Venice, January 2016
See what Venice looked and felt like to me in the winter when the magic of the city is restored. Music is vitally important to any video work I do and I wish to acknowledge the composers and musicians as much as the architectural grandeur of the city and my own perceptions. Thank you Bill Frisell, Claudio Monteverdi, Astor Piazolla, Yo-Yo Ma, Patrick Gorman, and Steven Stubbs.
This short video features one of my favorite pieces of music, the deep and lyrically tender “Appalachia Waltz” by Mark O’Connor. Late August in New England with its fields of goldenrod, darting insects and teeming pond life is to me perhaps the richest part of the season.
This is the first serious movie I made, a short documentary on the impact of Hurricane Irene in South Newfane, Vermont on two indomitable friends of mine, Mel and Norma Shakun.
Orphic Passage, A Journey through Greek Posters and the Music of Igor Stravinsky
The Orpheus myth is one of the most poignant in all of mythology. It is about love, passion, devotion, enchantment, and then overwhelming loss. When Orpheus, the greatest singer and musician the world has ever known, loses the beguiling nymph Eurydice to snakebite, his grief is so acute that he dares descend to the depths of Hades’ kingdom to bargain for her release. So intense is his music that the cold, greedy king relents and allows him to have Eurydice back with the sole condition that as they journey the long steep path to the outer world he not turn even the briefest gaze toward her. We know what happens, yet we long for him not to give way to doubt on the final stair. Not this time, please. Have faith. Ah, but it shall never be. With one fatal unsure backward glance, Orpheus watches in horror as Eurydice slides once again and forever into the gloom of the underworld. Orpheus goes mad. Who wouldn’t? After a reprieve, perhaps the most generous ever offered, to lose everything once more! Unimaginably unbearable. How could he ever sing a light easy melodious tune again? His music becomes discordant, disturbing. And he is torn to pieces by frenzied maenads. His head is carried into the Aegean sea where it floats on the waves, still singing, however.
I could never get this story out of my mind when looking at Greek posters. I made seven trips to Greece and often stayed for two months at a time. Nowhere in Europe is there such a saturation of posters, posters of political activities and candidates certainly, but more striking to me, and more numerous, were the posters of the small musical and theater troupes who made the rounds going from town to town on the mainland and from island to island. The complex geography of Greece makes it very large once you become absorbed in it. What struck me too was how the posters were often pasted on top of the previous ones with the result that the whole had become a palimpsest, everything blending and bleeding through. I began to see mythology at work here. Promise, fruition, loss, and then another show, a new hope, a reprieve. An endless cycle with no act remaining on stage too long. No guise, no song, no posture, no platitude ever domineering. It was liberating and sad and disturbing and so were the ravages of time on the posters themselves, sometimes arrestingly so, in ways both humorous and terrible. I also began seeing a kind of “overmind” at work. More than a consciousness given to melancholia due to impermanence or frustration with the current state of affairs, it continuously teemed with a multitude of images, concepts, urges, fantasies and invitations that rearranged themselves in the collective dreamscape.
The idea then came to me to offer a show of a sample of Greek posters put to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s short ballet, Orpheus. I chose three movements and arranged the slides in a way that I thought revealed the range of the Greek poster, the effects of chance placements, and the hands of weather and human commentary. What would a flow of diverse images look and feel like put together, I wondered, set to a passionate background lyricism? And so here it is—the promise, the hope, the fading away. And throughout it all too, the strangeness of the journey.
Quest for the Spirit is a ten-minute movie, made up of over one hundred of my images set to the uplifting music of Aaron’s Copland’s “Our Town.” It was my intention to create something that stirs a sense of wonder and that points to the deep satisfaction we experience in the presence of beauty and mystery, whether in a religious setting or in nature. I presented this film at the first Art & Dharma symposium at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in April 2016.
In the summer of 2006 I traveled with my wife and daughter and two Tibetans overland from Zhongdian in Yunnan to Lhasa. The journey took us over countless high passes and into the gorges of four of Asia’s great rivers, the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Brahmaputra. The title of the movie, Colors of The Wind, celebrates the ubiquitous prayer flags of Tibet found at every shrine, bridge, pass and sacred site along the route.