Re: Stan Brakhage Copyrights _Experimental sound-art

From: Tony Conrad (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Oct 19 2009 - 20:23:57 PDT

Hi Flick---------

I'm surprised at you! You're the one who is being snippy now, and without even a
whiff of substance. You must be one of those liberal thinkers who detect an
opinion and feel it needs some balance, "just because". But be careful lest I
actually agree with you! I don't know what you meant in saying that artistic
responses to canonical works are (or as you put it, you "always thought they
were") de rigeur, but I will go so far as to agree that artistic responses
SHOULDN'T be jejune-- and this precisely is where the problem arises in the
instance at hand.

As it happens, yes, I AM opinionated. So fair enough; here's an amplification of
my earlier comments.

Khosravi introduces her or himself, from the first words, as “a PhD student at
City University London.” Not: “Hey, I happen to be thinking about these topics,
and…” The project is contextualized ab ovo as an effort to credentialize its
author; as a “truth” finding mission; as virtually germane to a thesis defense,
in some regard. Frankly, I am pissed that people are setting themselves out with
university teaching credentials (that’s what a PhD is) on the basis of projects
as flip as this one. This project shows little awareness of the art historical
context of the film, little respect for the literature or practice of cinema, and
little appreciation for the complexity of film/sound relationships (which were
the subject of a whole conference I attended just last month at the Bolzmann
Institute in Linz).

Those with the patience to plumb Khosravi’s published article will perhaps see,
as I do, that she or he pursues an approach that should by now be numbingly
familiar: a reflex Enlightenment-like aim to “rationalize” cultural reception by
using (what I think of as Helmholzian) mensuration of physical and physiological
variables. Personally, I feel that this approach is absolutist, universalizing,
retrogressive, bankrupt, and repugnant; this is a socio-political standpoint that
will evidently find me and Khosravi hopelessly divided.

Beyond that, Dog Star Man is not simply a “spectral space” with which to gauge
some metaphorical construct in sound. Brakhage was especially strident at this
stage of his work in asserting film’s autonomy from music, and in particular that
his films should be watched without music. Strangely, Khosravi actually stretches
Dog Star Man so far in the opposite direction as to assert that "the work already
contains and represents a very pure form of musical thinking" and even that
"Brakhage is one of the most ‘musical’ filmmakers and working with his films
would be like re-interpreting a piece of Bach." This rash comment about something
called "musical thinking", which Khosravi apparently claims as privileged
territory, along with his or her attendant privileging of Bach (and then, the
implication that Bach too is wide open turf) simply makes me wonder about
Khosravi's depth of analytical experience.

As a visual construct, Dog Star Man is of course open to analysis. In particular,
the film’s strong affinities with Abstract Expressionist thought and practice may
make it attractive for Khosravi to consider quantizing its various aspects with
respect to diagonalization or other formalist algorithmic methods. However, it is
at least equally (and almost certainly more) apt to see Dog Star Man as Sitney
does: that is, as a mythopoeic expression, steeped in late romanticism and
crypto-symbolist image relationships.

My assertion is not that Khosravi is “wrong” or “shouldn’t” be playing around
with Dog Star Man. My assertion is rather that Dog Star Man is so overdetermined
as a cultural marker that it can’t possibly stand in as a neutral vehicle for the
study of image/sound relationships. Is ANY film better suited to this study,
though? I would say that perhaps EVERY film is suited for the study of film/sound
relationships, and even (going further) that every SOUND is suited for the study
of film/sound relationships. In fact, to a substantial degree the problematic
relationships that obtain between images and sounds is what filmmakers in general
concern themselves with, and in that measure Khosravi’s “project” is both
reductivist and insultingly dismissive of our field, another way of saying which
is that the project is ignorant or (more kindly put) jejune.


On Mon 10/19/09 1:40 PM , Flick Harrison email suppressed sent:
> Tony,
> If indeed you have such a scathing critique at hand, perhaps you
> should figure out where to begin, and begin.
> What you've posted, however informed and considered the source of
> your outrage, is simply insulting and critical without much
> substance.
> Perhaps everyone who is as smart and educated as yourself already
> knows how to read your mind, but that won't do much good for poor
> Peiman, since, as you seem aware, he's not as smart or educated as
> you.
> ;-)
> Artistic responses to canonical works are jejune? I always thought
> they were de rigeur.
> -Flick
> On 19-Oct-09, at 07:58 , Tony Conrad wrote:
> Hi Peiman-------
> This is such a misbegotten project that I hardly know where to begin.
> If as you
> say you are actually a PhD student (of something), and this is "part
> of my
> research/creative interest in transmodality (multi sensual
> perception) of musical
> experience, particularly with regard to the creation of musical
> space" and "part
> of my composition portfolio, and discussed in my thesis", your
> project certainly
> impugns the credentials or advisement capabilities of your thesis
> adviser.
> Riding this jejune project on Brakhage's back does no credit to
> either of you.
> --------------t0ny
> On Sat 10/17/09 9:21 AM , Peiman Khosravi sent:
> Dear All,
> This is my first post here so apologies if this is not the place for
> it.
> I am a PhD student at City University London, focusing my research
> and
> practice in studio based Electroacoustic music composition. At the
> moment I am exploring audio/visual relationships as part of my
> research/creative interest in transmodality (multi sensual
> perception)
> of musical experience, particularly with regard to the creation of
> musical space. As a result I am interested in creating an acoustic
> counterpart to part II of Brakhage's "Dog Star Man". Once
> completed this will be part of my composition portfolio, and
> discussed in my
> thesis. It may also be played in presentations/concerts.
> This will not be a conventional soundtrack, nor does it intend to be
> in anyway representative of -or remain true to- Brakhage's original
> work, which I understand and agree that should be watched in
> silence.
> The project will be my attempt to create a new work born out of a
> network of audio/visual relationships. Naturally this will
> reinterpret
> the original film, acoustically magnifying certain visual aspects
> that
> are formally dominant in my experience of the work.
> As it happens I have come to realize that Brakhage is one of the most
> "musical" filmmakers and working with his films would be like re-
> interpreting a piece of Bach: the work already contains and
> represents
> a very pure form of musical thinking. For this reason it will no
> doubt
> be a challenge and may prove impossible for me to complete, or
> arouse
> other's criticism. However, I cannot avoid a challenge when I see
> one!
> In short I am writing here with two questions:
> 1- Could someone please clarify for me the issue of copyrights with
> Brakhage's works and point me to the right direction for getting
> permissions for this project.
> 2- Any ideas and suggestions are more than welcomed... as I am not a
> filmmaker your ideas will for sure be very helpful to me.
> Many thanks in advance.
> Best,
> Peiman
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