Greenaway Peter | 4 American Composers – (III) Meredith Monk 1983

Directed by Peter Greenaway

Robert Ashley
John Cage
Philip Glass
Peter Gordon …. Himself (segment “Ashley”)
Jack Kripl …. Intereviewee
Jill Kroesen …. (segment “Ashley”)
Meredith Monk
Kurt Munkacsi …. Interviewee
Dora Ohrenstein …. Interviewee
Michael Riesman …. Interviewee
‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny …. The World’s Greatest Piano Player (segment “Ashley”)
David Van Tieghem …. The Captain of the Football Team (segment Ashley)

Runtime: 220 min
Country: UK
Language: English
Color: Color

Produced by
Revel Guest …. producer

Original Music by
Robert Ashley
Philip Glass
Meredith Monk

Non-Original Music by John Cage

Cinematography by Curtis Clark

Film Editing by John Wilson
Michael Nyman …. musical advisor

4 American Composers. Produced by Revel Guest. Directed by Peter Greenaway. New York, N.Y.: Mystic Fire Video, 1991. Originally produced by Transatlantic Films in 1985. Vol. 1: John Cage. Mystic Fire Video 76237 (VHS cassette; 60 mm.); ISBN 1561762377. Vol. 2: Philip Glass. Mystic Fire Video 76234 (VHS cassette; 60 mm.); ISBN 1561762342. Vol. 3: Meredith Monk. Mystic Fire Video 76236 (VHS cassette; 60 mm.); ISBN 1561762369. Vol. 4: Robert Ashley. Mystic Fire Video 76235 (VHS cassette; 60 mm.); ISBN 1561762350.

Based on London performances under the aegis of the New York/Almeida Festival, this set of four one-hour documentaries, originally produced in 1983, introduced these avant-garde composers and their music to general British audiences. It is a tribute to the filmmakers’ accomplishment (and a sorry comment on how we honor our own prophets) that the set provides no less valuable an introduction for American audiences a full decade later.

These videos merit viewing not simply for exporting the avant-garde to a general public, but for explaining it-or, rather, for letting the composers explain themselves. Compared to Meredith Monk and Robert Ashley, John Cage and Philip Glass are household names, yet their relative fame frequently turns on the persistence of misconceptions. All too often, even scholars who might be expected to know better portray Cage as either charlatan or nihilist. Critics in the 1980s tagged Glass’s music as “classical music for people who don’t like classical music,” suggesting his shrewd exploitation of the yuppie market. Director Peter Greenaway and producer Revel Guest weave representative musical excerpts with interviews to present the personalities more accurately, and, in so doing, establishes a broader context for listening. Perhaps the most striking revelation of these documentaries is that such notorious iconoclasts are so soft-spoken in person (compared to the shy, halting Ashley, the loquacious Monk seems downright assertive).

Fans of Peter Greenaway will be disappointed (and his detractors relieved) that here, whether from documentary restraint or simple budgetary restrictions, he largely subordinates idiosyncrasies found in his other film work to the rhythms and forms of the live performances. A Music Circus, a seventieth-birthday celebration, features twelve Cage works performed within two hours, often overlapping, and thus motivates a kaleidoscopic assortment of brief snippets; the Philip Glass Ensemble’s visually static performance inspires more prolonged swaths of uninterrupted music. Monk’s cinematic approach to staging and choreography (“all the cinema language is how I think in terms of theater”) and Ashley’s video conception of his opera Perfect Lives more directly shape approaches to the filming of their work.

Of course, Greenaway is never the entirely invisible observer; he occasionally finds opportunities to assert his own style. These range from rapid, rhythmic intercutting images of the sound sources used in Cage’s works, such as “27 sounds manufactured in a kitchen,” to the slow-motion close-ups of Glass nodding cues to his ensemble. Most openly individualistic are the interviews with Ashley and his collaborators, in which they appear simultaneously in one or more on-screen video monitors, filmed from different angles and at different magnifications, and intercut with typescript title cards to underscore selected words and phrases. Though clearly modeled on a technique used in Ashley’s opera, the result is unmistakably Greenaway.

— BRIAN ROBISON, Cornell University

Publicado el diciembre 26, 2012 en Videos y etiquetado en , , , . Guarda el enlace permanente. Comentarios desactivados en Greenaway Peter | 4 American Composers – (III) Meredith Monk 1983.

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