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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Blog posting written by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production ’16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, NJ
On Tuesday, January 28th, the Cloud Chamber Orchestra accompanied the silent ethnographic documentary, Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life (you can read Blaize's blog post for a synopsis of the film as well as her reflection on the screening!).
The screening took place in the historic Sage Chapel on a snowy hill of the Cornell University campus. It was my first time inside the Sage Chapel and I was amazed by its beautiful interior: abound with stained glass, hand-painted designs on the lofted rafters, and elegant mosaics surrounding its altar and apse.
Despite the beauty of the chapel, the real delight was the Cloud Chamber Orchestra who were situated in front of a giant screen that had been placed at the alter. As a pleasant surprise the group, which is typically comprised of only three men, had an additional member in the form of pianist Peter Dodge’s son, playing percussion. The addition of a fourth member greatly contributed to the richness of the sound echoing throughout the chapel.
An intriguing combination of electric guitar and other electric instruments performed by Robby Aceto, cello performed by Chris White, piano and horns performed by Peter Dodge, and percussion performed by his son perfectly accompanied the silent documentary. The instrumentation created an ethereal ambience during slower parts of the film and also matched the energy of more exciting parts of the film.
Though there were a number of technological malfunctions with the projector due to the cold interior of the chapel, the group’s improvised score held the attention of the audience even when the film cut out.
It was incredible to watch these musicians as they played: they, themselves, watching the film to get a feel for what they wanted to play.
Aceto, White, Dodge and Dodge received a standing ovation as they lowered their instruments as the film ended. A gracious group of musicians, they hung around after the chapel began to empty to talk to students, friends, neighbors, and the like.
Overall, it was an excellent performance to accompany a fantastic documentary. Don’t miss out on your next chance to see the Cloud Chamber Orchestra, when they improvise a live score to the classic Sergei Eisenstein film Battleship Potemkin during this year’s Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival!
What silent film would you like to see scored by the Cloud Chamber Orchestra?
Monday, March 26, 2012
Blog post written by Colleen Ryan, Television-Radio '12, Anthropology Minor, Lansing, NY
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris White, an extremely talented musician, and one of FLEFF's returning performers.
White is classically trained on the cello, and also plays the guitar and harmonica.
It was Dr. Patricia Zimmerman's (co-director of FLEFF) idea to bring together the three musicians for FLEFF several years ago, and the trio has been doing live improv film scores ever since. "It was easy from the get-go," he said. "We just flowed so easily. We each have our own bag of tricks, but a common vision and language that works well together."
White told me that the trio watches the films by themselves, and then together practice improvising. They converse about the mood of the film and its transitions. Each time the score is played differently. The trio doesn't practice too much so the day of the performance is fresh and well, improvised!
"Every experience with FLEFF has been great," he said. To him, playing and improvising with a film is a much different experience as a musician. "It's liberating," he remarked.
Although the trio has only performed for FLEFF, and one other event for the Ithaca Motion Picture Project, White revealed to me that the trio is considering putting out a CD of their scores, perhaps in time for next year's FLEFF. (I've heard samples from their work, and believe me, it's a must have!)
To listen to Chris's personal work with the Cayuga Jazz Ensemble, you can click here.
Although I, personally, could never fathom a career in professional music, to young musicians who wish to dip their toes into improvising, Chris's greatest advice is to listen to a favorite genre of music and imitate it. Practice the style, and put a lot of time into it. "It happens more naturally than you might think," he said.
With that being said, I'm excited to watch White and his cohorts perform. It's something that indeed comes extremely naturally to them, while enjoying and appreciating their talent, is something that comes naturally to me.
If I had longer arms I'd save you all seats, so get there early, it's going to be a happy and full house. See you Sunday night!
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Blog posting written by Isabel Galupo, Cinema and Photography '14, FLEFF Intern, Towson, MD
FLEFF Week 2012 is coming up fast, and the list of this year's festival guests is up on our website!
While every FLEFF guest brings something dynamic to the table, here are five guests that I am especially looking forward to meeting and learning from!
1. Cynthia Henderson: An Ithaca College Theatre Arts professor. Cynthia Henderson has countless acting and directing credits in the United States, Europe, and Africa. As I am pretty unfamiliar with theatre, I am hoping that Professor Henderson will shed some light on the intersections between live performance and social change and the ways in which live performance and film interact with and contradict each other. I am also extremely interested in her work on "A Wrinkle in Time" at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, as that is one of my absolute favorite books!
2. Chris White: As a cellist who actively performs both classical AND non-classical music, Chris White straddles the line of tradition versus innovation. White seems, to me, to epitomize the purpose of FLEFF; to make sense of (false) binaries and create new meanings out of tension and polarity. As the founder and director of New Directions Cello Association & Festival, I am sure that he has a lot of great insights about how to create a hub for like-minded artists and intellectuals to learn and grow together.
3. Matthew Podolsky: A graduate of Ithaca College with a double major in Cinema and Photography and Environmental Science, Matthew Podolsky helps run the non-profit organization Wild Lens. Podolsky's very obvious interests in documentary production and the environment speak directly to FLEFF's mission, and I am excited to hear about his experiences as an IC alum.
