Harry Smith--Other Material

[The following is from a discussion of Sound and Silence in Harry Smith on the Frameworks List. The discussion is archived on Flicker.]

From: FC
Date: Tue, Nov 23, 1999, 6:22 PM
Subject: Re: Sound and Silence in Harry Smith

Corey Creekmur wrote:

>.... I take it you are
> implying that silence is the only way to go
> with Smith's films?

Well, since Smith did release "Early Abstractions" with the Beatles track, I think it would be irresponsible not to show it the way he released it. But I think it is much much greater silent. I also first saw it silent, presumably also authorized by Smith, so one could justify showing it that way as a return to an "earlier version." The rhythms of the imagery are incredibly complex, polyphonic really, and the sound tends to slave certain rhythms to it, while effacing or obliterating others. It makes films that are very profound seem like happy visual accompaniment to the songs. But then, I'm supposed to be one of those high-art "purists," so this is the position I'm expected to take, I suppose.

Smith himself advocated the idea of "automatic synchronization" -- take any music, put it to any film, and the rhythms sync up. I was once at a one-session seminar he led, Chelsea Hotel, circa 1972. He started by passing around joints, suggesting a toke was necessary to get in the proper mood. He also kept interrupting himself to ask Jonas Mekas, who had invited him, "Can I just get my $100 and leave now?" I found all this quite amusing. At one point he explained automatic synchronization, and, preparing to show one of his films to demonstrate it, pointed at me, as I was sitting on the floor near a stack of records, and said, "Hey, you, pick a record, any record." Without looking (it's to my eternal regret that I didn't look) I passed the first record on the stack up to him. He looked at it and said, "You idiot, not *that* record." I handed another record up to him, and he looked at it, and said, "You moron, not *that* record! Finally the third record was acceptable, and he played it while showing a film he was working on. I remained, and still remain, unconvinced of the virtue of this procedure.

Fred Camper

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Harry Smith