The beautiful and complicated images that accompany the music of Daniel Rhode’s Return allow for just enough ambiguity to yield a fascinating experience. As the title track of the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble’s forthcoming album, this video premiere uses Rhode’s pensive electroacoustic soundscape to pull the listener into a small but profound exchange.
The subject removes her makeup, presumably at home, presumably with a person for whom she cares. They share intimate but relaxed physical contact. She returns to her natural state, in her home, with her closest person, unadorned by a coating of foreign substances. She literally and figuratively lets her hair down.
These images, paired with Rhode’s music, might suggest a complex and nuanced emotional journey—one that encompasses the opposed relaxation and deflation that are often associated with returning home after an intense or exciting group experience. Perhaps there is even trauma in the recent past.
However, consider the possibility that, like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Return might actually be joyful, despite the audio’s solemnity. Perhaps the quiet, peaceful, yet revelatory bliss of discarding the physical and emotional elements of a public persona is what the video is intended to show. Or perhaps we’re not meant to know.