BRIO POP Issue one. January 2014
Art by Haley Danzig
Photograph by Gili Karev
Letter from the Editor
I imagine my greeting you here might be something like this. A bead of sweat is tracing my brow though I will only smile and nod. If I resemble Rowan Atkinson‘s fellow, Mr. Bean‘, it is in part because I am simply excited. Oh do not mind the Tchaikovsky Nutcracker costumed dancers prancing away from the scene behind us-this is all supposed to be happening. As the curtain opens on Brio Pop, I believe my fellow writers share in the excitement. We have written this first edition with winter‘s eggnog enhancing our judgment and we are very happy to share with you what we have been busy painting all these weeks. Brio Pop hopes to bring you something whimsical, colorful, optimistic, playful, and self-aware. Now begins the real work. From first froth to locking up the café, all in a day‘s work, we can begin to see what to do next. It is still morning for now though, so allow me to pour you that cup. Welcome to Brio Pop. Loren Berí
Photograph by Gili Karev
Beginnings can intimidate the beginner, though I hope to bring your cappuccino without my trembling the saucer. See, I imagine that somewhere this morning a café is opening its doors for the first time. Muffins are rising in the oven. Some maybe a bit too high. Color swatches are second-guessed too late to re-paint. Recipes have been committed to memory and yet baristas are still nervous. Even a troubadour forgets lyrics sometimes. Allspice might be required for the gentleman in seafoam. Or the shop‘s delectables may be found improper by a scone enthusiast who has crossed the pond. You never know.
Brio Pop Executive Team
Editor In Chief
Creative Director Layout Designer & Editor Editor
Loren Berí Paul Wheatley Holt Clark
Contributing Writers Claire Mirocha Sebastian Maria Vanessa Thill Christina Jelski Anneliese Cooper Alexander Ariff Kate McCormick Jessie Schiewe Andreea Drogeanu Brent Butler Padraic O’Meara Derek Blann Paul Wheatley Loren Berí Patrick Wilson Photography by Gili Karev, Jenn Senn, Alex Feld, Paul Wheatley, Pat Moran, & Bryan Murray Artwork by Haley Danzig, Paul Wheatley With thanks to Justin Miller for Design Contribution
BRIO POP JAN. 2014
Mother of George by Andreea Drogeanu 40
Cover Photography by Jenn Senn
Fashion’s Accidental Insider
All That You Missed: 2013
How Sharon Socol slipped into the industry
20 films from last year that didn’t get the attention they deserved
by Christina Jelski
by Jessie Schiewe
Use Your Hands
Transcribed by Alexander G. Ariff
by Paul Wheatley & Maddy Kirshoff
Toy Soldier Composer
by Patrick Wilson
Letter From the Editor 6
“Where Gallery” by Claire Mirocha 10
“The Death of Guitar, Painting, and your Parents” by Sebastian Maria 12
“Lethal Beach, How to Reconcile with Mythic California” by Vanessa Thill 16
“Dave Nelson, Tea On The Moon, Trombone, etc.” by Loren Berí 30
“Surrender, A Conversation with Mo Gorjestani” by Padraic O’Meara 46
“Long And Winding Road” by Derek Blann 52
“Brio Pop, Before The Mag” by Kate McCormick 32
“Real Adventure Is Not Polished” by Brent Butler 50
“Kyle Acheson: Composer of ‘Water Man The Musical’, Crêpe Hider, Folly Enthusiast” by Loren Berí 54 Brio Pop
Where Gallery by Claire Mirocha
I first find my powers of bilocation strengthening in October, as I attend – in both the voluntary and servile senses of the word – the first opening of a new gallery space on Brooklyn‘s Myrtle Ave. Called Where, the space is the product of the joint curatorial ventures of Lucy Hunter and Raphael Lyon: a semi-public, high-security shipping container and publishing project. While I ride the train to the show, I read in a back issue of a Canadian magazine about an artist who sneaks photos of himself into Wikipedia, hiding casually in the background of otherwise nondescript documentation.
I page through image after image of him viewed from behind, wearing a nondescript T-shirt and blending into various monuments and street scenes. It‘s the last article in the magazine, and as I read the ending I get a rare call from a friend of mine in another state, who is named after a certain element in the periodic table. I walk to Myrtle Avenue, end the conversation, and enter the gallery, only to meet a woman named after the same molecule as I walk in the door. There is only one artwork in the show, or at least it looks that way. Three artists; Lea Cetera, Jesse Greenberg, and Alexandra Lerman, have not so much collaborated as co-inhabited the piece. On top of a textured veneer plinth lie two small sculptures balanced on each end of a metal beam. You can somehow sense, whether from intuition or an imperceptible effect of airflow, that the pieces are not fixed to each other in any way besides gravity. It gives me a distinct impression of that single unsure moment at the top of a seesaw, or right before a subway car lurches backward at a station, what more Michael Jordan-oriented circles would call hangtime. One cannot be sure if one is moving forward or backward, or both at the same time.
The space‘s true identity as a shipping container is therefore apt. 20 feet above, 30 feet north, and about half a second later, the exhibition is occurring again, this time on a screen projecting live, security camera-style footage of the gallery space. People are milling around the room (see: art show mingling), but the presence of the projection is never forgotten; taunting gestures from the gazedupon are met with snickers from those upstairs. The show is happening twice; it seems it would take a very particular, governmentfunded mind to bridge this gap without the aid of the webcam. I go back downstairs, where it is my job to ensure the safety of the precariously balanced sculptures. After a few hours of close calls, a man walks into the shipping container and tells me that he is featured in an article in the magazine he sees sticking out of my bag. He is pictured several times, in fact, in the very same issue I am holding, in the very last article. Where 3, curated by Jenny Jaskey, is scheduled for late February and will ask: What would it mean for a gallery to represent curators? BP
Photograph by Gili Karev
n 1984, after an unprecedentedly brief 6 years of service, Joseph McMoneagle received the US government‘s Legion of Merit award for producing crucial and vital intelligence unavailable from any other source (Edwin C. May, The Journal of Parapsychology, 1996). McMoneagle‘s information, which ranged from updates on Russian submarine technology to future uses for tattoos, was a product of remote viewing, a cognitive method of receiving information about a place over a distance and without physically experiencing any of its sensory material. Those who practice it must mentally substantiate this unseen material, essentially forcing it to exist in two places at once.
T h e D e at h of Painting, Guitars, and your
by Sebastian Maria
Photograph by Alex Feld
hen I told my parents I was moving to New York to become an artist their first questions were asking about what paintings I was going to make. I’m not a painter. Telling them I made no physically tangible work and that all my art was conceptual and/or on the computer seemed completely counter-intuitive to their notions of what an artist is. “How can you be an artist if you don’t paint or make physical work!?” Understood, my parents aren’t the most upto-date on art world endeavors. Surprisingly many others have asked me the same question, or a variation of the same question. This includes twenty-somethings who you’d think, by default, are aware of the effect technology is having on contemporary culture, especially art. Anyone with a smartphone knows of the torrent of information at their fingertips and should be dually aware of how this accessibility is changing our behavior and attitudes towards consuming and communicating music and visual arts. We are consuming and producing culture at twice the rate we were before. For an artist to carry on a conversation with a contemporary audience I believe they must begin to acknowledge the increasing influence of technology on art.
This is being a four dimensional artist-one who weaves the strands of synergy between all things related, unrelated, past, and present Drawing, painting, or playing to create something greater than, guitar used to be my main forms but still dependent on the sum of of expression. I still find these its parts. The Internet is the perfect activities enjoyable but when it ground for this synthesis. Here, comes to fully encompassing and the mixing of visuals, audio, and expressing complex ideas that especially interactivity, opens up a parallel a digital age they begin new ground for artists. Interactivity to seem increasingly outdated. creates a dialogue making the I’ve switched to computers and audience an essential dynamic of synthesizers as my main tools. a work. I believe this interaction They have begun to play a large and accessibility is the next step in role in the development of my the trajectory of progressive art. creative method. Photoshop has Personally, I’m experimenting with replaced paper and pencil. The midi controller and sequencer have projects in an attempt to place a viewer inside of a work of art replaced the guitar. This is a new through an immersive environment language for me. In my process I of videos, audio, .gifs, and photos. find these technologies superior in Each Web Environment is its own promoting creativity because they close the gap between technical skill Internet browser page that you can navigate through from a personal and the act of creation, allowing computer. Some actions allow you for the user to produce amicable, shareable work without dependence to interact with objects on the page, zoom in and out, and scroll up on extensive experience and hours and down to experience different of technical labor. parts of the piece. This is art made accessible and approachable to anyone with an Internet connection.
Is painting dead? I don’t fully believe that just yet. There are still some contemporary painters I feel are doing progressive work. These conceptual painters are steering away from conventional technique and molding the constraints of the medium into new perspectives of expression.
As for music, most current bands continue following traditional content and form ranging anywhere from the 50’s to the 90’s. In my opinion this repetition is boring relative to the culture of the 1960’s and 70’s artists like The Ramones, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles who were groundbreaking because they challenged convention in ways that connected with the audience of their time. Because of the innovative sensibilities of these artists there is no doubt their music still resonates with us today, but this is no reason to blatantly imitate them.
Electronic based music has been a leading genre in pioneering music. Musicians incorporating the ethos of technology are producing some of the most interesting music today. They are experimenting with rhythms, tones, and structures in ways never heard. I think California band, Death Grips is one of these leaders. Their music sounds like the entire Internet played in fast-forward and spat on your face. It’s brilliant. It’s the musical manifestation of the hyper-current state of man. Another pioneer is New York based producer, Arca. He manipulates digital sounds into multifaceted, almost physical textures, and experiments with atypical rhythms that are pushing music production into new levels.
It’s exciting to see Internet based artists and new media artists begin to take speed and garner attention. This is a movement where artists like Brad Troemel, Raphael Rozendaal and Ryder Ripps, among many others, are challenging and reinventing the possibilities of art, technology, and the Internet. I was recently in attendance amidst these artists at the first digital art auction in history. Works sold for thousands of dollars and the first ever website at an art auction was sold. It’s happening.
