In A Quandary over Quarry-Monk’s multimedia opera

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In A Quandary over Quarry-Monk’s multimedia opera

Post by lennygoran » Sun May 19, 2019 6:55 am

I have to admit I never heard of this work. Regards, Len






Music|Meredith Monk’s Fantasy of Fascism, Newly Restored

By Seth Colter Walls

May 17, 2019

When Meredith Monk’s multimedia opera “Quarry” was first performed, in 1976, it posed a question for critics. Should it be covered by a dance writer, or a music specialist?

Or perhaps someone versed in the underground cinema scene: A short film of Ms. Monk’s earlier devising, carrying the same title, was also projected during the three-act work.

Another wrinkle was added in 1978, when a filmed version of Ms. Monk’s “memorial piece for a world at war” played in New York. Even as the film receded from view, she continued to raise questions of genre with a decades-long stream of new productions blending choreography, sound and theater.

In 2004, Ms. Monk started the process of restoring the film version of “Quarry.” On Monday, 15 years and approximately $50,000 later, this remastered edition will have its premiere screening at Anthology Film Archives. (Additional festival dates and, eventually, online streaming availability are currently being considered.)

After watching this new edition, I spoke with Ms. Monk by phone about the work and its history. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What was the biggest challenge in terms of restoring the film?

Money was one! It was a long process to try to figure it out.

The original was 16-millimeter film, and the sound was just on magnetic track. It sounded like it was coming out of a tin can. That was the first thing I did with this restoration project. Luckily enough, the original sound source tapes had not disintegrated. And so we just made much better recordings.

The original film was made by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Their idea at that time — in 1976, 1977 — was documenting dance pieces in a way that you would be able to maybe remount them in the future.

But this is a more cinematically vibrant work than some other dance documents I’ve seen from that period.

Their idea was really to do almost the whole film in that long shot. So you’d be able to see cues and everything. But being a person who always likes to work in film, it was always so unsatisfying for me.

Amram Nowak, who directed the film version, does a great job of capturing your theatrical use of the space, while also focusing on your individual performance. The credits note the filming was done under your supervision. How did that work?

He was the director of that film. I guess they had hired him, from the library, to shoot a lot of these documents. Jerry Pantzer, who I had not worked with up to that point — and who ended up being my cameraman for both “Book of Days” and “Ellis Island” — was the second cameraperson. And he was shooting all these amazing close-up shots. When I saw those, I just used every frame he shot, and just tried to make more of a film of it.

It’s sort of halfway between a film and an archival document. I wish that Jerry had even shot more! But I just feel so grateful. If I look at this thing now, with the color correction and everything, there’s so much detail you were not able to see on the 16-millimeter.

Later on, after the character of the dictator is introduced, there’s also a short black-and-white film of yours, also called “Quarry,” that plays, right before the rally.

That is as it was in the live performances. That was projected. On the dictator’s end of the stage, he did a little gesture, and then behind him on the screen was that film. And I always thought of it a little bit as the dictator’s propaganda film.

When did you make it?

This would have been the spring of 1975. We were going to be doing a residency at Goddard College, and I’d heard there was a quarry up there. This is how you just make these things — a mosaic of ideas.

I was just beginning the piece, just working on the music. I decided to shoot a film in the quarry. So we shot that film, and then a few months later we were on a European tour of “Education of the Girlchild,” in Paris. I went to an archival museum and there were black-and-white photographs that looked almost exactly like that film. There were photographs of Jews forced to carry rocks in a rock quarry. It could have been a frame from that film. I was floored.

What was your relationship like with the cinematic underground of that moment in New York? Were you going to any of Jonas Mekas’s screenings?

I remember going up to Jonas’s place, I guess it was on Wooster Street at that time. I don’t think it directly came into “Quarry” — but I remember seeing a wonderful presentation by Ken Jacobs, “The Boxer Rebellion.” It was beautiful. And for research I saw “The Sorrow and the Pity.” That was very inspiring.

For me, I always believe that when you are inspired by something outside yourself, you take it into your being. And you sift it and sift it until you transform it into something that’s your own language.

In an essay, you wrote that you were trying to “find an honest, yet poetic nonlinear form inspired by actual events.”

That’s why I didn’t have somebody portray Hitler. The actor Ping Chong’s character that we worked on was really like a composite dictator character.

It starts in its period, and, little by little, it works its way into a more universal kind of idea of the way these waves of darkness seem to recur over history. Fascism: What does it mean exactly? What are the symbols?

Just to think about what happened in this world, and to see how it could manifest again and again, is what I can offer as an artist. ... uarry.html

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Re: In A Quandary over Quarry-Monk’s multimedia opera

Post by lennygoran » Sun May 19, 2019 8:03 am

lennygoran wrote:
Sun May 19, 2019 6:55 am
I have to admit I never heard of this work.

I have to further admit I never heard of Anthology Film Archives-if I lived in NYC I might try attending this-instead I'll be out in the garden planting dahlias-sounds interesting. Regards, Len

7:30 PM
by Meredith Monk & Amram Nowak
1975/77, 82 min, 16mm-to-DCP
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Film Notes


Composer, singer, director/choreographer, and filmmaker Meredith Monk created QUARRY: AN OPERA IN 3 MOVEMENTS as a live stage work between 1975-76 – with her company, The House – as a mosaic of music, images, movement, dialogue, film, sound, and light. A meditation on WWII and recurring cycles of intolerance, fascism, and cruelty in history, QUARRY centers on a sick American child (played by Monk herself) whose world darkens as her illness progresses. This film version, shot in the Lepercq Space at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1977, was directed by Amram Nowak and supervised by Monk, and includes her 1975 short silent film of the same name. Considered a masterwork of the 20th century, the piece is as prescient today as it was 40 years ago. It is at once a myth, a documentary, and a memorial.

Preservation of this film was made possible, in part, by grants from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film & Television, and the National Film Preservation Fund, as well as numerous individuals.

Meredith Monk will be here in person for a Q&A following the screening!

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St.)
New York, NY 10003 USA

Telephone: (212) 505-5181
Fax: (212) 477-2714

F train to 2nd Avenue, walk two blocks north on 2nd Avenue to 2nd Street;
#6 to Bleecker St., walk one block north on Lafayette, then two blocks east on Bond St. (turns into 2nd St.) to 2nd Avenue.

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