Petra: City of Stone - Director's Cut

One of the snares I often find myself falling into is a certain amount of impatience when it comes to releasing new video projects. Certainly when it comes to projects with a long prep and filming phase, once I start processing the footage I want to get it out there as fast as I can. This was certainly a driving force with the original cut of "Petra: City of Stone" which I released four months ago. The trip was fantastic and I had told so many people how exciting it was and what I learned about landscape and desert filming that I really wanted to share the experience.

What was sacrificed from my original plan, for the sake of this excitement, was the score. I originally planned to record local music while I was there (which didn't happen) and I had neither the time nor a sufficiently meaningful idea around which to compose a score. Now, the song I used for the original is "Technicolor Phase" by Owl City. I am a huge fan of Owl City and not just because Adam Yougn is from Owatonna, Minnesota (a twenty minute drive from where I was born in Waseca). I used his song "The Saltwater Room" in a scuba video I made a year ago and I would confidently put "Meteor shower" on my top 20 favorite songs of all time (if I was genuinely a fan of lists in the first place).

When a pocket of free time presented itself, however, I decided to fill the gap in the film that always existed in my mind due to score. Eager to put my new Tascam DR-40 to the test, I spent an afternoon literally noodling on the guitar and then playing with effects to find a sound that captured exactly what it feels like to climb a thousand steps to the Monastary, walk to the "Edge of the World," and look out over a jagged stone Imagewasteland that could just as easily be a vista from Mars as a Jordanian mountain range. Technically issues forced me once again to utilize Adobe Audition, but I was again pleasantly surprised at how infrequently I found myself missing Pro Tools. The bundled LE effects in ProTools don't even compare to the stock effects in Audition.

Once the guitar score was finished and I had recut the video timings against the new score, I wanted to add a little salt and pepper to the video. I bounced around between a few ideas and eventually found myself perusing a collection of Arabic poems created by Princeton University a number of years ago (I say a number of years ago because I couldn't believe just how 90s-web their interface looked). I happened upon a poem called "Don't Cry for Layla" attributed to an ancient poet named Abu Nuwas, born in 756 CE to an Arab father and a Persian mother in what is now Iran. The poem is translated below:

     Don’t cry for Layla or rejoice over Hind
     Instead, drink to the rose from a rosy red wine
     A glass, which when tipped down the drinker’s throat
     Leaves its redness in both the eye and the cheek
     For the wine is ruby and the goblet a pearl
     From the hand of a slim-figured maiden
     She pours out one draught for you from her eye and from her hand
     Yet another, ‘til you cannot escape growing doubly drunk
     My companions have but one opiate, while I have two
     By such a thing alone I have been favored

What caught my eye about this poem was the multiplicative nature of "wonder." This is an appropriate term in light of Petra's acceptance into the "New" Wonders of the World competition (which always seemed a little silly to me). Take a place like Petra with it's breathless natural beauty. You have wonder. Take love, friendship or something profound in between. You have wonder. Take your pick of socially approved intoxicants. You have wonder that inhabits some point on the range between silly and somber. But if you dare combine two of three of those you have the ingredients for a situation that can quite literally knock you on your ass if you're not careful.

A place like Petra is a beauty and a stunning sight to behold, but the wonders in our life are meant to be shared with those who multiply the joy of our existence. And if you want to throw a bottle of wine into the mix, then that certainly helps.