Back in 2005, I was listening to the Diva soundtrack – just one of those CDs I was thumbing through at the library. One of the tracks, “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” from the Italian opera hit me immediately. I found it morbidly spectacular but had absolutely no context for it. So I watched the movie (my reaction to Diva is a whole other story) and read about the opera and the Austrian story on which it was based, the 19th century serial novel Vulture-Wally by Wilhelmine von Hillern.
So with all it’s loaded context, I decided to use the aria for a dance parody I was making. This was all a part of my MFA thesis project about the hysterical female body (more loaded subject matter). There were handkerchiefs coming out of bras set against a huge bronzy wall, behind which loose-haired ladies would come and go.
In short, it was a study in melodrama that ultimately failed, but not in that openly embarrassing way. It was just so difficult to make, and when I watched it from the auditorium, it felt simultaneously bloodless and overwrought. I couldn’t talk about the piece in my thesis defense without crying. My professors were flummoxed by my stifled tears. Don’t you like what you make?, they were asking with their eyes. I fumbled for words. I was suppose to be defending my work and here I was, slightly unraveling. I did not realize at the time that trying to articulate my own sense of failure would be the healthy way to move on.
So I decided to put that piece and that song out of mind. In retrospect, I should have realized that impossibility. Denial is never a good option and also, once you study a thing, you tend to run into it everywhere. I cringed slightly when I heard the aria in A Single Man and noticed it was also prominent in Philadelphia, which I very belatedly watched several years back. (In film, this song has become strongly attached to gay men contemplating their deaths… but moving on.)
So I’ve come back to the song, the opera and the Vulture-Wally story about a tragically heroic tomboy fighting the ice gods and the townspeople in the Tyrol region of Austria. I’ve wondered why I’ve needed to return to this material – to accept (un-deny) a little piece of my own history perhaps? And to have new eyes and ears to see and hear it? Yes and yes. Since it began with a song, I’ve now turned to singing. Working with composer Carl Riehl, we’re taking bits and scenes from Vulture-Wally and casting them into an assortment of song motifs from the late 19th century on into the present. So far, we’ve made a Polka (which turns into a Waltz), a smokey little Motown piece, and now we’re working on a Minimalist piece for a dance. Next is Go-Go.
I look forward to sharing them soon, live and recorded.
This slow motion video by Straylight makes me wish I could feel time this slow. (At his site, he also links to all kinds of experiments in freezing/futzing with time. For example, Improv Everywhere’s flash mob froze 207 people in the middle of Grand Central.)
Upon reading more about the logistics of his film experiments, I now see what makes it so fascinating to watch. He’s creating the effect based on a still human subject (or mostly still) with a moving camera in slower playback mode. Filming from the train, he’s captured nearly still bodies with a 210fps camera while trekking at a train speed of 35mph, then playing back at 30fps. (He’s on an express train passing a local stop, thus MOSTLY catching people in stillness while they wait, but there is some human movement, which is not as lovely to watch as the still body.)
What if you could experience life like this??? It would mean slowing your time perception experience by 1/7 while the world had frozen up for a moment. Trippy.
Filed under: Film
I remember a particular sadness on the day Jim Henson died. And yet. Makes me happy to watch his short pieces from the experimental-y days. Oh, groovy circle art and elephants painted pink!
That’s 24 days. I’ll admit, I’ve been consuming. Roughly, 4 episodes of Mad Men (and about a dozen references to JFK), 8 performance, 5 movies, 1.5 books, 16 podcasts, 2 new albums, and so many conversations with folks whose company is most enjoyable. Life is good.
In honor of all the consuming, here’s a list,in no particular order.
- Cocktails with Callie , plus meeting her cat IJ (Izzie Jane)
- The opening moment in Neal Medlyn’s show. (“Have you thought of a number? Is it 3?” No, actually, it was 5.)
- The ending moment of Laurie Berg’s piece at DraftWorks – ala The Will Rogers Follies
- Inglorious Basterds – Hans Landa is supreme and the bar scene and the french countryside and the conversation btwn Landa and the frenchman when they decide to switch from French to English in their conversation.
- Making shortbread with Tami … various brainy rants!
- Chatting with Jeffrey over coffee and bagels at home – makin’ our top 10 movie list of 2009. Yep, we like lists. Don’t judge.
- Eevin Hartsough singing “I want a dog” in Laika Space Dog. Carl Riehl & The Cake Monkeys!! Made a mental note to ask Carl to talk more about song lyric writing. So I’m writing it down here.
- Matty Robinson’s interview (25:59-43:34) with Michael Stuhlbarg on Filmspotting + their nostalgia movie countdown. Ah, childhood movies. I gotta go with The Dark Crystal, The Secret of Nimh, and yes, Anne of Green Gables.
- Rachel Tiemann at Sorry for Laughing – you are a very funny lady. Especially when you violently eat cucumber slices while someone tries to read a love sonnet.
- Book 3 of Millenium Series – this is from Stieg Larsson, the Swede I’ve mentioned many a time. I’m almost finished with the trilogy, and it will be bittersweet to finish it. If you ever read these, my rule of thumb: give it 120 pages before you leave it. They start slowly and then the roller coaster ride kicks begins. Really. Trust me.
Though not referencing the grim movie by Peter Greenaway (three women drown their husbands. that’s not a spoiler, btw), we are referencing the soundtrack. Michael Nyman uses only themes from the 2nd movement of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364. It makes me melt every time I hear it.
You know of him? Cranor is watching bookoos of him at the moment. And I can’t help joining him.
He just had a film out at Film Forum called You the Living. All long shots. Very surreal and serious at the same time. (ie, this one scene: Man and woman got married. Now in house as man sings song with guitar in kitchen. Woman getting out of wedding dress in back room,which you see in background. House appears to be moving, as window shows city passing by outside. Then house stops. Crowd gathers outside. Cheers the couple on. Group cheering is AMAZING. Man and woman wave to their adoring crowd as house moves on again.)
Here’s a bunch of his commercials too. Oh, and he’s Swedish.