Saturday, April 23, 2005


Life out of balance

Some of the more obscure and hard to get books and albums are only available from Europe or the USA. And if they are available downunder they can be up to three times the cost overseas, I order them from over over the ocean. No import duty is a bonus.

So this sunny Saturday morning, I checked my snail mailbox and there was a copy of Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass which I ordered last week, as well as a book I ordered back in February which had taken a trip by the slow boat across the Pacific.

I ordered Koyaanisqatsi as the guys at Stereophilerecommended it as part of their essential 40 albums of the past 40 years. They recommended the newer re-recorded version, the one I ordered is from the soundtrack.... most reviews seem to agree the older recording sounds "warmer" and less sterile. I saw the movie last year, it moved me and loved the music, finally got around to ordering it and it sounds gorgeous.

I've got some of the 40 albums. Sleepybombs probably has got the lot (on vinyl!) and Peter (the other) could have some facts of interest about some of the listings and on Glass himself.

Side note on the movie. If you played some Hopi Indians going about their traditional lifestyle (whatever that is) at increased speed, they would probably look "out of balance" too :-)

The movie is now available on DVD after some wrangling with Francis Ford Coppola's studio. Philip glass is doing concerts with a live orchestra and the pictures playing in the background. I missed the Sydney gig.


  • I feel the excercise of the "40", is impossible, and so that list they came up with could be argued with for ever (and will be by some). It sells magazines though.

    "Koyaanisqatsi" is a great demonstration of the synergy between motion picture and music (what some prefer as "value added"). It is not at all a "film score", as the music was pretty much written as a piece unto itself, and then the pictures were fitted (the reverse of a typical film score). This provides a great correlation between the two which helps to streamline the cognitive work required. This IS a magic to humans, and opera is an early use. But film is primarily different from opera/theatre in that time is liberated from our tick-tock truth.

    I have seen Glass and his ensemble perform, and I like his music. It's compositional structures are often made up of large swaths of the very repetitive. Listening with motion picture helps one to stop "counting crochets" and excepting the experience on large (as it is designed).

    I am not so fond of fictional narrative films he has scored. I thought "The Hours", inspite of academy nomination, a poor score (it replaced an already second score by Michael Nyman (after Steven Warbeck or so I am told). Errol Morris seems adept at using Glass's music in his documentaries ("The Thin Blue Line", "The Fog of War").

    Some directors are better equipped for editing music, Stanly Kubrick being the obvious master ("2001", "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining").

    Glass' music has such strong internal structures, they do not easily bend to picture changes so it is best done the other way around. The modern film making style does not often allow for an over arching musical statement.

    Oh well, this reads like a set of notes for a paper, but I am tired, and you kind of dared me :-)

    By Blogger Peter (the other), at 3:00 pm  

  • Wow, thank you for inspiring me to go back and watch "Koyaanisqatsi again (for the first time in a long time). What a beautiful prayer.

    I am glad I wouldn't have to listen to 1:27 of Glass's sewing machine. I often feel that composers of the twentieth century were completely led astray by the simplisticly idiotic 19th century hangover belief that large (as in long) equals good. As if the sheer volume of notes written on paper, like a feat of strength (superman) was to be desired. In any case, there is some other music credited to Michael Hoenig. He is/was a new age kind of guy. I remember meeting him (just to add some Hollywood spice) at a party around 1987. It was at a house that Vangelis had rented for a while, high up in the hills above Beverly Hills. Vangelis would have great food, hundreds of candles, many adoring friends and then he would sit down and play to everybodies happiness!

    But what a great and careful compilation of music and image. Many lessons are close to the surface here. One obvious one, that the most mundane, when seen in the magic light of non-real time, takes on a signification beyond its obvious. Anyway, thanks for bringing this film back up!

    By Blogger Peter (the other), at 10:30 am  

  • No problem! I knew you'd have something interesting to add.

    I first saw the film last year on DVD. I had been wanting to see it when it was first released at a few indie cinemas but was too-student-poor to get there or buy a ticket.

    Thought I'd get it on VHS but I could never find a copy.

    A few years ago they showed it at the Sydney Festival on an outdoor screen set in the water of Sydney Harbour with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House as a backdrop. Missed that one too.

    Then the DVD came out which I snapped up at the local Blockbuster. Yeah I realised I missed out.

