Jeffrey Silverstein is a songwriter based in Portland, OR. His new LP, Western Sky Music, is out April 2021 via Arrowhawk Records.
(Photo Credit: Shade Standard)
I have no formal music training. With a limited understanding of music theory, I rely on other modes of communication with bandmates, mixing/mastering engineers, and other collaborators. I may not always know what key or chord I’m playing, but I can describe how I want a song to feel, move, or a scene/place it should conjure. On “(Theme From) Western Sky Music,” I held in mind the moment after an intense storm passes, clouds peeling back to allow for a glimpse of blue sky or sun. We arranged this song on the spot in the studio. Once Barry landed on the ascending pedal-steel line that opens the tune, I knew we were onto something. I view this song as an anchor point for the entire album, and was honored to work with animator Mark Neeley to provide a visual component.
Usually when animating a music video, you’re working in reverse by building from the track. With this project, though, it was my first time animating a full instrumental song. This was really exciting. When Jeffrey approached me about doing the video, he discussed some examples of minimalist movement in animation (fortunately, there is always an element of that in my own work). As far as themes, we discussed an emphasis on the pedal steel guitar and some western imagery that fit both the song and the whole album. One of my favorite past projects was a music video from a few years ago — I described it as a full blown “animated acid western.” Although this just touches on some of those elements, it is always a design aesthetic that I wanted to expand on. There are also some sequences of quick flashes of movement (the patterns and growing flowers) in between the more drawn out phases. This was inspired by Fred Mogubgub, an artist from the East Village Other in the ‘60s: he also experimented in these strange, mixed media film collages. The quick cut film technique was very psychedelic.
Western Sky Music is out May 12 on Arrowhawk Records.