Copland Summer: Notes from the Road, Seeing Sound
By Mona Seghatoleslami ~ Posted Fri, 08/24/2012 - 10:34am
In which I go away, come back, explain little, and we all go off on a merry little tangent.
When I wasn't riding roller coasters, visiting museums, and otherwise touristing in Cleveland last week, I did get to enjoy some quality time reading about Copland. I even took notes:ď»ż
I had plenty of good intentions of doing something more with these notes, and perhaps I will now that Iâ€™ve almost recovered from vacation, but today instead I present you with a Copland-inspired diversion into the world of cinema!
Hereâ€™s the passage that caught my eye today in the book.
â€śRodeo remains widely misunderstood and underrated, not only because it is often heard piecemeal (especially â€śHoe-Down,â€ť which among other things became the basis for a 1952 animated short, Abstronic, by the early master of abstract animation, Mary Ellen Bute [1906-1983])...â€ť (p. 374)
The internet, sadly, does not seem to have a video of Buteâ€™s film for us. Hereâ€™s an image from it, via the Anthology Film Archives.
Searching for â€śAbstronicsâ€ť turns up a lot of rather gross exercise equipment ads. Bute was not, I'm happy to report, after your abs or any other muscle groups. She came up with the term by combining â€śabstractionâ€ť and â€śelectronics.â€ť Something about Coplandâ€™s music appealed to her as a starting point:
â€śThe two abstronic films I have made are based on the music of â€śHoe Downâ€ť by Aaron Copeland and â€śRanch House Partyâ€ť by Don Gillis. Because this music is simple rhythmically, clear and sharp, I thought it suitable for my first experiment in this new art medium. I could not, as yet, have dealt with the problems posed by, say, Bachâ€™s â€śSheep May Safely Graze,â€ť even though I based one of my abstract films on a recording of it Leopold Stokowski made for me of his own arrangement. It music is too intricate for a first exploratory venture into an electronic visual interpretation."
â€śBecause this music is simple rhythmically, clear and sharpâ€¦â€ť â€“ perhaps thereâ€™s something useful from this tangent after all.
For now, check out two of her other films:
You can also read more about her in a few articles and sites that kept me distracted this morning:
"Mary Ellen Bute: Seeing Sound" by William Moritz
Iâ€™ll try to have a playlist of my favorite recent Copland listening for you this weekend!