The Colors of the Prism, the Mechanics of Time

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3 out of 5 stars
The Colors of the Prism, the Mechanics of Time

Avant-garde composers and experimental musicians---your Philip Glasses, Steve Reichs and Meredith Monks---need a straightforward doc describing what they do, and how they do it, about as much as they require adhering to 4/4 time signatures and pentatonic scales. What such outside-the-box artists deserve is a survey as purposefully atonal, boundaryless and visionary as the work they make---and Jacqueline Caux's look at contemporary musical mavericks hits two out of those three targets.

A longtime advocate of envelope-pushing individuals, Caux now takes in a gaggle of high-art freaks and geeks: La Monte Young and Terry Riley, the Hells Angels--ish dronemeister and his Zen-master disciple who both pioneered minimalist compositions; Glass and Reich, working notions of repetition past their logical endpoints; and Monk, who blends dance and bansheelike wailing into something genuinely otherworldly. Other luminaries drop by to wax poetic; techno DJ Richie "Plastikman" Hawtin is trotted out to connect pop-music idioms to their formally challenging forebears.

Assuming you already know what these folks have accomplished, Colors' loosey-goosey approach to backstory and structure---miniportraits begin, end and bump up against each other arbitrarily---is a small price to pay for seeing its truly incredible performance footage. Watching Young discordantly noodle on a piano and Reich stage a percussive cacophony with a dozen musicians, you almost don't need a recitation of their rsums. Our advice to newbies: Just listen.

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By: David Fear

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