In Consideration of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Opus 14; the link below this line of type is to a mini-concerto for violin, piano and chamber quartet begun June 2017 by Michael Winn.
Marriage of sound and visual imagery in cinema intends to add something that is not verisimilitude and music’s often a bullshit flag, as if in apology for a gap in the viewer’s following, during which the dream we call, reality, flickers behind a transparent screen. An enchanting musical narrative is another matter. The literal story suspends as music transfixes experience beneath rational cognition, as, when approaching a Turner painting, you feel awakened, aware:
I know no greater bliss than following a good story. Immersion in a story feels as good to me as swimming laps. I like reading stories. Music is a narrative language; the following link is to a composition I composed for a ballet based on the story by Irish novelist, James Joyce.
I had a dog–a German Shepherd named, Gunther, after Gunther Grass, the German writer of Dog Years and The Tin Drum.
We were tight and he was tight with anyone I trusted, which was cool, since we only hang out with people we trust and strangers of all species are sometimes astonishing examples of living energy. Anne, Larry and I moved to Canada during the Nixon years, into a very old country home in an idyllic country village called, Whitevale, a place like I imagine, Turgenev living, in the country near Petersburg, with a human culture like Lowick, a venue like Elliott’s Middlemarch.
Gunther and I walked everyday in an unkempt old oak forest surrounding,the tiny village of farm houses clustered around a mill race produced by a little concrete dam on a small creek. While I snapped pictures for imagined tales, Gunther hunted birds and rodents. We’d learned to do this first on Venice Beach, before we left to make the first film in Puerto Rico, then in woods on the Hudson near Peekskill, then by Lake Simcoe in Barrie, Ontario, where Anne conceived our daughter, Liberty. We moved about the forest in sync, using that sense humans communicate with other species (and sometimes humans, too, if we’re listening).
One day, Larry, said he wanted a cat. I was dubious. When he was a puppy, Gunther had been attacked by a cat. Larry said cats, like people, are individuals. Anne voted for the cat. The next day, a kitten arrived (music cue). Gunther’s eyebrows standing like soldiers.
On my knees on the forgivingly deep, dark green carpeting in our living room in Whitevale: rich dark cherry paneled walls and ceiling joined with moldings in the fashion of Victorian Europe, we formed a little triangle before a nearly lifesize photographic print of a giraffe on the South African Velt that covered the North wall, Gunther, the kitten, reluctantly trusting my judgment and I we having a straight conversation. Looking into Gunther’s alert, darkly attentive eyes, I said, “this is our cat, Gunther. He lives here, don’t mess with him. Got it? He’s our brother.” Gunther looked once at the cat, then at me and I distinctly heard, “Got it. Our cat. Trust me.” Gunther and the cat walked out the front door to dominate the village and got into trouble with some stupid ducks our neighbor kept.￼
Composing is a persistent mistress. Anything by Debussy will work with media, if the media is worth the time to watch. Media follows the narrative of the music, as the editor adjusts continuity in complimentary and conflicting tempi and timbre. Visual editing is analogous to composing. There are only 16mm film versions of some of my films that I need to digitize to post here.
Gunther was single-minded in his desire. We spent a winter in a small house in the Tudor style in the village of Crompond, which had been designed in the early 1900s as an intentional community near Peekskill, in Westchester County, New York, which is located about an hour north of NYC by car along the Taconic Parkway.
In accordance with the philosophy of the Crompond founders, fences are not permitted since this division of property isn’t consistent with the philosophy of shared public space. The visual impact is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. However, Gunther fell in love with a neighbor’s champion Collie. Twice each day, when the neighbor and the collie walked between our houses, Gunther stood by the window over-looking the snow blanketed commons, and sang a cappella, his full-throated desire.
Anne, Larry and I went into the city (NY) for a concert on evening, leaving Gunther at home and when we returned a few hours later, we found Gunther outside the house. HIs right wrist was injured. Inside, the house was freezing. We found one of the windows in a bedroom on the second story had been open. When we learned the next day from our neighbor that Gunther had mounted their collie, we realized that Gunther has opened the window and leaped out while the neighbor was walking that evening. Our offer of paternal responsibility was unimportant to the neighbor, who was deeply offended, not by the outrage but as if the coupling was a stain on her thoroughbred status, like Zeus discovering Poseidon’s rape of Aphrodite.
Other than this sexual impetuosity, Gunther was by every other standard, perfect. When we lived in Venice and Barrie, children came by to “borrow” him for games of ball and tug of war. When he died, I dug a hole for Gunther’s earthly remains in Auge Tau Andersen’s backyard (pronounced, oh-wuh). It was a symbolic ritual since Auge told me he planned a pond where I dug the grave. I couldn’t explain. Auge handed me a shovel and from time to time, came out with a glass of iced tea, while the pit and I descended, deeper and deeper, until, at last, peering down into the hole, he said, “don’t you think this is deep enough, Michael?”
Many years passed before I was willing to expose myself to this kind of vulnerability. I was living in a little house near the beach in Del Mar and I acquired a Pomeranian that grew and grew and grew and grew some more to be all of twenty-five strapping pounds, a bundle of reddish fur with a blond mane. When I had a similar conversation with Bear about another cat I admired, Bear rolled his upper lip above his nose, glared at me and snarled, “not on my watch, dude.” So we worked it out Bear’s way. I learned humility from Bear.