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Elementary Phrases

Stan Brakhage , Phil Solomon

USA, 1994
38 minutes, Colour, Silent
Original format: 16mm
Available formats: 16mm

This is a hand-painted and elaborately step-printed collaboration between the film makers Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon. After many months of working together, step-printing the painted strips of film by Brakhage, Phil Solomon discovered the following passage which helped to clarify the process and inspired the film’s editing:
‘The profound nature of this concept will be better understood, and the positive study of it more successful, if we think of such an organisation, in its temporal aspect and scope, as corresponding exactly to what is called in music the phrasing; distinguished both from the melody (which is based on the differences of pitch) and from the rhythm (based on the repetition of an arsis-thesis system). Like rhythm it is based on facts of intensity (nuances) even while its form is extended over a dimension analogous to that of melody.
Whoever distinctly grasps these ideas will feel the importance of what we must call the phrasing of a picture; and, for example, the stylistic importance of the differences observable between the slow, full, majestic phrasing of a Veronese (that of Tintoretto is more suave with equal plenitude), the rugged phrasing of Caravaggio, powerful in its boldness, brutal, even a bit melodramatic; the essentially polyphonic and architectonic phrasing of N. Poussin; or again, the pathetic and tormented phrasing of Delacroix. It is entirely reasonable to note a likeness with these characteristics in the music of Palestrina, Monteverdi, Bach, or Berlioz.’ – Susan K. Langer (ed.), Reflections on Art; Etienne Souriau, Time in the Plastic Arts.

Themes