Sat, Sep 25 | Epsilon Spires

SEA LEVEL INFERNO: Short Films with Live Soundtracks!

Four films by Matthew Kohn that explore war, nature, obedience and individuality through experimental filmmaking techniques with live improvisational music performed by William Hooker, Roger Clark Miller, Stan Harrison, and Gerard Smith.
SEA LEVEL INFERNO: Short Films with Live Soundtracks!

Time & Location

Sep 25, 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA

About the Event

An evening of four films by Matthew Kohn, exploring war, nature, obedience and individuality through experimental filmmaking techniques and live improvisational music!

For Water Border, Jazz drummer William Hooker and Guitarist Roger Miller will be joined by saxophonist Stan Harrison, who has played with David Bowie, They Might Be Giants and Laurie Anderson and Bass player Gerard Smith from the legendary band Phantom Tollbooth. For many years, William Hooker and Roger Miller have performed live improvised scores to Sea Level Inferno, although never together as the filmmaker had intended. This intense and immersive experience combining images and sound will be the fruition of Kohn's original artistic vision.

Between music sets we will screen the short fiction film Freedom Isn’t Free - about an Iraq War vet attending an anti-war peace march. It features Alexandria Wailes, one of our nation’s foremost deaf actresses.

The Films:

Sea Level Inferno (Hi8 video projection with live music, 45 mins, 1997). 

SLI uses fake-documentary, fake-incendiaries and tiny burning Ninjas to create a visual  travelogue taking us from the suburbs to the city on the verge of a nuclear event. Throughout, the repetitive image of a prophet raising his hands to the sky creates the suspicion that these horrible events were instigated by super-ego dreams of a human subservient to a higher power - both a cause of, and witness to the end of the world. Recalling Dante, the Inferno streams down from a country club, igniting pollution along the Hudson river and crumbling the city in the wake of it's destructive path. Radiation victims dance, and from out of the rubble, the barely human survivors create new rituals - literally re-inventing the wheel. Performers include: Michael Wiener, Carleigh Welsh, Beau Van Donkelaar and Michael Portnoy. SLI premiered at the New York Underground Film Festival at the Anthology Film Archives. Other notable screenings include Texaco Jazz Festival, The Knitting Factory, CBGS Gallery and Real Art Ways. The event at Epsilon Spires will be the first time Hooker and Miller perform the musical score to the film together.

Water Border (63 mins, 2014). Invites the viewer to develop a conscious interaction with the physical world. To be unique, and to be alive, a border must be determined. But every border is mostly water. Environmental sounds and a hypnotic score flow through images of activities from around the world, to form a painterly connection between mechanical, human, plant, insect, and animal life, and also to connect identities experienced in two not-often directily related wars: survivors of the war in between northern Sudan and South Sudan, and survivors of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Locations prominently featured are Ngamba Island, Uganda, Juba, South Sudan and Turalei, on the border between South Sudan and northern Sudan, combined with footage filmed in Fire Island, Greenpoint Brooklyn, and the Hudson River. 

Our evening concludes with Monologue for Everyone (2016, 12 mins). A “performance  film” featuring 17 celebrated actors giving their own interpretive touch to Kohn’s monologue about identity and  agency. Among those featured include Clark Middleton (Blindspot, Birdman), Avram Ludwig (feature film producer), Charles Everett (CBS’s Bull), and Michael Wiener, who also stars in Sea Level Inferno. Monologue for Everyone was shot at the National Arts Club in New York over the course of four hours during a lively party.

The Musicians:

Drummer, Composer, and Poet, William Hooker’s  body of uninterrupted work beginning in the mid-seventies defines him as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly  diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit has created works that range from jazz and new music, to experimental genres. Hooker has released over 70 recordings, and has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Edgefest Jazz Festival, The Vision Festival, The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Walker Art Center, MTV, The Kitchen, Roulette, and Real Art Ways. He has also presented his work at the JVC Jazz  Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, CMJ Music Festival, Vilnius Jazz Festival, Experimenta Argentina, The Knitting Factory and the Victoriaville Music Festival.