    The CD runs at 46 mins so isn't that bad. IMDB says:

    "Glass divided the film into about 12 different sections and wrote music for each. However, once Reggio heard the music, he completely reassembled the film, cutting to the feel of the music not its structure."

    So it's more of a film clip based around the music which was based on the film!

    I haven't seen it for a few months. The scenes I do remember are the cars in fast motion in NY, the clouds, the sausage factory contrasting with the people on the escalator, the moon rising above the building.

    I put on the CD and images came flooding back.

    By Blogger Johnno, at 2:16 pm  

  • Let me know if theres anything you want me to find for you when I make a trip to the DVD and CD Used-Trade-New store over here in Chicago :)

    By Blogger tetricus, at 2:51 pm  

  • Actually I've been trying to get hold of Dr Strangelove for YEARS. More so after seeing "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers." just last week.

    Bergman's Seventh Seal is also of interest.

    Kurosawa's films were also on the list but they've recently been released.

    I can paypal payments or sent some piece of Aussie kitsch back in return.

    By Blogger Johnno, at 3:06 pm  

  • sure, lemme know what price range you want to stay within and what format you need (dvd code) or vhs.. whichever tetricus AT yahoo Dot Com.

    By Blogger tetricus, at 3:20 pm  

  • Funny how a lot of the more known Bergman films seem hard to find on DVD. Particularly in Region 1 although I do have a multi region player.

    By Blogger Peter (the other), at 3:46 pm  

  • after looking at the list i would say i have a majority of the list on vinyl, especially the honorables. almost all but the rap crap. and ya notice the lack of any inspirational country? (i wonder why there was no jerry jeff walker, or david allen coe . . .but willie nelson?)
    during the systematic demise of the lp in the early 90's my collection exploded. everybody i know was willing to fork over their now-not-so-hip vinyl lps, as they were being replaced by the new, shiny,unscratchable, (yeah, right!) cds.
    i aquired a very cool jazz collection, my friends dad gave up a shitload of classical lps and another called and said to bring the truck and get his as he was gonna give 'em to salvation army. he had over 1000 lps w/ a little of everything, especially old blues, my fave.
    as it stands my beatle rack has over 250 lps, (i have about a dozen copies of the white one alone, i keep looking for lower numbers,the lowest, 0027549.)
    i have one more move to make across country then my 10,000 or so lovelies will rest permanatly in new orleans.
    anyways, i love 'koyaanisqatsi'. it works on so many levels. i think it to be one of the best examples of sound and vision working together seamlessly. i can still watch it over and over and it remains fresh as when i first saw it. a real masterpiece.
    i write songs using a looping program and then dig up public domain films to make my own little movies. i try to vary the way i approach it. sometimes building the video around the music, or the harder way, which is to assemble the footage and build the music around that. i have gained even more respect for 'k' as i have learned how hard it is to do it so well.
    and speaking of vangelis, have you ever heard of aphrodite's child's 1971 album '666'? it was vangelis' band from greece and '666' is a sprawling double lp that meshes all kinds of styles into a wonderful collage. it is based on revelations and songs like'the four horsemen' and 'the beast' bristle with pop sensibility and infectious melodies.
    i encourage anyone that likes it a little on the far side to check it out. i think i need to pull it out and put it on.
    and i don't think i could do my own top 40, but it would prolly resemble stereophile's list pretty closely.

    By Blogger sleepybomb, at 2:36 am  

  • I'm in region 4, haven't tried other regions on my DVD player but they are playable on my computer. I note they've re-released most of the Hitchcock movies so perhaps Bergman will be later.

    SB, thanks for the tip on Aphrodite's Child, I'm going to try to get a copy.

    I KNEW you'd have most of them after seeing photo of that shelf bending under all that weight of plastic!

    I just did a rough count of the Sterophile list and I have about 26 of what they have listed there (including the also-rans). That isn't too bad since I've only got about 80 CDs. There are some great Aussie albums that are not included as they stayed at home and never made it overseas.

    Three artists who didn't make the list who perhaps should have. Midnight Oil, XTC and Brian Eno IMHO

    Tangerine Dream,OMD and Jean Michel Jarre if you like the electronica. Nevertheless it seems to be a pretty well thought out list.

    This morning I'm putting on some Icehouse. One of the first owners and users of Fairlights.

    By Blogger Johnno, at 6:55 am  

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