Why would you spend hours on a painting to hang it up in a gallery for only dozens to see, when you can make a .gif in 2 minutes that resonates with 2 million people on the Internet? If Da Vinci were working today, I don’t think he’d still be using pencil and paper-we might find him at davinci.tumblr. com. BP
Find Sebastian Maria’s work with Web Environments at sebastianmaria.com
Art by Haley Danzig
As a civilization, our progress has always been contingent on the development of technologyeverything from a pencil to an iPhone. So, why wouldn’t we incorporate technology into all aspects of society, especially art? The photo camera changed the art game in the 1800’s, now the camera phone is the game changer. Yet, there is still contempt towards cell phone photography. Many hold it inferior to film photography and even other forms of digital photography. What’s the basis for this argument if not solely on a superficial photo-quality and romantic traditionalist level? With the development of affordable technology like personal computers, the Internet, smartphones, social media, and music samplers, everyone has the tools to produce creative content. I would even argue everyone has the tools to be an artist, or at least make art. The playing field is being leveled. As opposed to the days of the master painters, craftsmanship is no longer the defining characteristic of an artist. Today, thinking like an artist makes you an artist because translating concepts from ideas to form has never been easier.
LETHAL BEACH Or How to Reconcile with Mythic California by Venessa Thill
hicago‘s Smart Museum of Art is currently exhibiting a show called State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970, which was on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts earlier this year. To begin with, there‘s the clear contradiction of the title, new art from 1970, more than 40 years ago. Conceptual artists, especially Californians from the 60‘s and 70‘s, are beloved today and continue to have a huge impact. But what can we glean from these artists that hasn‘t already been packed off by the ever-chewing chops of art history? If we take conceptual art at its word, we may end up dead.
The man who did escape the art world did not live to tell. Several of Bas Jan Ader‘s video works are included in the show, performances in which he falls from a roof or performs other semi-violent actions. His final work, not mentioned in the show, “In Search of the Miraculous”, consisted of sailing off across the Atlantic in a small boat in 1975, never to be seen again. But the parallel with Chris Burden‘s work “B.C. Mexico” from 1973 was evident. An 11 day trip in a kayak in 120-degree temperatures was exhibited in his LA gallery as a brief note describing his absence. Known for his audacious performances like “Shoot” of 1971, reproduced in the show with a single still image of blood dripping down his arm, several of his early videos are included. “Through the Night Softly” from 1973, shows the artist rolling nude across Included in the show is John broken glass, shown as a TV ad on Baldessari‘s “I Am Making Art” a local LA channel. This radical video from 1971 - truly depressing to watch. As he joylessly chants the engagement with mass media was persistently emphasized in the phrase I am making art he drags his State of Mind show. But what does limp arms into different positions, Extreme Measures, Chris Burden‘s reminiscent of a terrible drawing current exhibition of macho class model with no idea what sculpture at the New Museum, poses to do. His listless movements contribute to our understanding reduce art making to a minimum of this era‘s legacy of radicalism? of energy output. Baldessari is And what could constitute a real fatigued by the art system that was engagement with mass media just beginning to exert itself in the today? 1970‘s, but to follow this impulse In order to show his ad on TV, through today would be to cease Burden had to buy the ad, which movement all together, cease art is also what Stephen Kaltenbach making, and commit suicide. did in 1969 in Artforum, where he printed phrases each month like “Become a legend” and “Tell a lie.” You would now need $23,000 for a year of half-
page black and white ads. But you can buy a set of Kaltenbach‘s Artforums for only $300 from the Antiquarian Booksellers‘ Association of America. Another impressive instance of ‘inverting mass media’, as they put it, was the relatively unknown Bay Area group called Sam‘s Café that spent 8Ę per envelope to mail 20,000 fake collection agency bills to San Franciscans in 1971, getting them in minor trouble with the law. Today these kinds of actions are nearly inconceivable due to inflation and the ever-advancing grip of federal control.
Although reckless interventions like these hold a certain guerilla allure, I have a suspicion we are drawn to them as quirky relics of a bygone time. Not much can shock us today. The aesthetics of rebellion are dangerously attractive. Human energy can be petrified into a representation, a dead floating image, detached from its context and ready to be mobilized for any cause, like Che‘s black and white stony stare. Speaking of real impact reduced to flat representation, I won‘t even get started on the “Feminism” section of the show featuring Suzanne Lacy, a brief and frustrating interlude of naked ladies playing with sheep guts.
xhibited in a museum, the implications of, say, Barbara T. Smith‘s installation “Field Piece”, are shifted. A reproduced photo practically depicts an orgy, next to a sign instructing us to remove shoes and enter two at a time. I recently noticed a truly absurd addendum to the absurd: a sheet music transcription of “Baldessari Sings Lewitt” for sale at the MoMA PS1 bookshop, and the fourth reprint by Zurich‘s Rollo Press is in progress. Tom Marioni‘s “One Second Sculpture” from 1969 is an unexpectedly strong piece in the exhibition: A simple photograph of a tape measure thrown in the air, forming a randomly curved dark shape against the sky. In contrast to Baldessari‘s piece installed just next to it, Marioni‘s work is totally beatific and exuberant, qualities I dare say should characterize art making. Yet language and photographic recording are also essential for bestowing significance to this piece, necessarily occurring after the fact. This ‘one second sculpture’ then does not disappear as its title might imply. It sticks around and accrues value. It is provided for the show courtesy of San Francisco Gallery Paule Anglim. We need to realize there is no outside the system, but this should not be a mournful recognition. Using the knowledge of what came before can produce creative impulses, hopefully regardless of the linear directive of history that requires us to constantly transcend.
Above: Photograph © Steve McFarland Previous Page: Photograph by Gili Karev
In fact, the futility of all this can be generative. An incredible piece by Paul Kos exemplifies this potential: “Sound of Ice Melting” from 1970 consists of two 25 pound blocks of ice closely surrounded by eight microphones and amplifiers. The contradictions are embedded within the piece; our expectations of the spectacular are negated. The performance is physically materialized without rarefied objects, and the completion of the
work requires its disappearance. This kind of lyrical, absurd moment offers something productive despite its inherent failure, or maybe because of it. BP
FASHION’S ACCIDENTAL INSIDER by Christina Jelski
Photograph courtesy of Sharon Socol
Growing up in Indiana, photographer Sharon Socol never imagined she’d be a fashion insider, on a first-name basis with Simon Doonan, exchanging dress snapshots with Diane von Furstenburg, and receiving personal dress fittings from Narciso Rodriguez. But when her husband Howard was named CEO of the fashion mecca Barney’s in 2001, Socol - who began attending parties and shows as a “plus one” - was instantly granted access to an industry known as much for its exclusivity as its glitz and glamour. And while she appreciated fashion’s couture, cameraready side, Socol found herself a self-described “street documentary photographer” drawn to its more candid, behindthe-scenes moments.
Inspired by the incident, Socol began snapping photos at fashion parties, dinners, shows and benefits over the next eight years, taking advantage of her status as both an insider and outsider. “There were definitely moments where I didn’t know who I was talking to, or what people were taking about,” she admits, but she also adds that her naiveté also gave her a fresh perspective on the fashion world. “I don’t really follow fashion photography - it’s usually so stylized. I don’t consider myself a ‘fashion photographer.’ My
- often represented in popular culture as shallow, fickle bunch - to be untrue. “I had all these assumptions about the fashion industry, but after spending time in it, I realized that it’s full of very artistic, eccentric, passionate, intelligent and kind people. I also realized just how big an industry it is, from the people who grow the raw materials, to the people who create the fabric, to the designers and the makeup artists - there are so many people involved.”
“I realized there was a story there while at a Marc Jacobs fashion show,” she explains. “It was running very late, and everyone was trying get the celebrities’ attention, get the models to pose and to answer questions, and it Photographs courtesy of Sharon Socol was everyone just talking about their own importance. Then Roughly five years after her stint photography style is more about the show happened, it was over in 20 minutes, and when everyone ran being in a specific place, and being in the fashion world, in February 2013, Socol released a collection out to get to the next one, we were in a certain mood, and capturing of her photographs in a new all caught in this narrow hallway. that it’s my visual voice.” book, “Plus One: An Outsider’s All those people that moments Photographic Journey into the before were caught up in their own World of Fashion.” But despite the importance were just squished As she became further ingrained in collection somewhat cementing her together like they were on the status as the ultimate insider, Socol the industry, Socol also discovered subway.” says she still retains some of her many of the preconceived notions outsider habits. “Even recently, I she had about the fashion set went shopping with my daughter,
and she picked something up and asked if I knew the label - I had no idea who it was,” she confesses, laughing. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to trends.” With her fashion days behind her, Socol is busy exploring new avenues. “My personal passion has always been to make the world a better place, and I’ve always been drawn to helping young people,” she says. In 2004, she helped
found Casa Valentina, a non-profit dedicated to helping support “at risk” women who have aged out of foster care. The organization has more recently expanded its mission, now extending support to both young men and young women with children. Socol is also on the hunt for new photography subjects, and continues to be interested in unfamiliar worlds and experiences.
“I like experiencing things outside my own life, and I try to be openminded, some people are very narrow, and look at life only as far as their arms will reach,” she says. “But as a photographer, even if you hit a wall, that’s going to send you in a different direction, and maybe give you a new perspective. It’s important to just keep shooting.” BP
Eric Nathan, Toy Soldier Composer by Alexander G. Ariff
Nathan speaks with us about ephemeral inspiration, FAO Schwartz toys, and intention in composition Eric Nathan’s musical compositions have been performed in various festivals internationally, including at the Alderburgh Music Festival (UK) and at Shanghai Conservatory New Music Week. Nathan is currently the 2013-14 Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize Fellow in composition at the American Academy in Rome. He has previously served as Composer-inResidence at the Chelsea Music Festival (NYC) and at Chamber Music Campania (Italy).
BP: In your topics explored in ‘Toying’, what brought you to visions of toys at this point in your life when toys may seem like a distant memory?
