Thursday, May 03, 2007

Old, Weird and Proud of It

Harry Smith Sings The Songs of America

Engaging from the first frame, Harry Smith's wild, wacky ride through folk-music America is an absolute joy. Seeing his gift to our culture has never been more delightful, as his celebrated eccentric being was permission enough to sing along, and be moved, truly moved into a touch from universal powers, the muse of music. As I watched this loving tribute, The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, the wealth of the nation was mined and the rich vein revealed we owe a lot to this remarkable guardian of our musical history. This is one film you must experience! In addition to his musical treasure trove, he was also an amazing filmmaker. Clips were shown of his 1940's era hand-painted-on-film pieces which is radical. From an interview in 1993, Allen Ginsberg (also in the film) tells about his seeing a Harry Smith film, but also about Harry's genuis:
"Harry Smith's field was visual art as well as ethnomusicology. One day he had no money, and he offered to sell me a rather dark version of this film Heaven and Earth Magic for $100. Every time we'd go up there he'd get me high, and then he'd ask me for money because he was starving. And apparently he went around and did that with everybody. He had no source but he was a genius, like the painter Albert Pinkham Ryder. So I got to be scared of going up there because he'd get me tremblingly high on grass, and he'd show me these amazing movies, and I'd be totally awed by the universality of his genius in music and painting. In addition he could write mad, long, long poems, rhymed. But he'd always hit me up for money if he could capture me and get me up there and hypnotize me with his films. "
You can also experience more of Harry at - MS
From the Daily News at -

Communal sighs of happiness, nostalgia and occasional bewilderment from viewers punctuated much of The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. The crowd delighted in the tunes of yesteryear featured in the film, performed with equal gusto by old greats and modern maestros, but much of the awe centered on director Rani Singh’s accomplishment. Her deft sense of pace and balance allowed her to engagingly navigate and blend concert footage, musicologist Smith’s life story, archival material and critical commentary. Singh, who laughed at “surviving” three years of working as Smith’s assistant, spoke of her struggle to “keep the film organic and spontaneous, while maintaining a coherent narrative.” No doubt her talent for doing just that owes something to Smith himself. Describing his approach to art, Singh marveled, “He was an alchemist, organizing entire universes in everything from tarot cards to string figures.”

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