Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Nels Cline and Norton Wisdom - Stained Radiance DVD (Greenleaf Music, 2010)

This collaboration between guitarist Cline and painter Wisdom is a fascinating glimpse into the heart of pure improvisation. Cline has an battery of electric guitars and electrical and electronic devices which alter the sound while Wisdom paints on a large illuminated plastic sheet called "The Shell." They are filmed improvising together in real time, over the course of two thirty plus minute performances. Wisdom's images are haunting and fascinating, at times recalling the engravings that accompanied William Blake's apocalyptic poetry. Images transform out of the music and the mists of his imagination only to morph and evolve as he develops the image in response to the music. Cline, on the other hand, is completely in his element as well. His music has always struck me as "sound painting" and the opportunity to work with someone who can interpret those sounds into images makes for a fascinating collaboration. One of the "special features" on the DVD is really interesting. Wisdom wears a small camera mounted on his head, giving a bird's eye view of the creative process while a split-screen also focuses in on Cline's dexterous guitar work. This was a very adventerous and exciting DVD. Another extra called "Nortonious Nels" is an interview segment with the two men talking about the work and the ways in which they inspire each other, especially when Cline speaks about creating a "sonic environment" for Wisdom to express himself through creating images. Their discussion of the philosophy behind their individual art and collaborations is very interesting. While performers like Bill Frisell and Dave Douglas have performed to silent films, this takes things even further, with two artists using different means of expression working together to create beautiful sounds and images, it is a really unique and inspiring experience. Stained Radiance - Greenleaf Records