Tender Animated Short Tells the Tale of a Girl, a Whale, and Courage

Not quite a music video, a sonic tale gets visualized in Rebecca Meilak's new work for composer Aleah Morrison-Basu.

by Nathaniel Ainley
Aug 25 2016, 12:40pm

Images courtesy the artist

A young girl slowly paddles her rowboat into the ocean until she comes into contact with a giant whale. A bag suddenly appears next to her with two stones in it: one with a picture of a wave, the other with a picture of a sailboat. The girl chooses the crashing wave and is suddenly sucked down into the water where she and the world around her, are bathed in color and light. She rides around on the whale’s back in cheerful merriment. 

The new animated short, Drown or Swim, isn’t quite a music video, but instead, the visualization of a musical narrative authored and conceived by sound designer and composer Aleah Morrison-Basu. "Drown or Swim" is a single off Basu’s latest narrative piano album, Evolving Reflections

Basu is a wholehearted believer in music’s power to tell a story, so for her latest project, she commissioned animator Rebecca Meilak to create to create the sonic fable. Basu says her pieces gradually evolve into stories as she writes them, representing a mini biography of her reflections on life. She tells The Creators Project, “Just as lyrics can describe a narrative, the music in Evolving Reflections sings the narrative.” Her songs diverge from traditional pop tunes in that they don’t follow a typical verse-chorus-verse structure. “The ideas evolve and change throughout the pieces,” just like in a novel or a screenplay. Basu says she incorporates an electronic sub-layer into the music that allows her to heighten the experience of certain areas in each song.

Basu describes "Drown or Swim" as a “musical tale of inner exploration and courage, where a yearning to explore and achieve can be paralyzed by fear.” Meilak’s accompanying animation is a fluid and graceful illustration of the music. She portrays weather movements, ripples in the water, and currents with simple yet bold lines that are expressive as well as visually satisfying. In the end, the whale swims into a hole without hesitation while the girl floats above it in contemplation. Does she take a leap of faith and follow the whale into the unknown hole or swim to safety? You decide.

DROWN OR SWIM from Rebecca Meilak on Vimeo.

You can stream the full Evolving Reflections album on Aleah Morrison-Basu’s SoundCloud. For other work by the composer, head over to her website. To check out more work by animator Rebecca Meilak, head over to her website.


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short film
sound design
Zelig Sound
aleah morrison-basu
drown or swim
evolving reflections
rebecca meilak