Ásgeir, 'King And Cross'
Since winning the Icelandic Music Award for best album of the year in his home country a few years ago, Ásgeir Trausti — best known simply as Ásgeir — has begun to win over larger parts of the world, including the U.S. He has a calm upper range voice, a voice not unlike Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Later, he released In The Silence,a version of that award-winning album with the lyrics translated into the English. It includes this song, "King And Cross," which he described to us via email as having "elegance, funkiness and some weirdness." And so when director Phil Pinto had the idea to choreograph ballerinas and a SWAT team in the song's video, Ásgeir thought, perfect: "It suited the song really nicely because it has all the same elements — it just felt right."
What attracted Phil Pinto to "King And Cross" was the way it gets stronger as it progresses from its initial acoustic guitar opening to the bigger band at its end. "I was really drawn to the idea that as the song builds and more musical elements are added, that we'd also introduce visual elements to coincide with that build," he wrote. Now, there are a few ways to tackle such an idea and these days the answer is usually technology, but Pinto says he took a more creative (and stressful) approach:
"The idea of doing that through editing felt a little too easy, so just to make it a little more challenging I wanted to do it as a long continuous take. I was really drawn to the idea that as the song builds and more musical elements are added, that we'd also introduce visual elements to coincide with that build. The idea of doing that through editing felt a little too easy, so just to make it a little more challenging I wanted to do it as a long continuous take. Making it a one-shot video forced us to come up with different ways to make the video just as engaging as a traditionally edited video. There was no fixing it in the edit, so everything had to fall into place right on time — from the dancers to the camera movement and lighting cues."
For these dancers, many of whom come from the New York City Ballet, Pinto brought in a choreographer, Celia Rowlson-Hall, to come up with a concept. She loved the idea of the single take. In an email she told us, "It really brings the feeling of live performance to film. No matter what, the dancers must keep going regardless of what happens. But the thing about shooting something in a single take is that it can feel stressful because of the fear of messing up, but I told my dancers to embrace the mess ups if they happened and to turn them into choices. Commit no matter what. The audience won't know the difference." Dancer and choreographer Jason Kittelberger worked with the teams of dancers to create the specific movement and that movement took place in a football stadium-length "machine graveyard" which director Phil Pinto says "became another character in and of itself." All in all a glorious shoot and pairing of image and song.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.