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Eyes & Ears: The Other Minds Film Festival


EYES & EARS: THE OTHER MINDS FILM FESTIVAL (Charles Amirkhanian, Artistic Director)

Other Minds, San Francisco’s international new music organization, presents its first film festival featuring movies that involve innovative sound design and documentary portraits of alternative giants in music. Along with the films, there will be directors, performers and scholars to speak and answer questions throughout the three-day event. In addition, Other Minds is proud to offer music that has been specifically prepared by the Castro Theatre’s house organist David Hegarty, as an extra treat.

Friday November 8
FRANK ZAPPA: Phase Two-The Big Note (Preview of a “work in process”)

Ever seen Frank Zappa without facial hair? Join us for a compelling new video documentary for Dutch television station VPRO-a comprehensive overview of Frank Zappa’s unique achievements, peppered with mesmerizing historical footage. Performances by the Ensemble Modern and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, statements by Frank Zappa himself, Edgar Varèse, Pierre Boulez, Captain Beefheart, Ian Underwood, George Duke, Haskell Wexler, and Gail & Dweezil Zappa. You’ll want to see this one twice! Directed by Frank Scheffer. (2002) 90m First Showing in the U.S.

DJ SPOOKY’S Rebirth of a Nation (A work in progress, Take One)

African-American icon DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, performs remixology on D.W. Griffith’s notorious silent film Birth of a Nation (1915). Appearing live on the stage of the Castro, Spooky (aka Paul Miller), has digitized and re-composed the original film, a milestone in cinema history and now one of the most controversial works of the silent era. 60m First Showing in the U.S. Don’t miss the brilliant wizardry of DJ Spooky as he creates a new soundtrack in real time for audiences on both Friday and Saturday nights.

Saturday November 9
11:00am l Program 1 l FROM LUNGS TO MICROCHIPS
TERRY RILEY: Music with Balls

Minimalist composer Terry Riley and sculptor Arlo Acton along with television director John Coney collaborated to produce one of the most revolutionary Hi-band videos ever made for television (KQED, 1969). Acton’s two giant reflective spheres containing loudspeakers are set in motion as pendulums. Riley, playing live on soprano saxophone, records and loops his performance on two audio-tape machines. Prepared tapes and oscillator add to the sound sculpture, forming the masterpiece A Rainbow in Curved Air. Produced and directed by John Coney (1969 )10m. Special guests Acton and Riley join Executive Producer Jim Newman onstage for a personal appearance.

PANDIT PRAN NATH: In Between the Notes

Travel to India to discover the roots of the legendary Indian singer, Pandit Pran Nath (1918-1996). The last master of the stately Kirana classical vocal style, Pran Nath profoundly influenced important western avant-garde composers such as Terry Riley and LaMonte Young. Throughout his life Pandit Pran Nath has resisted every opportunity to advance his career commercially by acceding to the popular appetite for technical display, very common among fans of Indian classical music, including vocal music. His work has always involved a search for purity of expression, finding the exact nuance of pitch and tonal quality, “in between the notes,” to fit perfectly the mood and nature of the raga being performed. Directed by William Farley and produced by Jim Newman. (1986) 30m

THEREMIN: An Electronic Odyssey

Vacuum tubes do not suck. They make beautiful music and have since 1927 when Leon Theremin, the Russian inventor, presented the world with his amazing electric synthesizer.  After the KGB kidnapped him from his Manhattan laboratory and shipped him back to the USSR to invent the eavesdropping “bug” for hotel rooms, he was, for decades, feared dead. A reunion with Clara Rockmore, the greatest performer on the Theremin in the 1980s, forms the climactic moment of this touching narrative. Directed by Steven M. Martin.(1995) 104m. Preceded by composer Joel Davel, performing on Donald Buchla’s “Lightning” digital controller, the latest incarnation of touchless musicianship, pioneered by Theremin.

3:00 l Program 2 l WOMEN ON THE VERGE

The music of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the dark vision of the Brothers Quay contrive in this short film to convey your minimum dose of angst for the next few months. Originally produced by Pipeline Films and the BBC, this short subject was one of four items in the “Sound on Film” series screened at the Barbican London. Shot in black and white and color, In Absentia (2000) 20m, combines live action and animation and centers around the simple action of a woman repeatedly writing a letter. The haunting images one could only expect from the Quays, matched with the equally claustrophobic score by Stockhausen, will take you on a hypnotic journey into the mindscape of a woman gone mad. Direction, puppets, animation, and decor by the Brothers Quay. Castro organist David Hegarty opens with a medley from The Sound of Music.

