Today’s headlining film act is Martha Colburn & the Musicians, LIVE!
One of the more enjoyable and unpredictable New York Close Up production experiences of the past year was shooting with Martha Colburn and an informal band of musician compatriots as they performed a series of her animated films at the re-opening of the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens back in mid-January.
Enjoyable because we got the chance to just hang out and shoot with a really talented, really friendly bunch of guys and gals. We also captured a very essential part of Martha’s practice—collaborating with friends, musicians, neighbors, and other artists (and some of them fit into all of those categories) to create the music for her films.
Unpredictable because, well, we never really knew who or what was going to be playing from one film to the next. Through the course of two sets of film performances, we heard some lyrical solo piano (Thollem McDonas), some country/Appalachian-inflected guitars (Tom Carter & Marc Orleans), and some heavy duty percussion-Foley-fiddle-drum noise (Michael Evans, Laura Ortman, & Greg Saunier). I don’t think we ever heard the same instrumentation twice. More slyly unpredictable was the always changing nature of the authorship of the music: a few pieces were more or less faithful renditions of the original recorded scores; some were completely improvised, guided by the tonal and narrative shifts of Martha’s movies; and a lot of the performances occupied an indefinable middleground between spontaneous and composed.
So the goal was to create a final film that would give our viewers the chance to experience, at least a little bit, the artistic camaraderie and musical variety that we experienced that night. I hope we succeeded.
ABOVE: Artist Martha Colburn projects animated film on a mirror ball during a live performance at the Museum of the Moving Image. Astoria, Queens, 01.15.11. Production still from the series New York Close Up. © Art21, Inc. 2011.