4. Toivo: From Trumansburg, NY, Toivo is a six-piece band that boasts of a hodgepodge of musical influences, such as Finnish and Tex-Mex, suited for dance traditions from all over the world-- waltzes, tangoes, polanise, two-steps, and many, many more! Much like Drs. Brad Hougham and Debbie Martin in their presentation about "The Concert for Microtopias," Toivo seems to embody the very "FLEFF-y" idea of creating meaning from conflicting musical forces. I am very excited for their performance, as I don't think that I have ever heard traditional Finnish music before!
5. Laura Kissel: A documentary filmmaker and Director of Film and Media Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. Her short biography on the FLEFF website already had me asking questions; I am excited to learn about her use of "orphan films" in her critical media work. As Kissel is heavily involved in academia, I hope that she will be able to provide faculty, students, and other FLEFF attendees advice on how to balance institutional demands with creative needs.
Which artists are you most excited to see during FLEFF week 2012?
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Blog posting written by Brian McCormick, Film, Photo and Visuals Arts '12, FLEFF Intern, Wilbraham, MA
I had a great conversation with musician Chris White the other day about his upcoming performance at FLEFF, playing the cello for a live musical score of the silent film Storm Over Asia.
This is happening Sunday, April 17th, 7pm at Cinemapolis -- a one time event!
Accompanying White in the performance will be fellow musicians Robby Aceto and Peter Dodge.
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White isn't new to FLEFF -- he has been performing for the silent films for the past few years. With years of experience playing classical and non-classical cello, White is very open to and excited about musical improvisation. Here's what he had to say about what he's done and his upcoming FLEFF performance.
Q: Can you talk about your history as a cellist and where you're at now?
A: "I studied cello in western New Hampshire, and also in France and Spain, and then I did a masters in cello performance at Ithaca College. While I was growing up learning cello, I was also playing the guitar self-taught on the side, just improving on the guitar. At a certain point I decided to start trying to improv on the cello and to jazz and stuff like that. When I lived in Spain I'd play flamenco with singer-songwriters and all kinds of fun stuff.
I also founded and am director of a cello festival for cellists who are interested in non-classical uses of the cello. That's an annual event , and the 17th annual is going to happen at Ithaca College on June 10th - 12th. That puts me in touch with people around the world who are doing innovative things with the cello, all different kinds of styles, rock, pop, and world music, and all kinds of cool stuff."
Q: How did you get involved with FLEFF and performing for silent films?
A: "About six years ago, Patty Zimmerman asked me if I'd consider playing along with the The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and I said "Sure, I'll give it a try." I played with my electric cello and some electronic effects, and I had a really fun time and got good feedback from others.
It's been like that pretty much every year where I've been doing at least one silent film. It was a few years ago I started to do it with other musicians as well. I'm doing this one with Peter Dodge and *Robby Aceto, and that sort of opened up a whole other new area of collaboration and improvisation."
[ * Read the interview by Kelsey with Robby Aceto here! ]
Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: "It's been a very fulfilling experience playing in FLEFF, playing in a theater -- we've been playing in Cinemapolis -- and I'm looking forward to playing in the new Cinemapolis, the past two times we were in the old Cinemapolis. The people that did the sound, and the lighting were really good and helped create a really nice ambience there.
Just playing for a live audience where we're kind of watching the film with everybody else. We've gotten feedback like, "The music was great, I just got lost in the film, and sometimes I forgot that there was live music playing." That was kind of cool because that would be our goal, for people to really feel like the music worked that well with the movie that they just took it all in.
I think for this year we're really looking forward to the new space, and I just really like working with the FLEFF team and I feel really well treated by everybody. We're excited."
Q: How do you prepare for this kind of performance?
A: "We definitely get together and rehearse. The first time we got together, for this year, we just watched the film and as we watched it we'd stop and talk about this scene or that scene or the feeling that we'd like to have there.
One of our approaches is to take turns being the person that would sort of lead a certain scene or feeling so that the others could come in as they wish and join that. The different people generating the music that would make it so that it's more variant rather than just jumping in all at once. We'll try to have just one person playing or two and three and try to change it up that way, too."
Q: What does the cello bring to creating the appropriate film ambience of the silent film?
A: "The cello has a lot of warmth and texture and into the human voice like range, I think that speaks to a lot of people that way, the sound of the cello. Because its a bow instrument, and the bow gives a lot of life to the sound and vibrancy that also works. It makes it so that I can stand out and hold a note as long as I want, and I can also change that as I go.
With the bow you can do effects that sound like distortion, and there's just a wide palette of sounds to choose from just from the use of the bow. There's spiccato if I'm plucking at it, it can feel like a base and driving sound, a percussive rhythm that way. I can use some electronic things like the looper which allows me to layer different notes on top of each other or a series of a notes. Robby, the guitarist, also uses looping so we can kind of create a bigger ambience of sound that way and build upon that to sound like we're a much bigger group sometimes."
Q: How is performing for a silent film different from other things you have done?
A: "It's more free for me because it's wide open and the parts of the film inspire us in different ways. It's very different from jazz or classical or most of the other types of improvisation I've done because it's so open and unscripted. The script is kind of like the movie, we're kind of creating the score as we go.
We do watch the movie and then play together with the movie to anticipate the changes in the different moods and feelings we want to convey. It will be sort of like playing and improvising to poetry maybe or art where you can do what you want, but you're still trying to fit into the mood of what you're watching. It's pretty cool, it's very different."
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Don't miss this once in a lifetime performance!
With Chris White, Robby Aceto, and Peter Dodge playing LIVE, come see Storm Over Asia, 7PM on Sunday, April 17th at Cinemapolis!