BJÖRK: Dancer in the Dark

This watershed film remakes the American musical film from top to bottom. Starring the Icelandic singer songwriter Björk and her music, Danish filmmaker Lars van Trier turns upside down the musical film’s trademark notion that music redeems us from the horrors of the real world. Instead of the escapism of Camelot or The Sound of Music, which an amateur troop rehearses in the course of our story, the protagonist’s attempt to cope with her advancing blindness by lapsing into phantasmagoric song and dance numbers, leads her to a shattering date with “My Favorite Things.” Directed by Lars von Trier. Music by Björk. (2000) 141m Film theorist Marilyn Fabe (UC Berkeley), who has devised an entire course around this motion picture, introduces the movie, shot with 100 mini-DV cameras, and fields your questions afterwards.

7:00 l Program 3 l A RARE ZAPPA CLASSIC
FRANK ZAPPA: Baby Snakes

This rarely-shown film by Frank Zappa oscillates madly between a 1979 performance of his band and the outrageous psychedelic clay animation of Bruce Bickford that anticipates sci-fi digital zooms and morphing by over a decade.  Thrill to the punishment of Warner Bros. record executives by devil-costumed audience members who take the stage to horsewhip their prey while young and robust Frank and his company flawlessly execute the sound design (Note: For more whips, see Passion). Directed by Frank Zappa. Animation by Bruce Bickford. (originally released 1979) 90m

DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation (A work in progress, Take Two)

Reprise of Friday night, 9:30

Sunday November 10
11:00am l Program 1 l GOOD GUYS AND BAD
GEORGE ANTHEIL: Bad Boy of Music

Antheil (1900-1959), composer of the Ballet Mécanique for 16 player pianos, airplane propellers, doorbells, sirens and percussion, was the first American modernist to be taken seriously in Europe. This fictionalized dramatization of his life by German filmmaker Michael Meert is interspersed with extemporaneous commentary by Other Minds Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian and performances by the Ensemble Modern. Contains rare footage of the audience riot at Antheil’s first Paris concert in October 1923, attended by Satie, Pound, Joyce, Picabia, and Picasso. Directed by Michael Meert. Produced by TV 2000 (Wiesbaden) for the ARTE Channel. (2000) 44m U.S. premiere. Followed by a medley of Antheil’s film music arranged for this event and performed by David Hegarty.

WEST COAST STORY: Frontiers of New Music

Lou Harrison, John Cage, Henry Cowell . . . where would contemporary music be without them? Rare footage of these pioneer California composers and their spiritual descendants Robert Erickson, Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Paul Dresher, Daniel Lentz, John Adams, Janis Mattox, and others present a capsule overview of a revolution that rocked the classical world, forever changing it. The emergence of a West Coast sound is documented beautifully in this 1986 production. Directed by Michael McIntyre. Produced by Eva Soltes for BBC TV. (1986) 75m Special guests Soltes, Dresher, Lentz, Mattox, and others will take questions following the film.

PERCY GRAINGER: The Noble Savage

This extraordinary documentary on virtuoso pianist and composer Grainger (1882-1961) evokes beautifully the composer’s fascination with the English folk music he was the first to collect on cylinder recordings, beginning in 1906. Contrary to our image of him as an arranger of polite ditties, Grainger loved the rough, rural qualities of this music and its singers. His contributions are explored thoroughly: “free music,” “elastic scoring,” unusual instruments, inventive harmonizations and variations in his folk tune arrangements, and his stubborn quest to invent an early electronic synthesizer. Directed by Barrie Gavin. Produced by Jim Berrow for Central Independent Television, Birmingham. (1986) 90m U.S. Premiere. Followed by the world premiere of a medley of Grainger’s greatest works arranged for the giant Wurlitzer organ by the Castro’s David Hegarty.


Australian filmmaker Peter Duncan directs this 1999 feature film exposing the most challenging details of the secret life of Percy Grainger, including his lifelong involvement with flagellation. Richard Roxburgh is the spitting reincarnation of red-haired, blue-eyed Percy; Barbara Hershey, his over-protective mother Rose, whose encouragement and support made his career possible, and Emily Woof, the Danish pianist Karen Holten, whose affair with the composer eventually is thwarted by Grainger’s devotion to his mother. Passion portrays the repressive Victorian atmosphere, Grainger’s pianistic fireworks, and the unbridled sexual lashing sessions of Karen and Percy. Directed by Peter Duncan. (1999) 102m, U.S. Premiere. Director Peter Duncan, our visitor from Sydney, will answer questions following the screening.

7:15 l Program 3 l ZAPPA IN RETROSPECT
FRANK ZAPPA: Phase Two-The Big Note (Preview of a “work in process”)

Reprise of Friday, 7:00

10:00 l Program 4 l A RARE ZAPPA CLASSIC
FRANK ZAPPA: Baby Snakes

Reprise of Saturday, 7:00


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