EN: I got a commission from a group Le Train Bleu, which Ransom Wilson directs and the piece was commissioned for this concert that was going to be on the theme of toys. So each piece responded to toys in different ways. They had a piece by Thomas Adès, which was called “Living Toys”, and then there’s a piece by Matt Marks that was inspired by sex objects. And so they said, feel free to respond to theme in whichever way you chose. So I was thinking of the trumpet as I’m a trumpet player. I could write a piece for trumpet and electronics, or just unaccompanied trumpet. So I wanted to challenge myself to write a piece for unaccompanied trumpet, that would be, in a sense a duet. A trumpet would be in dialogue with itself, in some way. So, I was treating the trumpet like a toy. In the first movement, I was just playing around with my trumpet and I unscrewed the valve caps and it makes a clicking sound when you press the valve up. It’s loud so when you put a silent mute it really amplifies it. You can hear this clicking against the very quiet sound of the trumpet so that brought to mind
a wind-up toy. After that I thought of other possible toys for the other movements. The second movement I thought of a toy soldier. As a kid, I thought of playing with these toy soldiers and I thought of this movement as an elegy for a toy solider kind of like taps. For that movement I changed the trumpet in some way by taking out the valve slides, and it makes a sound like a toy trumpet talking to a toy solider in some way. Then the last movement was a ventriloquist. I took off with my jazz roots and used the plunger mute, which can create lots of vocal effects. So it kind of came out of this original concept and I ran with it. I’m pretty visually inspired in lots of my pieces, so images of things inspire me.
BP: Did you have the visuals beforehand or did they come into clear view once the music was written?
EN: When I started writing the piece I actually took a trip to FAO Schwartz and went through all the toys they had there like puppets and slinkees- I bought a slinkee-trying to figure out things to make my piece about. There are a few wind-up toys there
but the actual wind up toy that inspired me was one of my own creation. After the piece was created, the trumpet player Hugo Moreno and I were thinking of projecting images of the toys behind the performer while the piece was being played. But I couldn’t find the kind of silly yet earnest quality of this wind-up toy that I really wanted to express. So, I’d rather have the perfect toy or no toy at all. One that would encapsulate the one that I imagined. I was inspired by one of the toy soldiers in my memory. Otherwise, I am inspired musically by images of performers performing. I downloaded images of trumpet players playing the trumpet, including Hugo and another one was Wynton Marsalis and I would compose looking at these images and just seeing the poses and thinking of different players. That brought different sounds to mind. So different parts of the piece I would get in mind that I wouldn’t have thought of normal, had I not been prompted by the image. I had a whole iPhoto album of these pictures of performers playing different types of music on trumpet.
BP: Do you have a particular aim or emotion in mind which you hope to elicit in the listener when you are composing a piece?
EN: I like the medium of music because it’s so abstract. When you have text, you have semantic meaning involved, which I also enjoy doing. For example, the song cycle that I’m working on, I’m writing about Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth. For Dickinson, there’s going to be meaning that people will get directly, then they can extrapolate on that meaning. Music can help you imagine new things. For the most part, I’ve been writing a lot of instrumental music, which has no text. So while I have something clear that I’m expressing, I don’t necessarily need people to feel the exact same thing. It’s more important that someone come away feeling something like the experience has changed him or her or they’ve thought about something in a new light or they’ve just been moved in their own way. I prefer not being so explicit about exactly what inspired me or what I’m trying to accomplish in every second of the piece. I think that allows me to have music that has real drive and purpose to it. I hope people will put themselves into it and get something out of it that’s
more personal. So, there’s a piece that I wrote called “Multitude Solitude” for string quartet that’s inspired by this moment of solitude where I saw this multitude of seagulls over me on this beach in England and I was specifically inspired by the call of the seagulls and the texture of the seagulls. So I just mentioned that briefly in the program and people came up and said that they could hear the seagulls in this way or that way. Which I thought was good. To give them a hook into the piece. But another deeper meaning that’s perhaps more personal, I don’t want to force that on them.
BP: Do you have an intentional mindset to exploring sounds in the world for your compositions
EN: Well, I know Mahler would get his inspiration swimming underwater or taking a jog. I do feel that it helps me to compose to get out of the house and take walks. Usually, almost every hour and a half, I would walk around the block and it gets my mind reset. Last year a number of my pieces were inspired by sights and feelings I had while at Riverside Park. So there’s something that came from walking. Sometimes I’m very receptive. For example, this piece “Glimpse” was inspired by me blinking my eyes shut in Riverside Park and trying to remember the scene I saw, like one glimpse and recreating that glimpse in pieces-trying for the whole piece to do that. But other times, I was in this town Paestum, Italy and was walking around these ruins of the Temple of Athena. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about a piece but was just so blown away…I started hearing music in my head in that moment so I turned on my phone and started singing what I was hearing so that moment kind of came to me. I can never be sure where it’s going to come from. BP
Find Eric Nathan at ericnathanmusic.com for news and compositions.
TWritten he Ballad of Super Niggs by Jessie Schiewe Photography by Jenn Senn
inwood Young grew up in a tiny, rural town in the heart of Maryland. He lived there with his mother and two brothers in a trailer connected to his grandmothers trailer which was parked next door. Neighbors were scarce, but of trees and poisonous snakes there were plenty. For fun, he played in the woods and listened to rap and hip-hop music. In fact, that’s pretty much all young Linwood Young listened to until one fateful day when the antennae on his radio snapped off. Static engulfed the airwaves, obliterating transmission of every nearby station except one: a brand new Top 40’s station that played everything but rap and hip-hop. Now, since this was the ‘90s, poor Linwood had little recourse other than the radio. There was no Pandora or Spotify, YouTube or Soundcloud. His only alternative was a tape (Yes, a tape.) from his older brother that featured tracks from Grammy nominees in 1996, so he gave it a listen. And, as he says, his “head cracked open.”
For the first time in his young life, Linwood heard music the likes of which he’d never heard before. He listened to Hootie and The Blowfish and Joan Osborne, Alanis Morrisette and Seal. “It was like a gift from the heavens or
something,” he says. “I quickly fell in love with it.” Fast-forward some years and little Linwood Young (Who now goes by the moniker LNWD, pronounced “Linwood”.) is all grown up, living in Bushwick and doing what he calls “the rapper thing.” Last March, he released his first mixtape, “The Ballad of Super Niggs,” a whimsical mash-up of rap and electronica, with farcical lyrics and a dance-inducing mood. The 4-tracks were produced by his friend, Brilliant, My Boy, and became silly and serious, retro and novel. It’s the kind of music that catches you off-guard—making your behind twitch and your ears perk up. It’s weird and it’s raw, which is exactly what LNWD wanted.
“I think people are too trained to hear radio-friendly music today,” he says. His goal was to create something different—in both vibe and content. For example, “The Ballad of Super Niggs,” the title track, came from a story he dreamt up about a kid with Supermanlike powers who never gets any recognition because of the simple fact that he is black. In the song, he raps about an Elysian planet where parents are “educated and they make six figures / No boys
in the hood, shooting up, pulling triggers.” LNWD doesn’t shy from using the “n” word either, but instead elevates it to the level of a compliment with lines like, “He swears he can hear his parents say, ‘Go, negro, go!’ ”
If LNWD reminds you of a certain someone in the music industry who also tends to push boundaries and try new things, then bravo—that was his intention. “[Kanye West] is constantly changing the game with his music,” LNWD says. “I love how unfriendly [‘Yeezus’] is and I also really enjoy the reactions it gets from people.”
In addition to Kanye, LNWD credits Bjork, Missy Elliott, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Jay-Z as musical influences. And, like them, LNWD knows how to put on a show. To watch him perform live is to see his Bachelor’s of Arts in musical theater and dance put to test. He might frolic or improvise lyrics, or swap his microphone for a megaphone like he did once at East River Bar. “I have a strong belief that I need to give the audience a show if they’re going to come and see me,” he says. “So after every show, I generally go out and ask the audience how it was and if they enjoyed themselves.”
One of his most memorable performances to date was the “Black Friday” party he hosted last November at Radio Bushwick. In keeping with the spirit of the “holiday,” the event was free, and, as per its title, featured only black performers. The show, LNWD says, was very high energy, with a packed floor and a super excited, relentlessly screaming crowd. “I don’t remember very much of it,” he admits, but he does recall the expression on one fan’s face when he crouched low and reached out to them during a song. “It looked like they had just been picked to “Come on down!” on The Price is Right,” he says.
LNWD’s next project is a full album entitled ‘Berfday,’ tentatively scheduled to be released by his birthday (Or, berfday, if you will.) this June. The album will be darker and grittier than ‘The Ballad of Super Niggs,’ he says, a sort of compilation of different sounds that have piqued his creative interest in the last year, while at the same maintaining a “danceable intention.” He also has plans to host a monthly party “or something to that effect” at Radio Bushwick, as well as a potential radio show.
In the meantime, LNWD will be spending time in the studio with his producer/buddy, Brilliant, My Boy, mixing beats and spitting verses for his upcoming album. “He’s definitely helping me find my voice in hip-hop,” he says. “We have a great chemistry.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, LNWD’s favorite color is yellow. BP
Find LNWD’s music at lnwd.bandcamp.com/
entle concert goers shuffle into the backroom of Williamsburg’s Pete’s Candy Store for an aural sweet. About three people to be exact. The fourth one, me I believe, entered the space too early for another show which was destined to be better populated. My premature arrival was fortunate, but bets were not off yet. “Hi everyone, thanks for coming. I’m, going to mostly improvise.” The fellow speaking was holding a trombone. I thought for sure this was to be epic in the reappropriated, ironic sense of the word. A single trombonist promising to improvise an entire set for four people is usually the foundation of a fantastically bizarre memory. Much to my excited surprise and simultaneous absurd-seeker-chagrin, however, this was to be one of the more memorable concert experiences of the year and for positive reasons. One trombone became several with looping, the typical became unusual through the use of plate reverb and delay pedals. The evening transformed into a warm embrace, and I imagine that those of us in attendance, in some other dimension, were meeting for tea on the moon. Stargazing was enhanced by harmony, soothing melodic flames of the trombonist’s fireplace, and textures fit for weightlessness.
