Live music is one of the best forms of spiritual sustenance. Much smaller in scale than music festivals, these more intimate performances let artists exhibit their performance in a more exclusive manner. This can be seen especially clearly in the stage design on the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and in Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii, where there is collaboration between the visual and sonic aspects of the performance.
Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii
Conceived by the French director Adrian Maben as “an anti-Woodstock film,” Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii was shot in October 1971 in a vacant, 2,000-year-old amphitheater, a venue chosen to accentuate the grandeur and spaciousness of the band’s Meddle-era music. This disc contains a new, 90-minute director’s cut as well as the original 60-minute concert film, whose production and effects feel inescapably dated. Maben’s cut goes to great lengths to lend the film a more contemporary feel, but it’s the earlier version that makes this disc such a gem, being more focused on the music and more holistic in vision.
The anamorphic, 16:9 director’s cut interweaves the Pompeii performances with fascinating but distracting interviews and music snippets filmed later (mostly during the recording of Dark Side of the Moon). The movie was originally prepared in a 4:3 aspect ratio, however, and the widescreen version crops perfectly framed images like the nine-square mosaic of drummer Nick Mason in “One of These Days.” The original offers plenty of closeups of fingers on frets and keys, with shots that are often luxuriously long in duration. And the picture quality from Pompeii is revelatory: outstandingly sharp and clear, rich in subtle grades of light and color.
Live is the first video album and first live release by English band Sade, headed up by Nigerian-born British singer Sade Adu (given name Helen Folasade Adu). It was released on 22 November 1994 on VHS by Epic Records, followed by a DVD release on 20 February 2001. It was filmed during the last two shows of the band’s Love Deluxe World Tour at the SDSU Open Air Theatre in San Diego, California, on 2 and 3 October 1993.
The inimitable Sade, 80s queen of the elegant, cool ballad. Photo credit: Benjamin, Isis. “The Legacy of Sade Adu.” Black Music Scholar. Accessed 29 May 2021, https://blackmusicscholar.com/student-work-spring-2018/isis-benjamins-work/11659-2/
Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense
Director Jonathan Demme captures the frantic energy and artsy groove of Talking Heads in this concert movie shot at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in 1983. The band’s frontman, David Byrne, first appears on an empty stage, armed with only an acoustic guitar, and is gradually joined by bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz, keyboardist Jerry Harrison and a cadre of backup singers as they perform the band’s hits, culminating in an iconic performance featuring Byrne in an enormous suit.
Fela in Concert
Nigeria’s explosively charismatic superstar was at his very best in this historic concert recorded in Paris. Fela’s Afro-Beat music is inspired by Charlie Parker, Bob Marley, and Miles Davis, fusing funk and jazz with traditional African music. His multi-instrumentalism is punctuated by the tribal dancing performed by fifteen of his wives.
Some of these names have been forgotten, which is an offense to their legacy. These influential artists not only redirected entire genres/scenes of music through their own sounds; their music comes from a very profound and spiritual place that connects with listeners on deeper levels. Although artists like Sun Ra and Arthur Russell sounded absolutely nothing like their contemporaries, their music impacted the hearts of its listeners and the sounds of its musical successors.
Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell
Wild Combination is director Matt Wolf’s visually absorbing portrait of the seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist, and disco producer Arthur Russell. Before his untimely death from AIDS in 1992, Arthur prolifically created music that spanned both pop and the transcendent possibilities of abstract art. Now, over fifteen years since his passing, Arthur’s work is finally finding its audience. Wolf incorporates rare archival footage and commentary from Arthur’s family, friends, and closest collaborators—including Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg—to tell this poignant and important story.
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man
Filmmaker Lian Lunson interviews the prolific Canadian songwriter about his rise to fame and his retreat from the music business. Rufus Wainwright, U2, Nick Cave and others take part in a musical tribute to Cohen at Australia’s Sydney Opera House. Songs include “If It Be Your Will” and “Tower of Song.”
Leonard Cohen, free-spirited songwriter for the ages. Photo credit: Istvan Bajzat/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images. Leonard Cohen. brittanica.com. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonard-Cohen. Accessed 25 May 2021.
Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins
Provides a close look at the work and creative philosophy of Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins, who has been singing and playing the blues for over fifty years. Recreates, through the many songs he sings, a picture of “Lightnin’s” life. Includes segments of his on-campus performances at the University of Houston and Notre Dame.
Sun Ra: a Joyful Noise
Robert Mugge filmed jazz great Sun Ra on location in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. between 1978 and 1980. The resulting 60-minute film includes multiple public and private performances, poetry readings, a band rehearsal, interviews, and extensive improvisations. Transferred to HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored for the best possible viewing experience.
These are but a few of the many concerts and musicians you can explore in the Media Services collection. As Sun Ra says, “The earth cannot move without music.”
Duncan Hardy is a longtime Media Services student desk staff member. 2021 will be his last summer, and this is his last blog post series for the department. We are so grateful to Duncan for his outstanding contributions to the department blog, his warm collegiality, and his devotion to department patrons. We will miss Duncan’s presence, but we wish him all good things in his future endeavors!
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