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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Finding Sounds to Translate Images

tom verlaine looking up

Finding Sounds To Translate Images is not my title! It's Bruce Bennett's title for his piece in the NY Sun, published on October 2, 2007,

bruce & billy

That's Bruce on the left, with Billy Miller, his band-mate in The A Bones. I've seen Bruce standing on his amp and doing other crazy rock n roll things on stage... but his dirty little secret is that when he's not going crazy playing a mean guitar for the A Bones, he's quite the scribe...

Since I couldn't have possibly said anything better than Bruce... I'm lifting from him in huge chunks from that NY Sun article, where Bruce tells us that

....In 1999, the custodians of Rohauer's archival legacy, the Douris Corporation, and Ohio's Wexner Center for the Arts commissioned guitarists Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip to compose and perform new musical scores for a program of Rohauer's experimental gems. Mr. Verlaine had gained moderate fame as the front man of New York's unclassifiable punk-era rock group, Television. Mr. Rip is an accomplished sideman and producer. The stunningly spare, melodic, and enchanting series of scores that the two men introduced while seated side by side at the foot of movie screen at St. Ann's Church in October of 1999 was performed solely on electric guitars and was an absolutely rapturous live experience....

The evening's combination of an ephemeral, impermanent live performance and the exotic (and for film history buffs, familiar) images from such canonical avant-garde films as Hans Richter's "Rhythmus 21" and Man Ray's "L'Etolie De Mer" was an unforgettable and unique mating of creative energies. A DVD release combining the Rohauer shorts and Messers. Verlaine and Rip's scores seemed like a foregone conclusion at the time, but it has taken eight years for "Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip: Music for Experimental Films," a new DVD from Kino International, to materialize. Like Kino's previous two-volume Rohauer collection, "Avant Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and '30s" (which was far less courageously scored and, since some of the film titles here are duplicated, the likely culprit for the long delay in releasing the Verlaine and Rip disc), "Music for Experimental Film" benefits from a superior and sensitive transfer. Confined to the small screen the Rohauer Shorts' varied physical condition adds the archival equivalent of a rustic quality and may actually improve the viewing experience.

And then there's the music. Watching "Music for Experimental Film" returned my heart to the same place it occupied in my mouth for the entirety of the St. Ann's show nearly a decade ago...

The sole frustration with Kino's marvelous new release is its relatively no-frills packaging and brief running time. "Music for Experimental Film" features only seven titles (the live show was considerably longer and tried my patience for not one moment) and clocks in at a lean 78 minutes. In fairness, it should be ntoed that the Verlaine and Rip collection is less than half the retail price of the previous Rohauer compilations. The other upside of the relative brevity is that it leaves room for additional volumes to follow this remarkable, essential, and endlessly watchable DVD.

I have omitted a sizeable chunk of Bruce's fine please click the link and read the whole story.... You will learn 1) Bruce Bennett is a fine writer, 2) the movie business has always been as questionable as the music business, 3)why I think Gregg Toland is genius... well, actually... you have to buy the DVD to find that out... but Bruce tells you which footage is Gregg's...and finally, 4) what makes Tom Verlaine a musician for the ages.

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