Live Improvised Soundtrack to the Films of Harry Smith and Jordan Belson
Will Epstein feat. Ben Goldberg, Michael Coleman, and Jordan Glenn

Live Improvised Soundtrack to the Films of Harry Smith and Jordan Belson

with Will Epstein feat. Ben Goldberg, Michael Coleman and Jordan Glenn

January 18, 2023
7:00pm - 10:00pm

All ages

This in-person event will also be livestreamed. Your RSVP includes access to the livestream.

Proof of vaccination is required for all attendees over 12 years of age. Learn more

View our FAQ page for more info, or contact us at [email protected] with any accommodation requests.

Seated program

Join Will Epstein, Ben Goldberg, Michael Coleman, and Jordan Glenn for a night of live Improvised Soundtrack to Films by Harry Smith and Jordan Belson

New York Composer and multi-instrumentalist Will Epstein will be joined by a talented group of improvising musicians to interface their sonic spheres with the tactile and visionary films of Harry Smith and SF legend Jordan Belson. Curated by scholar and archivist Raymond Foye, the films will include Harry Smith’s Early Abstractions, and Heaven and Earth Magic Feature, and Jordan Belson’s Meditation, Raga and Seance. Smith's beautifully hand painted frames will be paired with Belson's kaleidoscopic phantasms to create an immersive visual music that will play in counterpoint to the musicians' own whims and waves.

After the films, Epstein and co. will cleanse the palette with a few songs from his upcoming record, WENDY, which will be out February 3rd via Fat Possum Records.

About the Filmmakers

Harry Smith

Harry Smith was a musicologist, experimental filmmaker, and multi-disciplinary artist who explored universal patterns through the lens of an ethnographer and cultural anthropologist. He collected books, records, artifacts, and sound recordings using them as the basis of his works of art, as well as the raw materials for his anthropological and musicological research. His Anthology of American Folk Music was credited as triggering the folk music revival of the 1960s and in the past decades has become the primary and defining document in the alt-country/singer-songwriter movement. Inspired by the bebop scene in San Francisco in the mid-1940's, Smith moved to the Fillmore District, the city's hub of jazz culture. During this time, Smith formed a close collaboration with fellow artist Jordan Belson. Belson was a painter, filmmaker, and commercial artist, and the two shared a number of interests including music, eastern mysticism, psychedelics, collage, and surrealism. Along with other "color music" artists such as Oskar Fischinger, Hy Hirsh, and Norman McLaren, Smith and Belson formed the core of the West Coast experimental cinema movement, which was showcased in the Art in Cinema series at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Smith’s films were part of their regular film programs and were occasionally shown with live jazz accompaniment. His early hand-painted films were complex and required years of intricate labor. He worked alone, using methods such as batiking and painting on 35mm frames or cutting out images and meticulously arranging frame by frame. Throughout his career, Smith continued to collect, record, and study various forms of traditional and popular music, as well as artifacts and ephemera from different cultures. He compiled several anthologies of traditional music and his vast collection of recordings, films, and other materials is now housed at the Harry Smith Archive in New York City. Smith's work has been recognized for its density, complexity, and vision, and is considered a pioneer of the American avant-garde film movement.

Jordan Belson

Born in Chicago and raised in the Bay Area, Jordan Belson trained as a painter before turning his attention to film-making after discovering the abstract films of Oskar Fischinger, Norman McLaren, and Hans Richter. Since 1947, Belson has explored consciousness, transcendence, and light in a visionary body of work that has been called "cosmic cinema": brimming with vibrant color, mandalas, liquid forms, and mesmerizing rhythms. From 1957 – 59, Belson collaborated with electronic music pioneer Henry Jacobs on the late-night series Vortex: Experiments in Sound and Light at the San Francisco Planetarium. Setting the scene for the 1960s era of psychedelic light shows, these shows involved projected imagery, specially prepared film excerpts, and other optical projections specifically developed for use on the hemispherical screen. Not just an opportunity to develop new visual technologies and techniques, the sound system in the planetarium enabled Belson and Jacobs to create an immersive environment where imagery could move throughout the entire screen space, and sound could move around the perimeter of the room. Over the course of six decades, Belson produced a rich body of over 30 abstract films and is considered a central figure in the fields of experimental film and visual music.

About the Performers

Will Epstein

Will Epstein is a composer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist born in New York City. He has performed internationally, released records of songs and composed music for film, installation, and dance performance. In addition to recently completing scores for the Martha Graham Dance Company and the upcoming documentary Nam June Paik: Moon Is The Oldest TV, Will has worked on major pieces for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Joyce Theater, and Jacobs Pillow, and collaborated with renowned artists and institutions such as MoMA, Marilyn Minter, and Laurie Simmons. His albums Whims and Wendy are being released by Fat Possum Records in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

Ben Goldberg

Ben Goldberg is an American clarinet player and composer. He is the founder of the music label BAG Production and one of the progenitors of the mythic Bay Area ensemble, New Klezmer Trio. In 2011, Goldberg was named the No. 1 Rising Star Clarinetist by the Down Beat Critic's Poll.

Michael Coleman

Michael Coleman is a keyboardist/composer/improviser living in Brooklyn, NY. He spends time leading his own groups (Michael Rocketship, CavityFang, Visuals) or playing, recording and touring in a wide variety of other people's projects (Ben Goldberg, Kenny Wollesen, Sam Evian). When not playing keyboard instruments, Michael works as a recording engineer at Figure 8 Recording.

Jordan Glenn

Oakland based drummer Jordan Glenn has worked closely with Fred Frith (FF Trio, Gravity Band), William Winant, Zeena Parkins (The Adorables), Roscoe Mitchell, Ben Goldberg, Todd Sickafoose, John Schott, Lisa Mezzacappa, Kyle Bruckmann, Michael Coleman, Matthew Welch and bands Jack O' The Clock, Secret Chiefs 3, The Rova Sax Quartet, tUnE-yArDs and the collective Sifter with Rob Ewing, Beth Schenck and Lisa Mezzacappa. He composes/conducts the large, percussion heavy band BEAK, and since 2007 has led the sax/drum trio Wiener Kids. He also has been commissioned to create scores for evening-length dance pieces by Sharp & Fine and Liss Fain Dance.

Raymond Foye

Raymond Foye is a writer, publisher, and curator based in New York City. In 2020 he received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for his editing of The Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman for City Lights. He is presently editing The Collected Poems of Rene Ricard. He is a consulting editor with The Brooklyn Rail.

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