Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Movies About Music

December 9th, 2005

The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago features a new selection of movies about music every month. This month’s features:

Now 89 years old, Gordon Thomas is still making music and dreaming of success. A former big-band trombonist, Thomas is a born storyteller whose songs-catchy and simple, peculiar and personal-are a kind of musical folk-art. This in-depth character study tells Gordon’s life story and explores the appeal of his music, with testimonials by pop musicologists such as Irwin Chusid and Citizen Kafka.

Outer Ear Festival of Sound
The Experimental Sound Studio presents an evening of sound-oriented cinema as part of its sixth annual Outer Ear Festival of Sound. The program includes: Chicago filmmaker Wenhwa Tsao’s AGAINST FILIAL PIETY (2001, 5 min.) and DISUNION WITH THE UNION OF SUFFERING (2004, 5 min.); Chicago filmmaker Susan Giles’s LISA, LISA (2003, 3 min.); and Gary Hill’s SOUNDINGS (1979, 18 min.) and WHY DO THINGS GET IN A MUDDLE?

The notion of a hillbilly still has negative connotations, thanks to bad TV sitcoms and films with toothless backwoods banjo players. HOMEMADE HILLBILLY JAM explores this true culture molded by Scottish and Irish immigrants. From the depths of coal mines to great high mountains, this is a music and a lifestyle that is woven into DNA. The film centers around Big Smith, a mountain roots band that bridges the gap between traditional Appalachian gospel and modern alternative country.

Filmed on location in Niger, Hisham Mayet’s film is more poetic than narrative-a spontaneous, raw, and inspiring collection of images and music from the Sahel region of Africa. Niger is a nation mired in poverty and post-colonial disappointment, but its music is its soul. Encompassing Tuareg electric guitar trance rock, Bori cult dance ceremonies, Fulani folk, and roadhouse gospel rave-ups, NIGER captures the pulse of a people for whom music doesn’t mean commodity-it means survival.

Around town, the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line is still playing. If you missed Touch the Sound, a documentary about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf classical percussionist, last week (as I did), it will be out on DVD anon.

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