Stan Brakhage's 1974 film The Text of Light is a 71-minute-long journey into the essence of unconscious vision. Sitting for hours with a camera in hand, Brakhage shot intermittent frames of sunlight passing through a green glass ashtray, capturing the moments when clear white light splintered into its component spectrum colors. The result is one of Brakhage's more beautiful attempts at filming the act of seeing the world rather than merely filming the world itself.
In the latter half of his long career, Brakhage strove to strip the rationalization of sight away from the act of seeing; his films dispense with the why and what of vision, leaving behind only light at play. By painting directly on the film, scratching it and superimposing layers of image, Brakhage crafted collages of light that screen silently -- this is his "music for the eyes."
Inspired by the beauty of these films, Lee Ranaldo (pictured), Roger Miller, Alan Licht and William Hooker create spontaneous music for screenings of Brakhage's work under the name Text of Light. The music is not intended as a soundtrack; the sounds are a visceral response to the images dancing on the screen, an aural appreciation of the wonder Brakhage reveals. The amalgam of Ranaldo (the Sonic Youth guitarist with the best song on every album), Miller (Mission of Burma's compositional genius) and Hooker (a downtown New York percussion whirlwind and poet) is a somewhat known quantity, captured on tape in 2002 as Monsoon on the Out Trios series. Their interplay approximates magnesium flares flickering underwater, an indoor aurora borealis and the solar wind flashing behind closed eyes. Their sonic landscapes can only enhance the dreaming glory of Brakhage's oeuvre.
Who Is Rappaport?
I'm Not Rappaport
Hey, did you hear the one about the Jewish guy and the black guy on the park bench? They're both old and kinda crazy, really holdin' on to their numbered days of independence despite the best efforts of the younger generation. Midge (the black guy) is Nat's (the Jewish guy) superintendent, and even though his eyesight is failing, he doesn't want to be a bother to anyone. Nat is more of a firebrand, ready to stir up trouble at a moment's notice. But when Midge is threatened with retirement, he says to Nat....eh, no sense in spoiling the punch line. Honestly, this one's kind of a "thinker" and far better when left up to the professionals. The New Jewish Theatre (2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur; 314-422-3283 or newjewishtheater.org) presents Herb Gardner's Tony Award-winning I'm Not Rappaport Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with Sunday performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. (September 14 through October 2). Tickets are $20 to $24. -- Kristyn Pomranz
And their music is performed at UMSL
When you think of a composer, dollars to doughnuts your mind immediately conjures up a man who is long gone. You probably figure his gift is something that got lost several generations ago, like the ladies' desires to wear corsets and the men's propensities to don wigs. But people are still composing music as we speak, right now in their little conservatories. And roll over, Beethoven -- some of the modern composers are women! Who are still alive! Hear their works for yourself at the "Twentieth Century Living Women Composers" concert, held at 7:30 p.m. at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road). The free chamber concert includes "Calamity Jane" by Libby Larsen, "Windswept" by Laura McBride, the premiere of "Winder's Tale" by Mary Sutherland and more; for additional information call 314-516-7776 or visit www.umsl.edu/~wia. -- Alison Sieloff
More Pipa, Please
No matter your culture or what part of the world you're from, your society enjoys music and has probably invented a few instruments along the way. Even modern-day Americans have offered something to the melodic culture of the planet (too bad beans aren't recognized throughout the world for their musical properties). Anyway, the Chinese contribute to the earth's beautiful sound in a bit more serious and positive manner, and they sometimes use music to tell stories. Hear some of these stories at the "Sounds of China" concert at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road). There, beginning at 8 p.m., an ensemble plays the er wu, pipa and yang qin: traditional instruments for traditional tales. Tickets cost $7 to $15; call 314-516-4949 to make a purchase. -- Alison Sieloff
A Musical Journey
History and music meet in the Saint Louis Black Repertory's revue Crossin' Over. Charting the history of Africans in America from the horrors of the Middle Passage to the triumphs of the civil rights movement to the strange days of the present, Crossin' Over unfolds through five suites of music, beginning with the traditional songs of West Africa and culminating in contemporary gospel. Local gospel artists Denise Thimes and Karen Hylton join Rep regulars Chuck Flowers and Deondra Means, among others, to create this unique musical experience. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with 2 p.m. shows on Sunday (September 15 through 25) at Washington University's Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-534-3810 or www.stlouisblackrep.com). Tickets are $15 to $30. -- Christine Whitney