“Um, yeah, I play with David Byrne & St. Vincent.” Of course he does. Being that I’m a tremendous fan of said act, I was excited and impressed. The record for which Dave has toured with Byrne & St. Vincent, ‘Love This Giant’, involved a sixteen horn ensemble and was performed live with eight horn players. A silhouette of this collaboration felt like it was bouncing around the room as Nelson’s brass was reminiscent of the arrangements adorning the duo’s popular album. “For a while, I tried to book one or two solo shows per month in small rooms like that just to keep workshopping the material and grow more comfortable performing it for people.” The recently late Bill Frisell, contemporary Jazz composer, has been a major influence for Nelson in this recent material. “I love that he’s not afraid to be harmonically and melodically simple, but have such a deep subtlety of phrasing.” Dave is sometimes joined by Marlon Patton, playing drums and bass synth pedals. Dave and Marlon are collaborating with visual artist Lana Vogestad, who has created an art film for projecting during performance. They premiered a new set last month in Atlanta’s The Goat Farm Arts Space. Nelson recently finished composing a set of seven fanfares for trombones, one for each day of the week. This was loosely inspired by Stockhausen’s “Tierkreis” in which Stockhausen created a melody for each sign of the zodiac. Nelson’s “Thursday” was premiered on New York City’s WQXR this past August.
This dedication to composition is impressive considering the typical bus, hotel, show, repeat sequence of a touring schedule. While responding to my questions, Dave was in Europe with one of 4AD Records’ other most notable acts, The National. Their release of ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ found them lighting stages around the world again. “The Byrne and St. Vincent tour was different in that we had folding bikes with us that fit under the bus. Having the bike really opened up each new city we came to since I wasn’t confined to such a small radius and had freedom to research and explore things that interested me. The regular exercise was a nice bonus too.” Biking the streets of Lisbon is a long way from Dublin, Georgia, where Nelson began playing at local parties at age fifteen. Today the Georgian is coloring cities lovely around the world. In fact, now if you’ve had a chance to hear Matt Berninger of The National admit that he is secretly in love everyone he grew up with, then you might be secretly in love with Dave Nelson’s trombone timbre. Or if you had a chance to hear Byrne and Annie Erin Clark end a set with departing things material, quipping “intergalactic matter, outside of space and time,” know that Dave Nelson was floating right along beside you. Now, however, you can find a fellow who’s mastered Annie-B Parson footsteps marching to his own beat as you listen to Nelson’s solo instrumental compositions. Brass awaits, and Dave hopes you like African Rooibos. BP
To find Dave online, go to dnelmusic.com and dave-nelson. bandcamp.com. I recommend giving “Hiawassee” a listen.
Photograph by Bryan Murray
When asked after his performance, trombonist Dave Nelson was kind enough to entertain the idea of collaborating on a piece with me, a random guy at his show. Wondering if he had ever done that sort of thing, I questioned aloud,
“Do you have much experience playing with a full band with someone else’s songs?”
Dave Nelson Tea on the Moon, Trombone, etc. by Loren Berí
Mag the Brio Pop, Beforeby Kate McKormick
There’s a moment early on in The Punk Singer when Kathleen Hanna describes the conversation that turned her into a musician. After years toiling in the Pacific Northwest’s spoken word scene her mentor, writer Kathy Acker, finally questioned what was driving these performances. “Nobody has ever listened to me my whole life,” Hanna explained. She wanted people to listen. Acker’s reply? Ditch spoken word. Abandon performance art. Wrap your earnestness in a cloak of detachment. Confront people where they are. Start a band.
Photograph by Alex Feld
It’s 7:47 p.m.
on a crisp fall Thursday in the back of Brooklyn Fire Proof East, a café/bar/gallery in East Williamsburg with seemingly no western parallel, and Loren Berí is excited. The frontman of Met City, he has meticulously arranged this night. It’s the launch of Brio Pop, this online magazine and a term that doubles as shorthand for the type of theater-infused, playful poprock he’s so passionate about. Three bands that embody the brio pop ethos are on the bill tonight: Boy Girl Party, a pop sextet guaranteed to make you dance, the Bengsons, a more pensive folk duo, and Met City, Berí’s orchestral, baroque quintet. In between sets, concertgoers are immersed in the world of Godrich Golly and the Cave of Dreams, an elaborate plot that weaves together whole experience, penned by Berí and director Clare Hamoor. Like Hanna, many of the night’s musicians have roots in performance. They studied acting or musical theater or playwriting. Their live shows incorporate elements of theater and cabaret. Their songs are, more often than not, stories. “Everyone’s playing a character,” is how Melissa Lusk, frontwoman of Boy Girl Party, describes it as she rattles off the names of other bands that fit the bill: Hannah vs. The Many, Haley Bowery & the Manimals, Jackpot, Tiger, Ghost & Goblin. So what brings these acts
together, other than a flair for the dramatic? We pose the question to Lusk over fries across the street from the Bogart street practice space where one of her other projects, Teen Girl Scientist Monthly, co-fronted by her husband and collaborator Matt Roi Berger, is soon to practice. “We’re a little too earnest, a little too happy.” But that happiness is precisely what makes brio pop so infectious. You can trust the songwriters to take you on an emotional ride, spinning tales of fantasy and melancholy and loss before ending somewhere triumphant. There’s also a seriousness of craft, a reverence for tradition and structure that comes with formal education. “That’s almost by accident,” Lusk offers by way of explanation. “It’s just the nature of who we are. I would never dream of writing a song without a bridge.” Nor would many of their musical forebears. Most of these musicians came up listening to some combination of anti-folk and postpunk and indie rock. An oft-cited reference is Regina Spektor: Boy Girl Party reimagines her Ghosts of Corporate Future; Beri counts her among his greatest influences. That’s another thing about Brio Pop: there are a lot of women at this party. Teen Girl Scientist Monthly is fronted by the fierce howls of Morgan Lynch, Boy Girl Party features the lush harmonies of three female vocalists, and nearly every band on the list has a woman on the mic.
In addition to gigging around Brooklyn and Manhattan (The Cake Shop, Arlene’s Grocery, Matchless, Legion), the bands have found audiences in places like Ars Nova, spaces better known for hosting experimental theater and mixed media art than rock shows. Later this year, the Bengsons will premiere their latest work, an “ experimental mixed-media folk opera” titled Hundred Days, at Z Space. And the genre mixing seems to be working, producing music that is easy to listen to and hard to pin down. But this is more than a random assemblage of bands, it’s a community that’s forming on Brooklyn’s musical borders. The groups are intricately connected, sharing members, and alma maters, and bills. They’re also friends. A few came together earlier this year to form Republic of Bears, a collective dedicated almost entirely to having each other backs. If there’s a single ethos that’s driving this scene, it’s that one: a scrappy, relentless positivity. “I’m not saying sad music wouldn’t elicit the same responses from people,” Lusk says. “But subconsciously forcing people into a positive frame of mind really works.” BP
All That You Missed: 2013 34
Twenty films that didn’t get the attention they deserved Written by Patrick Wilson Drawings by Paul Wheatley
Dusty Stacks of Mom Jodie Mack’s tribute to her mother’s poster enterprise is a re-imagining of Dark Side of the Moon with the music and lyrics altered to suit this personal take on the celebrity poster and postcard industry. Comprised of the textures of the warehouse and pictures from the scrolls themselves, it features what is surely the best avant-garde treatment of Mr. Bean yet seen in theaters. A total rush - simply put, it’s the best animated film of the year, or any year really.
A Field in England This is the End? Hardly – it’s a brisk start. Crossing the low-budget backyard filming mode of Brownlow and Mollo’s Winstanley with a desire to create a new psychedelic style, Ben Wheatley’s midnight movie aesthetic finds its nimblest footing in this period piece concerning a trio of deserters from the English Civil War in search of a good pub to escape to. Along the way, a black magick plot enshrouds them, a particular subset of mushrooms is ingested, and many dick jokes are cracked among the rising fire and brimstone. Irreverent fun and lysergic form that is itself like a modest portal to English filmmaking past and present.
Ellie Lumme Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s short feature tells a tale as old as time immemorial – a young woman is accosted by an arrogant almost-acquaintance who’s taken an unwanted shine to her, with existential complications arising therein. A pair of rich lead performances, a gift for the side details, and a certain implacable edge of ambivalence contributes to a healthy opening salvo from this first-time filmmaker.
Le Boulet n’est pas passé loin Winnipeg’s Isiah Medina, ascendant cineaste of the YouTube-and-philosophy set, has crafted a treatise on Spring Breakers, late-period Godard, Alain Badiou’s Theory of the Subject, and the first of Kanye West’s infamous improvisations from his February 2013 engagement in London. Shades of Stan Brakhage, Gregory Markopoulos, and Christopher MacLaine sift by as Medina’s dissolving visuals of family, cinema, and Western art/thought sally against the drone of West’s excoriating accompaniment. A stunning new model of avant-garde cinema from 2013.
The Golden Cage In Diego Quemada-Diez’s immigration drama, three Guatemalan teens set off on the treacherous 1,200-mile trek towards the United States, riding atop dilapidated trains and crossing desolate farmland. Among them is Sara, a young girl posing as a boy in order to avoid unwanted attention, and Juan, an aggressive neighborhood tough with an unrequited longing for Sara. Along the way, they encounter Chauk, a Chiapan indian who tags along despite being unable to speak Spanish. This decidedly pareddown and unsparing immigration thriller constantly upends audience expectations until its chilly close, presenting a working model of how an unsparing immigration drama might really appear.
Illiterate Moises Sepúlveda’s chamber piece concerns a cantankerous shut-in and the young woman who endeavors at long last to teach her how to read. While such a premise could’ve been a recipe for derivative drivel, Sepúlveda eschews cliché, opting for an approach that defies expectation and refutes easy sentimentality.
Before Midnight A baffling backlash has emerged in certain quarters against this latest work by one of the USA’s premiere proteans. This hostility maligns Linklater and the performers’ decision to spin the lovers of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset into one of the legendary squabbling couples of the cinema, casting their dime into the fountains of Strindberg, Albee, and Pialat as they go. Even among the swiftly stacked arguments and accusations of Before Midnight, Linklater stands as one of the most generous artists at work today. Ignore the latest round of critical swipes – few films display as much love as this one.
