Conversation with Kevin Jerome Everson

Kevin Jerome Everson and Stoffel Debuysere in conversation, 23 September 2020. In the context of the Kevin Jerome Everson program initiated by Courtisane, originally conceived for the Courtisane festival and eventually presented at CINEMATEK, Brussels (1/10 – 26/11, 2020).

“My work must project and reveal the materials, procedure and process. I believe that this approach is not necessarily important to be noticeable to the viewer; it merely explains how I continue to approach the craft of art making. I firmly believe that the materials of the work must be noticeable. Procedure is the formal quality I am exploring with the work. The process is the execution of the formal quality. Once I have a grasp of procedure, the process becomes a discipline.”

Material, procedure and process: for the artist-filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson, these three words define the core of his artistic approach. It is with this approach, grounded in an early preference for minimalism and a background in sculpture and street photography, that he knows like no other how to evoke the poetics of the lives and experiences of working-class African-American communities. Rather than pursuing conventional realism, he elects to abstract everyday expressions into theatrical gestures and to choreograph prosaic situations as artificial compositions. Rather than seeking a classical narrative form, he tends, more and more, towards pure abstraction.

Living and teaching in Virginia but born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio, as the child of parents who came from Mississippi during the Great Migration, Everson makes films that are inextricably linked to the socio-economic conditions and histories of the Midwest and South of the United States. The place-specific conditions of work, migration, language and culture form the primary material from which he derives his subjects, whereby he pays a great deal of attention to the concrete gestures and customs that are brought about by those conditions. From Taylorian labour rituals to Spartan sports exercises, from the agility of rodeo riders to the dexterity of street magicians, Everson focuses pre-eminently on the performative qualities expressed by gestures, expressions and interactions that all too often go unnoticed and undervalued. The films not only suggest the unrelenting cycle of everyday life but also the beauty, dignity and skill that lie within it. “The people on screen are always smarter than the viewer,” he notes, “so the viewer has to catch up.”

Everson’s esteem for work and craftsmanship can also be seen in his own artistic practice and work ethic. In over twenty years, he has produced a continuously growing body of work of more than 170 short films and a dozen full-length films, which time and again stand out for their exceptional care for the specificities of place, movement, speech and form. A look at the life of black communities near Lake Erie is organized as a structural composition (Erie), a portrait of polling stations in Charlottesville, Virginia, can be experienced as a “flicker film” (Tonsler Park), a demonstration of consumer products manufactured in Mansfield, Ohio, takes on the allure of a Kerry James Marshall painting (Westinghouse). Constantly juggling between reality and artificiality, materiality and narrativity, Everson displays an ever-increasing skill in the art that was once aptly described by another craftsman as “sculpting in time”.

Shadows of the Unseen (7)

The seventh installment of Shadows of the Unseen features pieces by familiar names such as Delia Derbyshire (an assemblage of works she produced for the BBC that still sounds incredibly fresh, more than half a century after its making), Frans Zwartjes (this time a fragmented composition structured around a haunting sing-a-long melody) and Henning Christiansen (part of fluxorum organuma, a wonderful piece he did for a collaborative event with Joseph Beuys at Wide White Space gallery in Antwerp, where it was also recorded on film).
But there’s also a few new discoveries, starting with Mireille Kyrou, an Egypt-born French-Palestinian composer who studied with Olivier Messiaen before joining the GRM (Groupe de Recherche Musicale) in 1958. Unfortunately she only spent three years at the GRM, after which she married filmmaker/critic Ado Kyrou and devoted herself to family life. There seems to be only piece available of her time at GRM, which was published on the compilation ‘Musique Concrète’ (1964) and can be found online. The other remaining track is the soundtrack she made for La chute d’Icare (1965) by Gérard Patris, who was at that time starting to work with Luc Ferrari on a series of filmed intimate portraits of great musicians such as Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Cecil Taylor.
Another discovery is Violeta Parra’s soundtrack for Sergio Bravo’s Mimbre (1958), filmed during visits to the home workshop of wicker craftsman Alfredo Manzano (aka Manzanito) in Santiago. The score was improvised and recorded during a silent screening of the film, showcasing the unique guitar stylings of this Chilean composer, who is often called the “Mother of Latin American folk”.
Also of note is the score of the Hungarian animation film Fehérlófia (1981) by the Illustrious Unknown István Vajda. Robert Beatty, to whom I owe this discovery, rightly described the soundtrack as “a dense, alien, claustrophobic electronic mass that wouldn’t sound out of place now on a label such as Editions Mego”.
A few new releases on the horizon are referenced here: Takashi Inagaki’s music for the films of Takashi Ito will be out on Purge.xxx, and Finders Keepers Records continues its mining of Suzanne Ciani’s archives with the release of her score for a skiing documentary (which we believe to be Joel H. Schroedel’s 1974 Denali traverse). In this mix, however, you’ll hear a fragment from a Ciani score that has not been released yet, for Lloyd Michael Williams’ psychedelic reverie Rainbow Children (1975).
For the electronic dance aficionados: do check out the proto-techno soundtracks by Erkki Kurenniemi (1964), Gershon Kingsley (1970 – yes he’s the guy who did ‘Popcorn’) and Bernard Parmegiani (1977), which suggest that cinema might have offered the necessary experimental playing field leading up to techno’s development.

1. Ed Emshwiller – Carol (Ed Emshwiller, 1970)
2. Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962)
3. Mireille Kyrou – La chute d’Icare (Gérard Patris, 1965)
4. Takashi Inagaki – Thunder (Takashi Ito, 1982)
5. Alain Clavier – Ceci est un message enregistré (Jean-Thomas Bédard, 1973)
6. Zdeněk Liška – Et Cetera (Jan Švankmajer, 1966)
7. Eric Wetherell – Sky (ITV TV series, 1975)
8. Paddy Kingsland – The Changes (BBC TV series, 1975)
9. Stephan Wittwer – Der rechte Weg (Peter Fischli & David Weiss, 1983)
10. Delia Derbyshire – Pot Au Feu (assembly of pieces created for various BBC programmes, 1965-1968)
11. Tristram Cary – Sebastian (David Greene, 1967)
12. Gershon Kingsley – Pixillation (Lillian Schwartz, 1970)
13. Erkki Kurenniemi – Hyppy [The Jump] (Eino Ruutsalo, 1964)
14. Bernard Parmegiani – Versailles… peut-être (Michel Sibra, 1977)
15. Michi Tanaka – Sado [Third] (Yôichi Higashi, 1978)
16. Suzanne Ciani – Rainbow Children (Lloyd Michael Williams, 1975)
17. Dave Ball, Genesis P. Orridge, William S. Burroughs – Decoder (Jürgen Muschalek, 1984)
18. Tom Recchion – Lost Motion (Janie Geiser, 1999)
19. István Vajda – Fehérlófia [Son of The White Mare] (Marcell Jankovics, 1981)
20. Adrian Corker – Die Habenichtse [The Have-Nots] (Florian Hoffmeister, 2016)
21. Pauline Oliveros – Bent Time (Barbara Hammer, 1983)
22. Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar – Dhrupad (Mani Kaul, 1982)
23. Vijay Raghav Rao – Abid (Pramof Pati, 1972)
24. Jonathan Halper – Puce Moment (Kenneth Anger, 1960 version)
25. Acanthus (Daniel Buffet, Gérard Sallette) – Le frisson des vampires (Jean Rollin, 1971)
26. Frans Zwartjes, Towe Zwartjes, Rudolf Zwartjes – Behind Your Walls (Frans Zwartjes, 1970)
27. Valentin de las Sierras (Bruce Baillie, 1971)
28. Violeta Parra – Mimbre (Sergio Bravo, 1958)
29. Pierre F. Brault, Geneviève Bujold – Rouli-Roulant (Claude Jutra, 1966)
30. Spirit – Model Shop (Jacques Demy, 1969)
31. Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944)
32. Fred Karlin – Up the Down Staircase (Robert Mulligan, 1967)
33. Nora Orlandi, Paolo Ormi – Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh [The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh or Blade of the Ripper] (Sergio Martino, 1971)
34. Gene Moore – Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962)
35. Georges Delerue, Cora Vaucaire – Une aussi longue absence (Henri Colpi, 1961)
36. Jean Wiener – Voici le temps des assassins (Julien Duvivier, 1956)
37. Luciano Berio, Carmelo Bene – Il canto d’amore di Prufrock (Nico d’Alessandria, 1967)
38. Henning Christiansen – Eurasienstab (Joseph Beuys & Henning Christiansen, 1968)
39. Europa ’51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952)

Shadows of the Unseen (6)

The sixth installment of the Shadows of the Unseen series once more offers an adventurous voyage of discovery through the landscape of cinematic sound and music. Some influential sound studios mentioned in the previous post are represented again: The Polish Radio Experimental Studio (Krzysztof Penderecki), Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center (Vladimir Ussachevsky and students Alice Fields and Pril Smiley, as well as Ilhan Mimaroğlu), BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Delia Derbyshire and – associated – David Vorhaus) and GRM (François-Bernard Mâche’s only and superb soundtrack to L’annonce faite à Marie, which comes highly recommended by Stephen O’Malley – but is unfortunately out of print).
Brian Gascoigne, David Briscoe and David Vorhaus’ justly celebrated OST for Saul Bass’ only feature film Phase IV makes several appearances to celebrate its release (in restored version) on BluRay (via Carlotta).
Also just released: Ron Geesin’s soundtracks for Stephen Dwoskin (just out on Trunk Records) – which reminded me of the great music that Gavin Bryars’s made for the same filmmaker (never released, but you can find a taste here).
Shout out to Finders Keepers Records who made me discover the wonderful music that Andrzej Korzynski composed for Andrzej Zulawski, Andrzej Wajda, and others, but also the soundtracks for Jean Rollin’s films, amongst others by François Tusques (an influential figure in the French free jazz scène, who often worked with Barney Wilen, who made an appearance in the previous mix) and Pierre Raph.
Another shout out to Shinjuku Thief who meticulously collected countless obscure musical fragments of Japanese films – many I hadn’t heard of before, so thank you! – some of which are present in this mix.
Some musical pieces might ring a bell, as they have been sampled or appropriated in recent years (already in earlier mixes, notably François de Roubaix’s Dernier Domicile Connu, as sampled by Kendrick Lamar), most famously Gianfranco & Gian Piero Reverberi’s music for Django, Prepare a Coffin (by Gnarls Barkley), but also Carter Burwell’s OST for Psycho III (by Aim, but it could just as well have been DJ Shadow or, why not, Burial). And I’m pretty sure the Radiohead band members have been intensively listening to Giovanni Fusco (as they have done to Penderecki).
While working on this mix, I have been enjoying unearthing some obscure horror and mystery films, like The Premonition, The Ballad of Tam Lin, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and, especially, William Dieterle’s thrilling Portrait of Jennie, whose soundtrack was originally commissioned to Bernard Herrmann who only finished one (all-too forgotten but terrific) song (while the title song by J. Russell Robinson, for its part, went on to become a hit for Nat King Cole). Every mix seems to stir up the joy of discovery, and I hope you feel the same!

1. Vladimir Ussachevsky, Alice Fields, Pril Smiley – Line of Apogee (Lloyd Williams, 1968)
2. Henry Mollicone, Pril Smiley – The Premonition (Robert Allen Schnitzer, 1976)
3. Delia Derbyshire – The World About Us / The Last Caravans (BBC TV series, 1967)
4. Andrzej Korzynski – Diabel [The Devil] (Andrzej Zulawski, 1972)
5. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi – Honjin satsujin jiken [Death at an Old Mansion] (Yôichi Takabayashi, 1975)
6. Toshiro Mayuzumi – Ningen jôhatsu [A Man Vanishes] (Shôhei Imamura, 1967)
7. Ron Geesin – Chinese Checkers (Stephen Dwoskin, 1965)
8. François Tusques – Le viol du vampire (Jean Rollin, 1967)
9. Włodzimierz Kotonski – Labirynt (Jan Lenica, 1963)
10. Krzysztof Penderecki ‎- Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie [The Saragossa Manuscript] (Wojciech Has, 1965)
11. François-Bernard Mâche – L’annonce faite à Marie (Alain Cuny, 1991)
12. Ilhan Mimaroğlu – Fellini – Satyricon [Fellini’s Satyricon] (Federico Fellini, 1969)
13. Teizo Matsumura – Chi no mure [Apart from Life] (Kei Kumai, 1970)
14. Franco Battiato – Brunelleschi (Roberto Cacciaguerra, RAI TV film 1978, unused)
15. Giovanni Fusco – La guerre est finie (Alain Resnais, 1966)
16. Gianfranco & Gian Piero Reverberi – Preparati la bara! [Django, Prepare a Coffin] (Ferdinando Baldi, 1968)
17. Marianne Faithful – Made in U.S.A. (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966)
18. Pierre Raph – La rose de fer (Jean Rollin, 1973)
19. Andrzej Korzynski – Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)
20. Toru Takemitsu – Tôkyô sensô sengo hiwa [The Man Who Left His Will on Film] (Nagisa Ôshima, 1970)
21. Toshi Ichiyanagi – Erosu purasu gyakusatsu [Eros + Massacre] (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1969)
22. Egisto Macchi – Nucleo centrale investigativo (RAI TV series, 1974)
23. Bernard Herrmann, Jennifer Jones – Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948)
24. Hikaru Hayashi – Kôshikei [Death by Hanging] (Nagisa Ōshima, 1968)
25. Brian Gascoigne, David Briscoe, David Vorhaus – Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974)
26. Bo Harwood – The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
27. Orville Stoeber – Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (John Hancock, 1971)
28. Joel Haertling – I… Dreaming (Stan Brakhage, 1988)
29. Carter Burwell – Psycho III (Anthony Perkins, 1986)
30. Gavin Bryars – Central Bazaar (Stephen Dwoskin, 1976)
31. Light Forms (Music For Light Bulbs And Churches) (Steve Roden, 2002)
32. Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (Martin Arnold, 1998, based on the Andy Hardy film series (George B. Seitz et al., 1937–1958) + rework by Christian Fennesz (2001)
33. Gino Marinuzzi Jr. – Terrore nello spazio [Planet of the Vampires] (Mario Bava, 1965)
34. David Vorhaus – The Ballad of Tam Lin (Roddy McDowall, 1970)
35. Vladimir Ussachevsky, Alice Fields, Pril Smiley – Line of Apogee (Lloyd Michael Williams, 1968)
36. Brian Gascoigne, David Briscoe, David Vorhaus – Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974)

Shadows of the Unseen (5)

Here’s the fifth installment of the “Shadows of the Unseen” series of cinematic mixtapes. This one includes some obscure film soundtracks by the likes of Bebe and Louis Barron, Philippe Arthuys and Ivo Malec, Barre Phillips and John Surman, Martin Cooper and David Hughes, and many more.
While Bebe and Louis Barron are rightly celebrated for their electronic score for the MGM movie Forbidden Planet (1956), their other work remains obscure, not in the least their collaborations with Anaïs Nin, including their recordings of her prose poem House of Incest and four stories from Under a Glass Bell (released on the Barrons’ Contemporary Classics record label under the Sound Portraits series), as well as the scores for three films by her partner Ian Hugo, of which Bells of Atlantis (1952) is included here. They also scored one version of Shirley Clarke’s Bridges-Go-Round (1958) – a second version, included here, was made by Teo Macero.
The mix also features other early avant-garde work, notably Włodzimierz Kotoński’s score for Jan Lenica & Walerian Borowczyk’s Dom (1959) – although I could as well have chosen his score for Lenica’s 1963 film Labyrinthe. The experimental tradition cultivated by the Polish Radio Experimental Studio is furthermore represented here by Krzysztof Penderecki, whose contributions to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining (to the detriment of Wendy Carlos’ score, which went largely unused) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (another history of rejected soundtracks, particularly involving a commission from Lalo Schifrin) have largely overshadowed other films in the production of which the composer was more actively involved, notably in Wojciech Has’ The Saragossa Manuscript (1965) – which will undoubtedly pop up in future mixtapes, what a score it is! – and Szyfry (1966). Here I chose for the haunting vocal piece ‘I Musici Cantanti Di Varsavia’, written for Alain Resnais’ Je t’aime, je t’aime.
At least three other illustrious sound studios cultivating adventure and experiment are represented here: GRM (Groupe de recherches musicales), