The Pining Tree is an animation written & directed by Rosemary Dean, using images drawn by Aiko Asanuma and animated by Tetsuro Shimauchi. Independently financed and produced by Rosemary, the film employs a sketched/water-coloured series of still-drawings. The animation is extremely limited so as to focus on the minutiae of 'stillness' that surrounds the central character as she lives alone in her apartment with a large tree just outside her window.
Evoking whispers of half-remembered folklore of those trapped by the dimensional borders of their surroundings, The Pining Tree narrates a haunting tale of moving over to the Other side. Interred in her solitary domicile, a woman seems fated to become one with the tree outside her apartment. It beckons her, entrances her, enraptures her. Her humming, tactile space seems pregnant, awaiting this transformation.
The score to The Pining Tree was released on the CD Filmmusic Vol.2 in 2009.
Script & direction - Rosemary Dean
Artwork - Aiko Asanuma
Animation - Tetsuro Shimauchi
Sound design - Jennifer Sochackyj
Music composition & production - Philip Brophy
Included on FILMMUSIC VOL.2 - Sound Punch Records, Melbourne
Premiered at AURAL GAZING - Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
The Pining Tree was developed across a two and a half year period, mostly because of the detail shading and hand-rendering required for all the still images of the animated sequences. This 'detailed stillness' contributes a strangely 'full but stilted' feel to the animation, which in turn reflects well the psychological state of the central woman living in this netherworld removed from social contact.
The overall structure of The Pining Tree this resembles a poetic folk tale. Its phrasing and rhythms are as important as the events that unfold. Accordingly, the sound design and film score take note of this balance of action with nuance.
The main experiment in working on The Pining Tree evolved around the idea that Jennifer Sochackyj would complete the sound design for the work using sounds alone. The score would then have to fit within the sound world that Jennifer created. This generated a substantially minimal score, but the music's hesitant statement is reflective of the way that the story's woman is herself almost 'not-existing'. The score came to be emblematic of this aspect of her condition and behaviour.
The Pining Tree instrumentation is restricted to a re-edited sample bank of Rhodes electric piano sounds on the ASR-10. Extended reverb effects processing is employed to diffuse the harmonic tones of the Rhodes' samples.
The whole score revolves around one melodic sequence of chords, which is then repeated twice during the film. This chord sequence is wholly improvised while watching the film, complete without looking at where hands were being placed on the keyboard. The concept here was to create music that simply and purely 'co-existed' with the images - in much the same way the woman in the film seems to simply 'exist' in a hovering disconnected state.
This sequence commences at the first point where it was gauged that there was a thought being formed in her head. The sequence was then performed played until it was sensed that her head became emptied of thoughts, reflections and sensations, just as she is going to sleep. This same sequence was then repeated across an image-sequence where the outdoor tree and its mystical/fatalistic power became more prominent in the story's action. This repeat allowed the score to represent equally the tree's energy in relation to the woman, as well as the woman's relation to the tree. In accordance with various Japanese folkloric tales, she becomes subsumed within a natural entity (in this case, a tree), so the music becomes 'subsumed' within them both. The improvization of chords to her alone allowed this transposition to occur, rather then having to write two separate chord sequences.