The Immigrant The single best North American narrative work of 2013 is James Gray’s unforgivably unreleased period picture of 1920s Manhattan, a kind of microcosm of the American experience. A refugee comes to the Ellis Island in search of better life, becomes exploited by her surroundings, and endeavors to survive. It’s the kind of simple, graceful storytelling through image and gesture that stands the chance of revitalizing US cinema for the better with its narrative economy.
Mother of George Andrew Dosunmu’s second film follows a Nigerean couple through the start of their married lives in Brooklyn. Although their marriage begins in bliss, pressure mounts as they are unable to have a child. Dosunmu beautiful weaves the film’s many themes. It is at once a story of marriage, of family, of man versus woman, and of immigrant life. For an interview with the director, turn to page 40.
Road to Karakol Have you ever wanted to go to a foreign country and risk your life biking and hiking through a trecherous landscape? All the while by yourself? Of course not. Because you’re sane. But that’s exactly what Kyle Dempster did, and thank god for him. The resulting documentary, ‘Road to Karakol’, is absolutely stunning. Turn to page 50 for an article with the film’s director, Fitz Cahall.
Stranger by the Lake The year’s best thriller is set against the scenery of a vacation spot in southwest France where men cruise for bouts of noncommittal sex with each other. One man accidentally witnesses another killing his lover, then ends up replacing the dead man in his affections, setting in motion a chain of events that refutes the expectations of the genre. Alain Guiraudie channels in a relaxed, measured style that makes the act of watching his movies feel as refreshing as taking a vacation.
In Tsai-Ming Liang’s latest picture, a Taiwanese man makes a living braving the elements as a human billboard for real estate developments. He cares for his children while squatting in abandoned apartments. Eventually a vague mother figure shows up and the unspoken threatens to spill out like Tsai’s signature torrents of water. Despite its mysteries, Stray Dogs stands as a far more successful portrait of performance than American Hustle, and a far more coherent one too. It’s the greatest examination of the unconscious sins of the self since The Tree of Life, containing the two most audacious ending shots of the year, a successive onetwo punch that enlarges the possibilities of the screen in ways that Cuaron’s Gravity forgot was even possible. Brio Pop
The Three Disasters Jean-Luc Godard’s latest epistle, the most noteworthy third of the 3D omnibus film 3X3D, is a goulash of wordplay, literary allusion, and snatches from a heap of movies both recent and classic, all in the name of theorizing the nature of the stereoscopic process and its effects on our understanding.
Norte or The End of History Philippines filmmaker Lav Diaz, world cinema’s emergent long-duration artist, has retooled Crime and Punishment into a four-hour saga of intellectualism and its discontents, one that underscores the need for communal viewing experiences of work as richly nuanced in tone and characterization as this, forming a bracing, redemptive experience.
Surrender Mohammad Gorjestani’s short film was made as a part of the Futurestates series, which challenges filmmakers to envision what a future America will look like. Gorjestani follows a young Iranian immigrant who is threatened with deportation unless she agrees to an unnerving deal offered by the state. For an interview with Gorjestani, see page 46.
Lore In 1945, Nazi aspirations of European domination came to an end. For young Lore, these aspirations were the backbone of her reality. We watch as she and her siblings go from the children of a medaled patriot to those of a war criminal. Kate Shortland’s haunting film will burn itself onto your soul.
*Both “Lore” and “A Hijacking” were initially released in 2012, but didn’t come to America until 2013, so we decided to include them in this list.
A Wolf at the Door First-time filmmaker Fernando Coimbro’s knotted yarn of infidelity and duplicity in suburban Rio de Janeiro is a jigsaw puzzle of cruelty that plays like an updated version of Renoir’s Toni, pricking the viewer without resorting to Haneke-lite maneuvers.
Computer Chess In which Andrew Bujalski creates the eminent paranoid poem of our time – a paean to humanity’s immanent irrelevance in the computing age. A crackling monochrome whatsit laced with a sense of humor worthy of the desks of Daniel Clowes and Thomas Pynchon.
Double Play: Richard Linklater and James Benning
An enlightening entry to the pantheon of documents on filmmakers, critic and programmer Gabe Klinger’s contribution to the invaluable Cineastes de Notre Temps is structured as a series of conversations between Linklater and Benning. Covering such subjects as cinema, sports, their modes of working, personal histories, future aspirations, and their decades-old friendship, Double Play is punctuated with considerate clips from both bodies of work that crack open both filmmakers’ careers in innumerable ways. A sentimental valentine to the influence of moviemaking.
A Hijacking Before Tom Hanks signed on to play Captain Phillips, there was “A Hijacking”, a Danish film about a boat taken over by Somali pirates, and the negotiation process after. However, unlike the Hollywood film, “A Hijacking” offers a unique perspective by focusing on the ship’s cook, who is absolutely powerless. The film lulls you into a false sense of calm by showing funny moments shared between the pirates and their victims making moments of conflict even more intense.
Mother of George by Andreea Drogeanu
My phone interview with Andrew Dosunmu, the director of “Mother of George”, was like a conversation that you never want to end. We found ourselves talking about films like “Police Adjective” and “If I Want to Whistle I Whistle” - two recent Romanian films that gathered good reviews and some awards. It shows his interest and curiosity when it comes to the world of cinema and the fact that he’s willing to expand his vision as a filmmaker to a large audience - that he’s looking for an universal visual language.
where you were when historical moments happened. You remember where you were at that time or what you were doing but you don’t remember what you were talking about. It’s the same when you travel –you don’t speak the language but you get along fine-you buy books, you go to the coffee shop and you have to understand the local language but you’re just visiting and everything you do it’s absorbed visually- your experience is visual. If you travel to Asia and you don’t speak that language it’s an emotional experience through visual and sound. That’s what I try to make with sound and space. That’s A.D.:Before coming to NY you studied in France, how I am as a filmmaker. That’s why I try to put a lot where you watched a lot of French and Balkan of my strength in how I use sound, space and visual films. What are the directors and artists that elements. impressed and influenced you during that time?
A.D: When I was watching “Mother of George” at one point in my head I thought of Julian Schnabel and then in one interview you said that one thing that you’re trying to achieve is to make films as if they are paintings with images and sound. With “Mother of George” that’s exactly what you managed to pull off. The costumes, colors, framing - they just blend in so well together. Andrew: It’s interesting that you brought up Schnabel because he is one of the most amazing American directors of this era. People don’t often talk about him, but Julian Schnabel is incredible. You got to admit that after seeing “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” or “Before Night Falls. A lot of scenes nowadays are very dialogue driven and as a filmmaker I try to highlight everything that’s in the frame. I believe that cinema is a visual language first and foremost and we have lost that essence. It’s a visual language. Somebody who went to film school might be all about the dialogue and the writing. I think that all the other elements of filmmaking are as important if not even more important than dialogue. As somebody who has lived on different continents with different languages I’m very particular that my thing won’t get lost in translation.
A.D: And in the end that’s what you can trust more. With “Mother of George”, you and Darci Picoult (the screenwriter of “Mother of George”) made this film that touches so many different topics but it doesn’t feel like you’re assaulted with heavy themes. You discover them but they are unfolding in a natural manner. It’s a film about love and I always believe that the memories in life are not sacrifice, betrayal and truth and touches themes specifically about what was said it’s about the moment. like immigration, isolation, family intrusion and You don’t remember what was said but you remember love.
Previous page: Art by Haley Danzig Photograph courtesy of Oscilloscope
Andrew: I watched a lot of films and that’s how my love for cinema started. I remember looking at Josef Koudelka photos from Europe in the 60s and they definitely impressed me. Then is that film “Time of the Gypsies” by Emir Kusturica. A lot of filmmakers from that area are talented.
Andrew:-If you watch a film and you don’t know the language you don’t want to be caught in just reading the subtitles and the translation because there is so much dialogue. You end up missing so much of the world because you concentrate on the words and I never want my films to be perceived like that. I want people to really experience my films and I don’t want the fact that they don’t speak a certain language to be a disadvantage. It’s important that the message transcends beyond anything else. The reason why music is one of the strongest art forms is because of sound and its emotional quality-it goes under the skin. A.D: It took a really long time for “Mother of George” to happen and the project was a part of two Sundance labs. How hard was for you to wait that long and how did the script changed during those years? Did you feel there was a pressure to modify the tone or other aspects of the story or did this extra time helped you discover the essence of “Mother of George”? Andrew-I think time is always an advantage. That fact the film wasn’t made a few years ago allowed me to make “Restless City” first. It was definitely an advantage. As a filmmaker, I’m trying to have a constant dialogue with the world - not just with America - and often in that process [of preproduction] people are telling you facts based on American audience in terms of what they want to see. But the world is bigger than that. I want my film to be a worldly film. Sometimes certain actors are right only for America but not for the rest of the world. I want to make films because I want to express something and ultimately resist the test of time. If I look at my film I don’t want to be ever embarrassed by it. This is a recurring fact. I wanted to make a film that stays truthful to the experience of the world and whether it’s a French theme or a Romanian theme I wanted to get an actor that understands that world and transcends any audience. Not just getting somebody because of his name that is known. Whoever comes I want you to believe the whole acting performance. It took so long because I wanted the right actors-the perfect ones and also to get the finance. But during that waiting process I was making “Mother of George” in my head. I’m a photographer and I was building themes through photography. I look at photography as a scrapbook for me. So I’m constantly photographing and constructing the world of my film. People rush to make films and rush to send them to festivals and create the right strategy as quick as possible and I’m not saying this is not right. But while you’re editing the film you have to let it brethe.
