9 Horses’ Music Video: “The Water Understands”

One year ago, 9 Horses – a trio comprised of mandolinist and composer Joseph Brent, violinist Sara Caswell and double bassist Andrew Ryan – stepped onto the campus of DePauw University to compete in the LAUNCH: Emerging Artist Competition at the inaugural 21CMposium. They stepped off the campus as the winners of that competition, and in the year since, the 21CM team has collaborated with them on several projects funded by their prize bundle.

One of those projects was the creation of a professional music video, which we are now proud to present. The members of 9 Horses collaborated with filmmaker Souki Mehdaoui to create a video for the piece “the water understands,” inspired by the poem “Water” by Ralph Waldo Emerson:  

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

When we spoke to Brent about why the group chose this song for their video, he said that it partly came out of wanting to feature their collaboration with Justin Goldner, who created the electronic soundscapes for the piece. But this was also a personal composition for Brent, one that, in his words, “expresses a lot of the things I’m feeling.” He continues, “The piece is kind of a reaction to the political situation that’s going on, specifically with regard to the destruction of the environment. The poem’s point of view is kind of on the water’s side, not ours. It’s saying, ‘Listen, you guys had your shot.’”

But “the water understands” is an instrumental composition: What do you do with a text that inspires a piece, though it remains unsung? According to Brent, Mehdaoui’s wheels started turning when Brent mentioned that he was an occasional sign language interpreter – what about a visual representation of the text? Brent explains, “Poetry in American Sign Language is not just a literal interpretation – it’s this performance. [Mehdaoui] asked me to recommend somebody, and I knew immediately the best person for it: Christina Dunams – but everyone calls her Teddy. She has this amazing, expressive face and very long fingers, and I knew that she was an actor – I’d worked with her before.”

Composers, filmmakers, actors – that’s only to name a few of the people involved in this inspiring collaboration. We hope you enjoy.


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