project was how to bring the love back to Christmas since it has become bastardized in the States by mass consumerism. Maybe next year, I buy no presents and just force people to hang out and play music, or listen to music, or share music, or make cookies, or cards, or tell jokes, or do yoga, or tai-chi, or anything else that gives each other joy that is not a wrapped up present. I got presents this year that I desperately needed for the project, along with a couple of truly beautiful sentimental gifts as well. So I understand this might be hypocritical but I am no suggesting getting rid of presents altogether. I am only proposing, that we re-think the holidays, and make them actual holidays again.

1 comment:

  1. Feliz año nuevo P!!!!!! I am so with you in the whole holiday thing. we have to start changing the misconception of these wonderful time of year. I am so glad you are keeping us posted, and i am so happy that you are having such a great time surrounded with the warm of what i could say is a little like my own culture. Love and miss you.