A.D: You and Darci come from different worlds. Did you felt like you grew together during the process of creating “Mother of George”? Andrew:-I worked with other writers in the past but what’s amazing about Darci is that she is a brilliant collaborator. It’s a very important aspect for me. We were open to try different things and to experience them together. The ultimate fact is that the film is bigger than both of us and we wanted to make a great thing. It wasn’t like ‘I’m a writer and I want to see all the dialogue in the end’, or ‘this is a beautiful scene that I shot and I want it to be included no matter what’. That’s why I think spending time with people and collaborating is really crucial. Having that chemistry. Being able to talk and spend time together and ultimately being open and not too attached to anything. If you feel strongly about something, eventually that is going to suffice. And it’s that chemistry when you connect with somebody and she comes from a completely different world than me. I’m coming from a very visual artistic world and she comes more from a dialogue world so we learned from each other from that perspective. A.D: I have to go back to the visual language because it really impressed me. It has to do with the framing, sometimes with what you are not seeing. For instance, during some of the scenes the camera stays on only one person, or you break the fourth wall and the characters look straight at us. There all these rules that you’re breaking that just show a lot of confidence and braveness. Of course, you also worked with the amazing director of photography, Bradford Young. How did the two of you work together and create this incredible visual language? Andrew: I think that has to do with the fact that when I met Bradford he knew my world of photography and that was very important. He knew my work and what it was about. He understood what I was trying to say through my pictures. We also had the same reference points. So for instance, if I was describing something really specific for a frame, he understood. He just knew what I wanted. And we just spent time together talking; exploring and then suddenly we had this seamless connection. A lot of times I would tell him - ‘why don’t you just come by at my studio to listen to some music’. A.D: Creating a bond between the two of you. Andrew-Yes that’s how I work in general. It’s not just, ‘read the script and the dialogue’. It’s more like, ‘I‘m listening to some music and why don’t you just come Brio Pop
over to join me reaching that world, dissecting that It’s interesting because when I grew up there was music and reconstruct it?’ It’s seamless like something nothing to guide me. I never knew any filmmakers or in the air. how to become a filmmaker but I knew I liked visuals and wanted to make visuals of the people I knew. I A.D: Talking about music and sound - several times wanted to work with images. For a long time I knew I in “Mother of George” you see two characters wanted to make photography for certain. First I started talking, but you can only hear different types of to make things for my friends and I didn’t know how music - traditional music or jazz. It’s almost like but I was still making them. I was self-trained - shooting music becomes a character but you don’t overuse things and learning on the way. It was a manual process; it. Sometimes music can be distracting in films or I just wanted to make things… it’s used to cover flaws, but that doesn’t happen in “Mother of George”. A.D: So it was like a progression. Andrew-Music for me is like a dialogue. In “Mother of George” when she finally told him that the baby is not his I used a cow horn sound because of the aggression that comes when you’re exposed to that sound. It’s such an intrusion to your head. So aggressiveness is what he felt. When he hears that, it’s incomprehensible for him - so it becomes a noise. I wanted the audience to feel that. Of course, it could have been dialogue but we’ve seen that before. I just wanted to try different stuff. For me filmmaking is a process and it’s trying to experiment with things. It’s not really settling for what already works. I want to try something else and experiment. I want to try to contribute to the medium. And I might not be successful but it’s a process that challenges me. That’s what excited me about filmmaking - challenging myself and trying new things and not settling for what already exists because then I might as well just document things. I’m not trying to just document things, I want to create them. To me filmmaking is like poetry, visual poetry and is about visual thoughts. A.D.: Poetry is not consumed that easily and is sometimes hard to understand.
Andrew-I really believe that my process as a filmmaker covers so many different things. I worked in photography, fashion, music; advertising and they all contribute to the things I want to make and how I express it. That’s what makes me and my voice as a filmmaker. Some people come from more of a literal, linear place of making films and writing is their strength. My strength is the visual and I try to embrace it. I’ve put a lot of time into that. All these things I’ve been involved in, all the careers I had in my life are definitely very predominant in my films and that’s what makes my film different from the next person. A.D.: Both times I watched “Mother of George” the ending felt like an open one. Was that intentional or in your head you know the ending and you just wanted to be subtle and leave it covered in a bit of mystery? Andrew: For me,I know what the ending is but I feel like a film should be a dialogue and I wanted the audience to leave the theater and start a new dialogue about what this film is about. I wanted it to be like in life where situations are never resolved. Traumatic events in life are never resolved. You deal with it on a daily basis and you grow from them. That’s what I wanted to do. The fact that he shows up in the hospital is a gesture that shows responsibility and that’s what matters. That’s life. We deal with things, whether it’s sickness or something else we learn to deal with it.
Andrew: I want my film to resonate to the audience; I want them to think about it even after they have left the theater. It’s not just pure enjoyment or entertainment. No it’s haunted…like a haunted pleasure not like a nightmare, I hope. A film for me is a beginning of a dialogue that continues after you have left the theater. When I look at Pasolini or Visconti or Diop Mambeti A.D.: Your film deals with immigration and that’s the effect those films have on me. isolation. Ayodele is isolated by his mum making A.D: Was there a moment in your life when you him feel like he’s the king of Brooklyn, Adenike is decided that you wanted to become a filmmaker, isolated because her family is away and her only or was it more like a gradual progression and friend is so different from her, and the brother is everything you did on a professional level was a alone as well. step towards that direction?
Andrew:-There are consequences of displacement, and isolation is one of them. All of them are isolated - the brother feels isolated and he has to fulfill his obligation for the family. He has a responsibility, the mum feels isolated as well, Adenike has the responsibility to conceive a child for her husband. A.D.: “Mother of George” talks about love and the concept of the family. You’re challenging the standard concept of family. It’s not based just on blood connection is larger than that. Andrew: In my tribe’s culture there’s no word for uncle. It doesn’t exist. If my father’s brother comes here I’ll introduce him as my father. They have the responsibility to take care of you if your father is not there. What I like about that is that a child is the child of all of us - the notion of the family is not just biologic. Is not the direct lineage that makes a kid to be mine after all. A.D: One of the most powerful scenes in the film, when Ayodele’ s mum is telling Adenike the type of “help” she needs in getting pregnant, happens inside of a church. Was this intentional? Andrew: The reason why I chose that location is because in most African cultures the notion of religion is different and I wanted to show that. They co-exist in a beautiful way. There is no isolation whether it’s Islam or Christianity. They will go to a mosque and then to a Christian church. People embrace them all and in one family you can have one Christian and one Muslim. They believe that each religion has its purpose. I really wanted to show that religion co-exists in some places of this world contrary to what people believe, especially in this moment when there are so many religious wars out there.. A.D.: A scene that gave me chills is one where a goat is sacrificed following a very important moment of the film. Can you tell me more about its meaning and how that scene found its place in the film? Andrew: I ‘m glad someone liked that scene. It’s another thing about where our emphasis lies as an audience. People from another corner of the world might say ‘ohh it’s the slaughter of a goat’. And it’s not really about that. And it’s a healthy way of eating - you know what you’re eating. You should be more worried about the meat you are you buying from a supermarket when you don’t know where it came from than somebody who is slaughtering a goat in a film.
This movie could have been called “Sacrifice”. The goat is a metaphor for so many things-First, the brother is the sacrificial lamb for what’s going on. Second, in this world when you pray for things for so long and you get it you have to give back. And often we give back by sacrificing the lamb and share it with the less fortunate because your prayer has been answered. And third, the coming of a child is a celebration. These are all things truthful to that world and culture. It’s biblical as well the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. There are so many symbols behind it. A.D.: To me the goat was also a metaphor of Adenike. The goat’s feet are tied she has no choice and she’s trapped just like Adenike who’s forced to do something she doesn’t want and she has no other option. Andrew: I like that. It’s interesting. ..I haven’t thought about that. To me it was the brother as the sacrificed lamb in the family. But that’s what film should be - it’s that open interpretation. A.D.: One of my favorite film directors is Haneke. In his films you often don’t know for sure what’s going on, there are no answers send to the audience on a silver plate. After the end of his films you have more questions than answers. Andrew: But that’s what films should be. Art should be intriguing and make you curious about. It should never be something that’s too easy because then it’s like you’re watching an episode of television. A.D.: When you accept a script what helps you make that decision and choose to direct a project? Andrew: It has to be something that is visual compelling where I can visually create a world around it. If the script is set in one room it won’t intrigue me. I’ll probably feel that I’m confined and it’s all dialogue driven. So I have to feel that I can project it visually and emotionally. I look at a script as a blank canvas. If has to be a plain canvas that I can paint on, not one with a lot of paintings already laying on its surface. In the end it just has to be something that I am passionate about visually and feel that I can express truthfully. Filmmaking is so physically draining that if you don’t love it then there’s absolutely no reason why you should do it. BP
A Conversation with Mo Gorjestani
by Padraic Oâ€™Meara
So I met up with Mo Gorjestani in San Francisco outside of Four Barrel coffee downtown. We chatted for a while and decided we wanted to speak about where we were at as filmmakers, what that meant to us and what we were interested in right now. We’ve come from really different places, he was born in Iran, grew up in San Jose, CA, I was born and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and recently moved to West Coast of the US. Mo recently made the film Refuge for the ITVS series Futurestates, it’s been received well, putting him into the public eye and getting him recognition as a filmmaker, placing him amongst the top film makers to watch in 2013. As we got talking, and I was explaining what I wanted the piece to be about, we touched on other magazines out there and what they do. Mo broke in about what he would love to read about, and what he didn’t… Mo Gorjestani(MG): So with like American Cinematographer, they’re talking about making Batman, and yeah, it’s interesting but, that is so far away from me right now, what I can do right now. It’s almost like gossip, it’s really not part of my life, I don’t relate to it at all. There’s this other world of filmmaking, which is more our world of filmmaking, which is smaller, more intimate.
