Re: Stan Brakhage Copyrights _Experimental sound-art

From: marilyn brakhage (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Oct 21 2009 - 13:20:45 PDT

Hello Raha,

Yes, The Test of Time tapes are great, on music and the other arts,
and that is another resource we should have mentioned. They are
available on the web through PennSound and UBUWeb.

. . . The reason I don't agree that the term "musical thinking" was
necessarily so very "wrong" though -- although certainly more true of
some of Stan's films than others -- is because insofar as film images
are perceived as 'moving,' Stan was constructing what he called an
equivalent of the mind's moving ("moving visual thinking" as he'd
say), but he also referred to music as the "sound equivalent of the
mind's moving" and believed (as I understand it) that organized
constructs of visions OR of sounds in time were, at source, based upon
inner, biological rhythms (and the "movements of the mind") -- and
that there was a synaesthesia of response in the listener/viewer. And
by the time he had edited his work -- often specifically and
consciously based on principles of music, and indeed sometimes on
particular pieces of music -- the 'thinking' behind them could
certainly be thought of as 'musical' (at least in part). . . . And
this is specifically WHY the addition of music to his silent films is
so problematic! It's because in some sense they already ARE 'music.'
Thus, it doesn't seem wrong to suggest that the thinking behind their
making was "musical thinking" (or, at least, a visual variation
thereof -- with, yes, other influences as well). And I don't think
Peiman's acknowledgement of what he termed the "musical thinking"
behind Stan's work deserved hostility. I would be more concerned if
someone did not perceive that aspect of the films. . . . Though
perhaps you are concerned that that should not override other
considerations -- the influence of painting, literary allusions, the
visual metaphors, the "dream-work," hynapgogic vision, and so on. But
although you are right, of course, about the "many other things," I
just don't think that Peiman was so "wrong," either, in his perception
of the musical aspect of the work -- and/or the thinking behind it.

(Interestingly, though, while Stan had no problem in referring to his
work, as he regularly did, as "visual music," if people used the term
"visual poetry" he sometimes bridled. He had a very specific idea of
what constituted "poetry" (language) and considered himself to have
failed as a "poet," which he had wanted to be when he was younger.)


On 21-Oct-09, at 9:47 AM, Raha Raissnia wrote:

> Thanks Marilyn,
> I know about Brakhage's tremendous knowledge of music. I have
> listened repeatedly to "The Test of Time", Stan's radio shows, that
> is entirely on music, and I LOVE THEM. It is clear and almost
> obvious how inspired he was by music, yet to say that his films were
> "musical thinking" is wrong. They are "visual thinking" inspired by
> music and many other things.
> I agree with you in seeing nothing wrong for someone to respond to
> his film with some kind of music...but knowing all we know about
> Stan and why he didn't want music or sound to his film, if someone
> does it, to me is annoying !!
> Raha
> Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 01:54:49 -0700
> From: email suppressed
> Subject: Re: Stan Brakhage Copyrights _Experimental sound-art
> To: email suppressed
> I am certainly as concerned as anyone to protect the integrity of
> Stan's films. However, I find these attacks on a musician's
> interest in investigating sound-vision relationships to be just a
> bit harsh. Raha, you will find, with a little more research, that
> Stan was indeed very involved in musical aesthetics. He once wrote
> that "the more silently-oriented my creative philosophies have
> become, the more inspired-by-music have my photographic aesthetics
> and my actual editing orders become, both engendering a coming-into-
> being of the physiological relationship between seeing and hearing
> in the making of a work of art in film." He referred to music as
> the "sound equivalent of the mind's moving," and said he believed
> that a study of music would reveal "the physiology of thought,"
> writing, also, that "I seek to hear color just as Messiaen seeks to
> see sounds." Interestingly (in reference to the Bach question), he
> also claimed that several films of his had been inspired by Webern's
> adaptation of Bach's Musical Offering. And much later than that,
> Stan was inspired to make films IN RESPONSE TO PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN
> "Flocking," for example, and Corner's "Through the Mysterious
> Barricade: After F. Couperin." Of course, his silent works he
> considered complete, and made TO BE silent - and to be experienced
> as "visual music" (which is also how he referred to his work). And
> it would certainly seem that any attempt by anyone else to add music
> to them would be like adding music to music -- dubious at best, and
> the result would certainly no longer be the film that it
> was. . . . But that said, even Stan was not completely averse to
> the notion that someone MIGHT be able to make a great soundtrack to
> one of his silent films. (He agreed to let Joel Haertling, for
> example, try to do so with the silent film "Creation" -- though I
> don't think anything came of it.)
> Nonetheless, Peiman Khosravi did not presume to say that he wished
> to "make a soundtrack" for Dog Star Man, Part II (a 6 minute section
> of the total film). He was, rather, apparently inspired to try to
> create a musical response that would be, as I understand it, his own
> aural interpretation of HIS visual experience of the film (which I
> certainly did not think he was taking as a "neutral vehicle," as
> Tony Conrad suggested he was doing). In fact, how is it
> "insultingly dismissive" of the field of filmmaking, I wonder, for a
> musician to wish to interact with it -- any more than it would be
> insultingly dismissive of musicians for a filmmaker to incorporate
> their music?
> "Dog Star Man" stands on its own. It is not in need of a
> soundtrack. Obviously. But that someone has been inspired by it
> and wishes to try to make a response of some kind does not seem to
> me to be necessarily "ignorant" -- though certainly intrepid!
> Khosravi's project may end up being an empty exercise, or it may
> lead to a creative revelation (for him, and perhaps for others). I
> would not presume to know. . . But whatever it is going to be, it
> is certainly not going to change or threaten "Dog Star Man," which
> has its own life.
> Marilyn Brakhage
> On 19-Oct-09, at 9:48 PM, Raha Raissnia wrote:
> if Khosravi does a smallest amount of research on Brakhage he will
> quickly find out that that Brackhage himself referred to his work as
> "visual thinking ", never as "musical thinking " man !!
> therefor I agree with tony and also find khosravi's project as
> "ignorant or (more kindly put) jejune"
> raha
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