“The incident at Tower 37”: Wonderful film making, and amazing student work

“The incident at Tower 37” is a wonderful example of the splendid student work we saw when Tom and I visited Hampshire College last month. Great animation and storytelling, and highly recommended.

The Incident at Tower 37 from bitfilms.com.

Hampshire College was one of the schools Tom and I visited on our big tour of New England colleges last month, and we saw a bit of student animation as we passed through one of the buildings. While we were visiting with Lee Spector (a friend of mine who teaches at Hampshire), the film came up and he told us we could find it online at bitfilms.com. One of the things that most impressed us both about Hampshire was the incredible quality of the student work there, and the videos at bitfilms are wonderful examples. These animated shorts are directed by professor Chris Perry, who came to Hampshire from Pixar. You can definitely see his Pixar background, as the animation (which is truly splendid) is always in service of an interesting story, and the characters have wonderful depth despite the brevity of the films.

As well as “The incident at Tower 37”, I also definitely recommend their other two bitfilms shorts (“Catch” and “Displacement”), as well as the 2010 Hampshire student animation demo reel and independent Hampshire student films such as “Nick the Shoes” by William Colón. All really impressive stuff that sets the bar awfully high for everyone in academia.

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Evelyn Glennie: The amazing variety of human experiences

I finally got a chance to watch Touch the sound: A sound journey with Evelyn Glennie, and it was really wonderful.

About a year ago my wonderful sister strongly recommended Touch the sound: A sound journey with Evelyn Glennie, and has gently badgered me about it ever since. I ordered it through inter-library loan up at the U and it arrived! I’m happy to report that it’s every bit as good as Misty suggested, and has been a real treat.

Evelyn Glennie's malletsI first heard about Glennie several years ago from a student, and I think I filed her (without any data and without hearing any of her work) in the “Novelty Act” category in my head. This film does a wonderful job of shattering that preconception – she is a remarkable talent with truly amazing rhythmic sense and control. More importantly, she has a real deftness to her playing and a wonderful response in her improvisation. I can imagine a person with good coordination learning to bang out patterns, but she has a subtlety and range that would be the envy of most musicians, and her improvisations with other musicians (e.g, Fred Frith, Ondekoza) is a joy to watch and to listen to.

Frith is a particularly apt pairing, as they both share a combination of power and gentle subtlety that make their improvisations together incredibly rich. There’s a CD of their improvisations on that day which has happily flown onto my wish list :-).

My only complaint about the film is really entirely unfair. I (and I suspect most people) would dearly love to better understand what her experience of music is, as it’s presumably quite different from that of hearing folk. As she says in the film, however, hearing people can’t typically give any helpful account of their experience of hearing, so it’s not terribly fair to expect her to give an account either. I happily take her point, but that doesn’t do anything to quell the rush of questions:

  • Why does her music sound so “familiar”? Given that her experience of it is quite different, one might expect the music that she makes to have a somewhat alien feel, which it totally doesn’t (for me). I suspect that this is to a large degree a combination of her not going deaf until primary school (so she had significant experience of music as a hearing person) and her extensive “traditional” musical training after going deaf.
  • How does she experience harmony and layering? Harmonics are, in some sense the really hard part of the game, and one might reasonably expect that her tactile experience of that layering to be quite different from my auditory experience of it, and I suspect that we could learn a lot about both hearing and tactile perception from exploring the similarities and differences here.

All really fine stuff, and definitely recommended.

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