Musician and featured artist, Yonatan Gutfeld shares his thoughts on the process behind his new project, “In Exile Even In His Own Room”.
During my summer visits back home in Israel, I stock up on Hebrew poetry books that will hopefully save me from being lost in front of the piano for the following New York winter. The randomness and swiftness in which I choose these books is meant to keep me from doing too much of the obvious. As a singer/songwriter, my inclination is to endlessly produce Leonard Cohen cover versions but a clever friend hinted a while ago that the world may already have enough of those.
A newspaper eulogy for the poet Ory Bernstein drew my attention to a book of his that I picked up and brought with me. I opened it on a page that began with the words “Sometimes he is found in a foreign room, not knowing why he is here and what he came about…”. The project began in hopes to record the way my own room echoed in these lines. The other poems I was drawn to seemed to also deal with vulnerabilities and possibilities of the private space. Lines like “Now he is in exile even in his own room…” and “In his imagination he would travel the world…” are examples for this commonality.
After recording basic piano and vocal versions, I looked for ways to musically express the sense of impermanence I got from the text. I used a sampler to manipulate noises such as dock cracklings, boat horns and human rustle to layout the basic soundscape of the album. After Time’s Tyranny, my previous project that consisted of music set to Shakespeare’s sonnets in Hebrew translation, on which I worked mostly by myself, I was interested in involving others in my process. See link to Time’s Tyranny album.
I never met the animator Dan Azoulay in person but it was fascinating to get to know his sensibilities through our virtual back and forth. The basic idea for the project’s videos was to stick to the traditional experience of reading poetry from a book while using animation to move and manipulate letters. We hoped that this approach would create visual imagery that allows the viewers’ personal reading to stay open and respects the metaphoric spaciousness the poetry has to offer. An example for our approach can be seen in the following video. Letters turn into objects and disappear while the poem describes the tossing of personal belongings after one’s death.
Throughout our work together, it seemed that Dan was responding to the musical layers I was adding while also describing his own personal reading of the poems. This exchange validated our collaboration. Check out some of Dan Azoulay’s other work here.
Throughout this year (2018-2019) I was a fellow at LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y. Without the artistic and technical support from the dedicated LABA team, this kind of project that takes a minor stand at its core, may have stayed an idea.
“In Exile Even In His Own Room” and its videos are planned to be released later this summer.