Monday, December 21, 2009

Early Martha Graham Choreography

Yesterday, I came across some extraordinary early C20 Eastman Kodak dance footage - the earliest extant record of Martha Graham's choreography, 'The Flute of Krishna' (1926).

Krishna, the god of love, plays a call to love on his flute and cavorts with three tantalising girls or Apsaras. However, he is finally won over by his fiancee, Radha.

The iconography of the choreography stems mostly from Hindu sculpture and C19 European Orientalism, but also takes other inspirations, such as classical sculpture - for example, 'The Three Graces' - though these compositions may have antecedents in Indian sculpture.

Though not appearing in this film, Graham appeared in the original dance ...

' ... clad in a heavy gold kimona, making patterns with her body against a screen of brilliant lacquer ... . Martha Graham presents a series of pictures that fire the imagination and make a hundred stories for every gesture. Shall we say her dances are motion pictures for the sophisticated'
'The Dance' magazine

In this footage Robert Ross is Krishna and Evelyn Sabin is Radha, with Thelma Biracree, Constance Finkel, Betty MacDonald as Apsaras. The music is a new traditional Indian music score, as the original by George Ruckert is lost.

This is obviously an other than Indian fabrication, but curiously Martha Graham's piece does not look the awkward pastiche that is often the result of such cross-cultural explorations.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All in the Timing

This morning, I was watching this little clip of W C Fields being 'interviewed' on set some time in the 1930s.

The interviewer makes almost all of the jokes and Fields mostly just reacts - with a noise or a few words. Often drawled out in his inimitable style - way beyond what you'd think was humanly possible.

And it suddenly occurred to me - with no little surprise - that I was roaring with laughter ... in response to the great comic!

The clip is hilarious at the end where Fields feigns awkwardness at being the seeming butt of all these jokes, with an abrupt ...

'Let's get on with the script ... I've gotta work'

Followed, in a perplexed and pondering tone, with ...

'You bring up the funniest things'

It's all in the timing!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Day and a Night in the Country

Well, I'm at it again, but (:<) not quite as successfully as I'd hoped.

At the end of last week, I spent a day and a night at a friend's week-ender - in the countryside about three hours out of Sydney.

After a good night's sleep and in an exceptionally optimistic mood, I headed into the sun-drenched garden, camera at the ready.

The shoot seemed to go well and I dashed back inside to my puter - to download the images ... and gloat. Suspect I had that particular smug look, just all over my face!

But I tell you, absolutely no gloating took place - at all at all.

Back outside to reprise.

No luck, again - :<.

I'd lost IT. Completely. And with no notion of how to get it back - :< :< :< !!!

I could have just ditched the entire 'collection' ...

... but I obviously didn't and so I'm officially ducking ... to avoid the volley of brick bats!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Curiously, One of My Most Potent Early Memories of Living in Paris

Sorry guys, you're going to have to indulge me for a moment or two.

Cos I came across some photos of the older style carriages of the Paris Metro - and realised they represented one of my most potent early memories of living in Paris.

They were Sprague-Thomson rolling stock, built between 1926 and 1935 and still in use when I was there.

I can even vividly remember the particularly intense screech of the metal wheels on the track as the carriages braked when the train came into the station ...

... and the release of compressed air when the door were released for passengers to be able to leave the train ...

I'd forgotten that first class and green second class carriages were red and green respectively ...

... and then recalled they were distinguished inside mainly in the seating ...

... with very very (very) hard veneered wooden slats in second class ...

I have a dim memory of other interior features ...

... but a strong one of the driver's compartment ...

All so incredibly up close and personal - thanks for the indulgence guys!

I'm sure there must be things that do the same for you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At The Beach in the 1880s

If I'm being truthful, what first drew me to these photographs by Wallace G Levison was a slight sensation of nostalgia for the past , perhaps brought on - or maybe only made the more acute - by the current world economic crisis.

What I particularly liked was the grading from the more formal photographs, such as these first two images with their rigid triangular composition taken from the precepts of Renaissance painting, ...

Mrs. Frank Montgomery and her fully-clothed children at beach (1887)

Two young girls sitting on rock, looking out on a bay, with a dog lying down next to rock (1889)

... through those images with still obviously posed groupings but without a self-consciously imposed formal geometry ...

A young woman in a print dress (1880s)

... and those recording this compositional process ...

The Montgomery family dressed up and preparing to pose by the shoreline of the beach at Stokemus, near Sea Bright (1886)

... right to images with a curiously modern organisation...

Five girls competing in a swimming match posing by the shoreline at Coney Island, Brooklyn NY (1887)

... and beyond to unstructured candid shots ...

A fully-dressed couple sitting back-to-back reading on beach, a low wooden pier spans the ocean in the background (1884)

Young girls wearing dresses and bathing outfits by the shore (1889)

Three young girls in bathing suits wading at the shore line (1889)

A fully-dressed woman wading on the shore line of the beach in Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY (1889)

An actor talking with two wet girls on beach by the shoreline, Asbury Park, NJ, US

This last image is almost uncomfortably modern in my current nostalgic state of mind ...

Mrs. Freed swimming on her back, splashing up a storm (1886)

... though when this mood passes I'll most likely find it the most satisfying of the lot!