Roger Clark Miller was born the son of an ichthyologist professor whose research trips throughout Western U.S. deserts had a strong effect on Roger’s artistic outlook. Themes of nature, extremes, self-reliance, and a deep sense of time often recur in his work. After graduating from California Institute of the Arts, he moved to Boston and co-formed  Mission of Burma, a post-punk rock band considered to be broadly influential. After recording seminal albums, each member had vibrant solo careers before reforming for three albums and national tours. A documentary about Mission of Burma, NOT A PHOTOGRAPH is currently streaming on Hulu. The band was known for combining extended guitar techniques and tape loops into a searing physical performance, which Miller further developed in his approach to using prepared piano, conceptual art objects, chamber ensemble compositions and more in his own compositions. Roger has created scores for four films that have premiered and won awards at The Sundance Film Festival. He has previously performed a live musical score for Dziga Vertov's "Man with a Movie Camera" at Epsilon Spires with The Alloy Orchestra, Roger’s group that accompanies silent films, is considered “the best in the  world" -Roger Ebert. Miller has also premiered fifteen films at The Telluride Film Festival. Recently his art installation, "Transmuting the Prosaic", was shown at the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center from March to October, 2020. 

Stan Harrison is a multi-woodwind player/composer who has traveled the globe playing and recording with Serge Gainsbourg, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Taylor Mac, Talking Heads, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duran Duran, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Steven Van Zandt, They Might Be Giants and many others. He is also the co-founder, along with Steve Elson and Lenny Pickett, of The Borneo Horns, a saxophone trio that performs the beautiful and extremely challenging music of Lenny Pickett. Harrison has also composed music for television and film, a string quartet, an extended work  for cello, marimba and tenor saxophone, and a series of pieces for saxophone, string quartet and rhythm section, originally released as The Ties That Blind and performed live by his group, The Mud Music Ensemble. 

Gerard Smith is an American Indie Rock bass player. In the 1980's, alongside of ground  breaking Homestead recording artists Sonic Youth, Volcano Suns, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr. and many others, Smith played and sang in the collaborative group Phantom Tollbooth. Over time,  Smith has played and recorded with various artists including Third Order (w/ Ben Miller –  Destroy All Monsters), Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard and most recently with The  Royal Arctic Institute on Rhyme and Reason Records.

The Filmmaker:

Best known for his feature documentary, Call it Democracy, about voting injustices within the Electoral College system, filmmaker Matt Kohn has crafted stories from truth and poetry in Mexico, France, Germany, Ukraine, the UK, Iceland, Chad, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, and South Africa. These diverse travel experiences speak to Kohn’s second feature, Our Tall Man, a documentary about NBA star Manute Bol in his home country working to create a system of education that would  benefit everyone. Since Manute’s passing, Matt has spent many more years focusing on  Manute’s historic story with Manute’s family and friends who live in both the beauty and  tragedy of war. Most recently, his whimsical, romantic screenplay Wasting Time was a semi-finalist at the Stowe Narrative Lab. He shot and directed the music video for Walking from the album, Respires by Ka Baird and is currently completing a short documentary about Stephan Said, produced by Gil Holland. Matt shot parts of the Academy Award short listed HBO film: HEART OF A DOG for Laurie Anderson, as well as her projects Delusion and Habeas Corpus, featuring a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. He also produced Charlie Victor Romeo, the first 3D Feature Film include in the Sundance Film Festival. The film re-enacts blackbox recordings to harrowing effect.

Additionaly, for more than 10 years, Matt has curated guests for his monthly film screening series, Speakeasy Cinema, awarded Village Voice’s “Best of NY 2016.” for the category of “film date night.” Matt has also authored LAKE SUCCESS (Soft Skull Press), a book of poetry and has led two performance art/experimental music groups. Kohn graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in Political Science, with an emphasis in film and feminist political theory. He recently revisited many of his old papers and wasn't surprised to find that they explain a lot about the world we live in now.

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