Spring 2013 Ensemble and Recital Series: John Swank, drums

9:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

John Swank_Senior Recital Spring13
Combining motion-picture and live music, this performance is like 
silent film in format, but not in the style of silent film. 
A collage of film excerpts are taken from Planet Earth (Doc. 2006), 
Victory at Sea (Doc. 1952), and The Abyss (1989). 
Score by John Swank. 
Why reference this “archaic” style of cinema? Pictures are worth a 
thousand words, and music expresses what language cannot. The medium maintains a certain level of abstraction by 
excluding dialogue, narration, and lyrics. 

John Swank (b. 1989, Chicago)

The everyday use of the word ‘story’ connotes a narrative, including a beginning, middle, and ending, that together create a comprehensible story.

Not all comprehensible stories can be put into words. Think, for example, of when someone ends a story by saying, “You had to be there.” The salient parts of some stories are missing when told in words.

Using electricity as a metaphor, words are not always functional conductors for the electricity of stories.

But, if the same stories were told in videos, the salience might be retained.

Without words, stories do not need to conform to narrative in order to be comprehensible.

For my recital, I wanted to create a story without words or narrative; a story that could not even be put into words, but could be comprehended when experienced. To do this, I compiled segments of video that I thought told comprehensible and compelling stories visually.

The next step after compiling video segments was to compose original music, and also adapt music I had written before ever conceiving of this project.

The medium is, in a way, the opposite of books.


Jazz and Contemporary Music Performance Space, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, 5th floor

Free; no tickets or reservations required; seating is first-come first-served

< back
Connect with the New School