Photograph by Padraic O’Meara
Padraic O’Meara(POM):Which I like so much more. MG: Me too, the best films I’ve seen in the past few years are like this. I saw this movie, “It felt like love”, that my friend Eliza directed. Man this movie is so good dude, and if you see it, your like this is a masterpiece. And I talked to her about it and she’s like yeah, the budget was so so low. I was like what you made it for how much?! She’s like yeah we had like 5 or 6 people on set sometimes, But if someone told you this was a massive production, you’d believe them. And that’s speaks to where we’re at. Do you really need 40 people on set to make something. Do you really need this ginormous spectacle of a set to make a story?
lit, high production, and that it’s better than natural light coming from a window, hitting a character from a really nice angle. They’ve trained you to say that’s a bad image and this other image is a good image. It’s really the industry driving that, it’s the industry that wants grips, gaffers and unions and all these people to be working making films. He references “Days of Heaven” where, the union was really upset, because it was all exterior and so no one in the electric department could work on the film. The union was like why are they making this movie under the studio, theres no electrics involved this is BS! So they ended up actually hiring electrics to come to set, they just paid them, and the electrics didn’t do anything. He references great paintings, like Edward Hopper paintings, pieces by Van Gogh, and they’re all just one light source, hitting these people, with amazing composition and that’s it. There’s no fill, theres no accent lights, theres no kinos hiding behind something. His whole thesis goes down to, people have been trained to say an over lit image is a better image than something that is under lit. POM: So tell me a little bit about yourself, and how you got to the point to make the film “Refuge”? MG: I’m Iranian American, I was born in Tehran, my mom and dad are both artists, they were both right in the thick of things during the revolution, my dad was head of the art department at Tehran University. We left during the Iran - Iraq war and we landed in San Jose. My life has always had this duality to it, which is being from Iran, but also growing up in a lower class neighborhood in the western world. I’m really interested in the immigrant life. This country is built on immigrants and in the last years, there’s been some shit in the media that’s just blown my mind.
I met this guy in Madison. He’s doing his doctorate on cinema studies and he’s writing his dissertation on - he framed it really well, but I’ll do my best here.
I have all of my family in Iran and my very close family, my mom and dad right here in the US. And trying to figure out where are we going in this geopolitical thing thats happening. So this idea of like, what’s the next thing thats going to happen. Is the US going to drop a bomb or Iran, or is this going to be a cold war with sanctions?
They’ve conditioned us to look at an image that’s overly
But when I started researching, it starting looking like Brio Pop
this was going to be more of a cyberwar. It’s really fascinating, it started being about this silent war. That’s all about like hacking large databases where things are electronically controlled. Just reading these unbelievable stories. Like the US sent this thing called the Olympic Games virus to Iran and it shut down their centrifuges. And no one knows about it, because you cant see it, it’s not tangible, it’s not a bomb dropping. Like someone could be hacking your phone right now and sending it to like Sputnik or something! So my idea came around by thinking well what are the other things that can be affected? Well with a cyber war, they can attack your water system, the chemicals to balance your water system, and they are electronically controlled, so they can hack that. You can hack central bank systems, you can hack power grids. And so the level of advancement on the offensive is very high, and the defensive is very low, so it’s very vulnerable. And so I had all this my head, and for me I always want to tell stories from a relatable perspective. So telling it through a character you can relate to, rather than just a spectacle of a story, where it’s like government officials. So Refuge just became about, what happens when there is an immigrant who comes to the United States? Who’s just trying to live a better life, but something completely out of their control, something political, is basically undermining that whole thing. And what’s that story? The challenge in writing was to make it something very believable and tangible. So number one we decided to make the story not too far in the future. And really root it in a world thats very similar to today, and just have a character that can go through this world in a bit of an undramatic way. You know less drama means more reality to me. POM: Less external always means more internal is available to play with. MG: I totally agree, it’s like those things are distractions. You know it’s like you want to go to bar to have a nice conversation, it’s nice when there’s not a lot of music, not a lot of noise. You want to get rid of the noise, strip it back. POM: So Futurestates - how did they come to ask you to pitch something to them?
MG: So they approached me I think, 4 years ago, and I had pitched ideas for their first 2 seasons. Both similar stories, that they didn’t green light. And they kept inviting me every year to write, so on the third year, uh, maybe they got sick of me or something. ‘Fine, lets just let this guy make a movie, already.’ They ask you to write the treatment, I think there are like 60 filmmakers that get asked to write the treatment, and then they move 10 projects into the writing phase, generally they green light 8 of the 10. We were one of the ones that got green lit, and then they commission you to make a film for the series. POM: So what has happened since you made this film? With all of it’s recognition and the new future of possibilities that have presented themselves. How’s this made you feel? MG: I don’t know if other filmmakers feel the same way, but I always think my idea is bad. I put this team about me so it’s like a shelter of people following your idea. And then you make it and you don’t know what you have. Your’e so jaded, when your’e in the edit and you’re just like. All I see is everything that is wrong. And then you show a few people, and people are like, yeah this is good. Really? Ok Cool. And then you polish it a little bit more, a little bit more. And then all of a sudden you’ve got this movie, and then one day you wake up and it’s gonna be at Tribeca. Really? Cool. And you know we got some nice recognition. It’s really important to recognise that its a total collaborative team effort. It’s not about just one person doing something. First thing we got played at Tribeca, got on the 25 new faces list at Filmmaker, which is really great because it’s your peers recognising something. And then that validates you to the point where you’re like, at least I’m on the right track. Whatever that track is, I don’t know. We just did a Filmmaker tour around the country and screened the film in the Midwest, in these independent theatres. I was nervous about that, it’s the Midwest and all! But the reception was really good. There’s nothing better than people saying, well I really want you to make another movie. Thats like going to a restaurant
and people being like I really can’t wait to come back and try something else. To say that means I know exactly what comes next, well I have no idea. There’s ideas about developing Refuge into a feature or something more episodic. I have another grant from San Francisco film society to write a different story, that I’m working on with Malcolm. And of course there’s the reality of life on top of that. Well I still gotta pay the bills, so I gotta jump on these commercial projects. And be sustainable. I think the short end of it is like, we made a film that I can say we’re proud of, people liked it, it had a nice reception, and it’s paved the path to at least having the credibility that you need in this industry to say, I have another idea. To wether it’s having the meetings or the people to work on it, people to listen to the idea. Because for me it’s all about making the next thing as much as it is celebrating what we did. I’ll leave the celebrating to my mom and dad. POM: So tell me something more about this path thats being created for you and what you do with that path? MG: I don’t know if I totally buy into everything happens for a reason. But I do believe that everyone has a certain path, and I think that life does enough of, whether it has to punch you in the face, or gently guide you, depending on the position your life is at. It’s always going to be pointing you to where your place in the world should be. And often you as a person get in the way of that. And I subscribe to this idea of surrender a little bit. And the western philosophy of surrender is different to what as far as the Eastern philosophy surrender I’ve read is. Surrender in the western world means quit. It means just give up. Where in the eastern world or, I mean in those philosophical teachings. Surrender means stop fighting what the current is trying to do. It doesn’t mean your stopping it, it means your allowing the greater force to like move you. So cause it’s you know, we live in this society.. what is the one thing that bothers you about where we’re headed as a society?
much. And I think true “awakening” or finding yourself or whatever you want to use here. enlightening, all that, whatever buzz term you want to use, comes at that point where you say. I’m going to discount the importance of comfort and I’m going to value truth. Because to go to the truthful path is much more painful and scary. Comfort is much more safe and rounded. And I think that represents itself physically in the world we live in. And there’s nothing against it really, I have nothing against that seeking of comfort if that is something you are really passionate about. But I also have friends who hate their jobs, and spend 5 days a week unhappy and only 2 happy. I think for me, in this industry it’s so easy to just give in sometimes and just be like, man no, like how am I going to make this work? (laughs a a little exasperated) How’m I who’s gonna, who’s gonna give me the money to make a movie? That’s an absurd idea! But you just kinda keep moving forward, and there’s a lot of sacrifice. And from my own experience theres a lot of difficulties. A ton of sacrifice, you really strip yourself down and get to know yourself really well. But I think at the end of the day, it comes back to like, trusting this idea, that if I keep doing what feels right. At some point if I just keep going, something will happen. A really good quote is, “The miracle usually happens right past the point you’re about to quit”. And thats the cut of it right? It’s like, the gold is there, but theres this big wall, you choose to say well, you either have to trust well I can’t see the gold, I heard it’s there, I really don’t want to climb this thing to find out its not there, but whatever that thing is that makes you climb up, you know, I would say climb it. At least I say that now, maybe I’ll change my mind in six months. BP
To have a look at Refuge go to http://futurestates.tv/episodes/refuge
I would say, we value comfort over truth, way too Brio Pop
Real Adventure is Not Polished by Brent Butler
“Work with what you have,” says Cahall. Too many times filmmakers are sitting in the editing bay, complaining about what they don’t have. “If only we’d shot this moment… if we could go back and get this coverage… oh man, if we didn’t have wind in the mics in this shot.” The excuses run on and on and get in the way. Once you commit to a path, follow it it. Exhaust every bit of film and its uses, break it apart and put it back together. Use the other tools in your belt, music, voice over narration, and even the dreaded “cut to black” if that what gets you from Point A to Point B.
Listen to your audience. When The Road from Karakol debuted at the 5Point Film Festival it was met with praise, taking home the Best In Fest award, but there was an unexpected emotion that the audience expressed. The audience laughed when they should have cried. Dempster, a goofy dirtbag, has such a comedic presence in the film that the audience giggled when he was faced with a real life or death moment. “This is the films lowpoint and though the film was met with praise, the audience was not conveying the emotion I wanted,” says Cahall. The solution was for the composer, Amy Stolzenbach, to write a piece of music that would Turn the camera on! In a world be the subliminal cue the audience where the lens permeates our lives needed. “You have to know what - our phones, GoPros, handhelds, you want and all the tools in your etc. - there is opportunity to finds box to get there.” The final cut is interesting footage in unexpected appropriately sad as Kyle narrates places, but not if that camera his goodbye to his family should he is sitting in the bottom of your die. backpack waiting for its master to realize the “perfect” shot and not “Get your film out there,” says if that camera has a dead battery. Cahall. A lot of money can be “The brilliance of Kyle’s footage spent submitting a film to festivals. is that he pulled the camera out The key is to find a festival that is when he was the most stressed,” personal to you. It doesn’t have to says Cahall. It is these moments, be big or prestigious. If your film when Kyle is being intimidated at is good the word will spread and a military checkpoint or debating take on a life of its own. “We’ve whether or not he will live or spent very little showing our film, die, that heighten the drama and but venues across the world ask to make for good story. “When it is screen it,” says Cahall. “It doesn’t inconvenient for the camera to be take a huge budget to get it out on is exactly when it should be on.” there, it just takes a good story.” BP
Photograph courtesy of Duct Tape Then Beer Productions
he award winning short film The Road from Karakol documents one man’s adventure as he attempts a solo bike ride across Kyrgyzstan’s abandoned Soviet-era roads, seeking to explore the countryside and summit mountain peaks along the way. But this little film has big lessons for every filmmaker. Told in a traditional three-act narrative, the original footage was never meant to amount to more than a four minute travelogue of professional alpinist, Kyle Dempster. It wasn’t until Dempster showed up on Director Fitz Cahall’s doorstep with hundreds of hours of self-filmed (GoPro and handheld point-andshoot) footage that the film found its genesis. According to Cahall, the footage was raw, shaky, with horrible audio and even worse lighting, but as Cahall whiled away the hours, perusing the footage, he began to feel that there was indeed a story hidden in the troves of visual data. “There were two specific scenes: the opening scene where Kyle is naked, readying himself to cross a river and talking into the camera, and the scene near the end, what amounts to Kyle’s last will and testament to his family and friends, that let me know I had something,” said Cahall. But every journey, even one to take an unwieldy amount of amateur footage and turn it into a dramatic adventure film, has its lessons.
Long & Winding Road Derek Blann Photograph by Gili Karev
As I journey through this life, I have found but one constant companion. As a youth, I followed my fatherâ€™s lead and was a fan of good old, down home, country music. It made sense, being from small town America that music about small town life would speak to me. Songs about the simple life, with slow, simple music to go along with the stories of small town drama, bringing in the crops come harvest time, love lost and love found, and even songs about dogs and trains and beer, they spoke to me on a primal level, I understood them as if they were my own.
As I got a little older, I realized that there was more to this world than my immediate surroundings. This is where my Motherâ€™s influence crept in. I was introduced to the classic rock and roll acts of the sixties and seventies. Those were a time when the world was rife with turbulence and turmoil and a feeling that a new age was upon the world. People felt as though the time for change had come and they felt empowered to be the change they wanted to see in the world. The musical acts of the time spoke of the shared experience of life, the ups and downs. The songs bring about a feeling of the potential for joy that life gives us on a day to day basis and again that primal feeling is induced, I felt as though I was the one who had written these songs, albeit in another life.
Classic rock also gave me an introduction to the variety of sound that the music world had to offer. They played a broad variety of instruments in ways I could never dream, bending chords and swimming in grooves meant for angelâ€™s ears, borne out of the raw emotions of the times and fueled by the ever flowing stream of time eternal. These artists had a way of putting into words and rhythm, the feelings I experienced from day to day as a simple creature in a complex world. When life seemed impossible and all I wanted to do was give up, the perfect song would play and put things in perspective for me. When life was at its best, they provided a soundtrack to dance along with. It seemed as though music had a way of entering into my world at just the right moment, a trend that has continued throughout my life. Eventually, I began to develop my own taste in music. I got my first taste of modern rock when I was in my early teens. Again, the timing was just right. Music with an air of rebellion entered into my consciousness and fueled the feelings of teenage angst that come with the territory of being an evolving soul in a stagnant, or so it seemed, world. The most important role music played at this time for me was to broaden my horizons. I realized at this time just how plentiful the variety of experience the world had to offer truly was. Song writing storytellers teased me with tales of adventure, of riding the
rails to see far off lands, and finding love waiting to be found on the other side of this life. My thirst for adventure was piqued and I wanted to strip the world down to its bare bones and really find out what it’s all about. As time wore on, I began to explore, even more, that variety of experience music had to offer. I developed a fondness for sharing the music that I’d grown to love with my loved ones. The shared experience of music became my bag. I would discover a new album, or an old one that I’d just been introduced to, and immediately run to tell my friends about it. I’d listen to music obsessively, trying to squeeze every ounce of juice out of the fruit bore by the tree of life. Musicians became my heroes, gave me something to aspire to. I would dream of travelling the globe, seeing all the sights and meeting every last person in the world. To put my footprint on every square inch of this earth became my goal, and music would serve as my marching beat. A very lofty goal indeed, but one I continue to pursue to this day, a goal that has provided me with a plethora of experience to draw from and a collection of friends that bring me great joy and add a richness to my life that I never dreamed was possible when I was listening to those country crooners sing songs about the sun setting over their little corner of the world.
It’s exciting to think about the future, about the new music waiting to be born and the stars yet to make their name. Music gives me something to look forward to, whether it’s a favorite band’s upcoming tour, or the new album waiting to spring forth from the mind of some unknown or even unborn genius. I still haven’t quenched that thirst for new experience, and luckily the world of music continues to be the ever flowing fountain I need to keep on truckin’. Every day I find a new song, or a new musical group that reminds me that there is still more to see, more to experience out there in this big expanse we call the world. Music provides the soundtrack for my life, and I wouldn’t want to live without it, my constant companion. I implore you, get out there and stomp the terra, see a show, grab that record your friend has been raving about, find your beat and march on. Knaw the bones of life, suck the marrow. Like the door mouse said, “Feed your head.” Music will be your date to dinner. BP
Written by Loren Berí
Kyle Acheson: T
Composer of ‘Water Man The Musical’, Crêpe Hider, Folly Enthusiast
he lens adjusts but the fellow is still a blur. Kyle Acheson has yet to dawn the character of his choosing. Stirring honey into tea, he sweetly pirouettes while setting down the mug. He is, by all accounts, a wild one. Not a comment on his eccentricities, but on his work and productivity. In one year Kyle has written something like seventy or so songs, composed music for a musical, The Waterman (With the hilarious Sam De Roest), has played multiple leading roles in the PDX theatre scene, and produced more musings I have still to learn about. Acheson is a fixture in the Portland, Oregon improv scene, a member of the noteworthy troupe Action/Adventure Theatre. Amidst the talented group, Kyle stands out with his over-sized nonprescription raybans one can only intuit to be softly mocking of the very culture he adores. In an imaginary rehearsal one might assume Acheson to yell things at his Waterman cast in a quasi-serious tone.
(As he throws a ceramic plate against a wall.) Or,
“I don’t believe you!” Or, perhaps he just stares straight ahead in silent melancholy until he has his casts attention. A statuesque nod to Sir Laurence Olivier, a single tear descends a cheek one might mistake for that of Benedict Cumberbatch. Final preparations are made. Everyone in their places and costumed. Light befalls a momentous Waterman emerging from the sea for the first time in his life.
“His Neil Armstrong moment” as Acheson and co-creator Sam De Roest put it. This image is as profound as it is self-awarely ridiculous. And that is the very essence of Kyle Acheson.
Acheson’s greatest fear? That someone will ask, “How did the Captain sail from Portland to the Pacific Ocean so quickly? Because we don’t have a good answer.” The Waterman is described by PDX improv troupe Action/Adventure as being “about love, betrayal, Water People, Portland, and sushi.” One seemingly Portland inspired quip from Acheson is that he dreams that one day The Waterman will grace a Broadway stage with The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy and Joseph Gordon Levitt in the leading male roles. Acheson insists, however, that Portland’s Cristina Cano will naturally still play the leading lady Ursula. Sushi is thicker than water. So how did Acheson and Sam De Roest land a spot for The Waterman to be produced? Acheson says, “When Sam and I were writing the first draft of The Waterman, we spoke with a producer at Action/ Adventure Theatre at a holiday party. We asked if we could do a reading of our play at the new works festival in January, and because he was a little drunk, he agreed. Now, he was imagining we’d have our musical ready in a year, more likely imagining we
Photograph by Pat Moran would forget about the whole thing, but in fact we had it ready in five weeks. Just in time for the festival!” Inebriation has served Acheson and De Roest more than once. “(...)we had the most charming man in the world, David Saffert, playing piano and narrating the story. He always made it a point to have a beer on stage with him, because he thought it made the audience feel more “at-home”. Well, one night he spills it everywhere, of course. But in a perfect stroke of theatre luck, his character uses a mop in that moment. So without missing a beat he cleans up the whole mess.”
In an entirely sober moment of genius, however, the show does naturally include Billy The Big Mouth Bass as portrayed by using a sophisticated design of googly eyes on a sock puppet. “She has to sing “Take Me to the River” until I squirt her hand with a neon green water pistol. She always kills me with her Billy voice, and I love building the suspense before her final gurgled “drop me in the water.” One would be so fortunate to drop into the river that is The Waterman. The show is to have a remount in Portland beginning January 16th at Action/Adventure theatre. For those of us elsewhere, Acheson says that the show will be submitted to
workshop in New York upon their moving in late January. Acheson hopes, “-that artists who see the show will be reminded that they have the capability to create magic. That scholars who see the show will care enough to examine it closely. And that they will reach the same conclusion we have. That The Waterman is the single greatest piece of western art of all time.” With that and a plié, Kyle Acheson jumps out of the window near which his cast has been rehearsing this whole time. He’s taken your delectables with him. BP
Use Your Hands How to Make a Snowglobe by Paul Wheatley and Maddy Kirshoff Find a jar that appeals to youanything with a cap (mason jar, 1990’s Welch’s jelly jar, etc.)
Unscrew the lid!
Round up any objects you want to keep locked away in the globe forever- action figures, aquarium décor, laminated pictures of your pet - anything that will not disintegrate in water (plastic and ceramic are best, metal will rust)
Glue these items to the underside of the lid using a hot glue gun, epoxy, or any glue that will hold under water (check the back); be careful to leave space around the rim or you won’t be able to screw on the lid securely
Fill the jar with water, leaving half an inch empty. If you’d like, add a bit of glycerin into the jar, this makes the “snow” fall down slower
Sprinkle in some glitter- any color or type works.
Screw the lid onto the jar; make sure it’s secure. Put some glue around the edge of the jar where it meets the lid
Shake it bitch.
Photograph by Paul Wheatley 60
Call For Submissions Weâ€™re looking for contributors! If you would like to write for Brio Pop or would like for us to include your art or photography, please contact our Editor in Chief: loren [at] briopop [dot] com