Harry Smith Music

From: C Keefer (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Mar 14 2006 - 02:16:39 PST

Both William Moritz and P. Adams Sitney (in Visionary Film) wrote about Smith and Dizzy Gillespie tracks for the first three Early Abstractions, though their accounts differ as to whether he did sync the tracks but the films were later lost; intended to but couldn't afford to; listened to the tracks while painting the frames in sync to the record, etc. Moritz also wrote about Smith showing the films in San Francisco jazz clubs and other venues.

From Moritz:
....On May 12, 1950, Art in Cinema screened the premiere of four painted films by Harry Smith. They were titled Strange Dream, Message from the Sun, Interwoven and Circular Tensions and the program notes [stated] that each one of the hundreds of painted film frames is a work of art. The films were accompanied by a live jazz band...Harry told me that he was jazz-crazy at that time, particularly for Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk, and insisted that he had synchronized the first three painted films to jazz performances by Dizzy Gillespie: Guarachi Guaro, Algo Bueno and Manteca. - Dr. William Moritz, "Harry Smith, Mythologist," (excerpt) presented at Harry Smith Symposium, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles 2001

(note, the first three titles above refer to Early Abstractions Films 1, 2 and 3)

We used 'Manteca' for the version of Film No. 3 included in the recent US Visual Music exhibition, and at Sons et Lumieres at Centre Pompidou.

Cindy Keefer
Center for Visual Music

-----Original Message-----
>Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2006 03:00:18 +0100
>From: Pip Chodorov <email suppressed>
>Subject: Harry Smith music
>I thought the first few Early Abstraction films were carefully based
>on early jazz pieces, just as some of his early paintings were. The
>rhythms in the film match rhythms in the music, as well as heartbeat
>and breathing rhythms. Those films were made in the 40s. Later he
>abandoned that music and would show the films with random records or
>even the radio. Twenty years later, Harry Smith asked Jonas Mekas to
>print the films with new music, claiming that they were made for
>contemporary music, and new audiences needed new contemporary music.
>Jonas went down to the store and picked out the newest big thing:
>Meet the Beatles. In that spirit, I think it would be fine to show
>the films with the radio, or with techno, or anything that comes
>along. When Mystic Fire released the video, they added a Teijo Ito
>Interesting how someone who spent a good part of his life collecting
>and curating music never seemed to worry much about the sound for his
>-Pip Chodorov

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.