Bruce Weber and David Bailey Pay Homage to the Storied Manhattan Neighborhood
Life-long friends Bruce Weber and David Bailey collaborate for the first time to capture the spirit and soul of Harlem, New York, in today’s candid short dedicated to the late, revolutionary “bluesologist” Gil Scott-Heron. Similar to Spike Lee’s 1989 movie Do the Right Thing, Weber’s series of vignettes, filmed this summer, take place over a sweltering 24 hours. But while Lee focuses on a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, A Harlem Poetry Lesson is a study of the historic uptown borough and its cast of characters, such as poet Jeffrey Hollington and landmarks the Apollo Theatre and the Carrie McCracken TRUCE Community Garden. Scott-Heron’s expressive growl adds lyrical tension to the Harlem imagery in the film, which includes excerpts from “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” taken from his 1970 debut album of the same name, through to material featured on the poet-musician’s haunting final album from 2010, I’m New Here.
Tabitha Denholm Shines a Light on Louisiana’s R&B-Infused Zydeco Trail-Riding Culture
“I loved the idea of going to massive parties on horseback,” says British director Tabitha Denholm of filming the Louisiana trail-riding scene. “Its word-of-mouth element reminded me of the early-90s raves in the UK—it is huge, but it’s outside of the mainstream media. You find out about events from flyers or from your mates.” Filmed in rural areas outside Lafayette over four days that included a raucous Labor Day weekender, Denholm’s short captures the fundamental relationship between horses and zydeco music and Louisiana’s Creole population. While Cajun grew from the white tradition in Southern Louisiana, zydeco evolved as a faster, more rhythm-driven incarnation of Creole or ‘la la’ music as it used to be called. Trail riding combines both riding and dancing elements, as groups of young and old set out through the countryside until they reach a designated party spot. Zydeco has always absorbed other types of music, and the scene has been reinvigorated by the influence of hip-hop and R&B. As loops and breaks have bolstered the traditional accordion and washboard, so a new audience has saddled up to find the party. “In New Orleans they told me, ‘The real action is in the countryside,’” says Denholm. “And it’s true. These dudes are so proud of their horses. They customize them, paint their hooves, plait their hair. They're like mods with their scooters.”
The Multi-Talented Chicago Musician Willis Earl Beal Reveals an Introspective Animation
Avatars of Lionel Richie and President Barack Obama pop up in Willis Earl Beal’s animated exploration of everyday human values, trials and mediations, Principles of a Protagonist. Chicago-born Beal’s past lives include those of an army recruit and a night-shift security guard before he began recording music, promoting his work by leaving CD-Rs in public spaces around town, accompanied by hand-illustrated flyers. The autobiography-meets-fantasy concept behind Principles of a Protagonist originated in the form of a novella Beals wrote in 2010 while heartbroken and unemployed, and distributed as a photocopied 'zine. He has since hooked up with Hot Charity/XL Recordings, who put out his debut album Acousmatic Sorcery, last year, and are planning a sophomore release for late 2013. Beal continues to integrate his writing and drawing into his recording work, however, and today’s new installment of our Shorts on Sundays series is a testament to his many talents—visual, musical, and philosophical. "The Protagonist does what we cannot," Beal revealed to us in a brief artist's statement. "He embraces an inevitable destruction that is all inclusive. He knowingly constructs a set of principles that ultimately must dissolve within a meaningless void like the perceived order of life into the uncertainty of death."