Re: Harry smith jazz

From: C Keefer (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Dec 15 2008 - 11:15:13 PST

The jazz tracks were by Dizzy Gillespie, for Films 1 - 3, according to both Sitney and Moritz. A Thelonius Monk track came later, for Film no. 11.

Re Harry's method of synchronization, in at least one interview he claimed to have danced around his room, painting the frames while listening and dancing to a recording of the jazz. Nothing technical here...Aa description can also be found in the American Magus book. Moritz and Sitney differ in their accounts regarding the format and creation of these first 3 films.

An excerpt from Dr. William Moritz's 2001 presentation at The Harry Smith Symposium at The Getty Research Institute, in LA, is below. This full presentation typescript is online at CVM's library at

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. He said that Hy Hirsh had recorded live performances of Gillespie's band doing these three pieces, and Harry had carefully synchronized the images to the recorded tape. But he was not able to afford the cost of transfering the tape to an optical soundtrack and then making the more-expensive sound release prints. Hence the live jazz accompaniment at the Art in Cinema premiere. Harry also screened the films with live jazz performances at Bop City nightclub in San Francisco. In the 1970s I found a pirate LP called "Dizzy Gillespie Live in Sweden." I played it for Harry and he insisted it was the same as the tape that Hy Hirsh had given him in the late 1940s. Subsequently the same Gillespie performance was released on cd as "Gille!
 spie Live in Paris." (end of Moritz excerpt).

(CK note, we have used these 3 Gillespie tracks in several restoration projects for Films no 1 - 3, including the one done for the 2005 Visual Music exhibition at MOCA LA and the Hirshhorn/Smithsonian)

I know I've posted this before at least once, maybe it's a yearly topic now!

best regards,
Cindy Keefer
Center for Visual Music

-----Original Message-----
>Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 00:27:58 -0500
>From: Chris Kennedy <email suppressed>
>Subject: Harry smith jazz
>Any record of what those actual jazz tracks were?
>On 12/15/08 12:00 AM,
><email suppressed> wrote:
>> Harry Smith painstakingly painted those films to synch up frame by
>> frame with specific jazz recordings (thelonius monk and others). That
>> was in the early 40s.

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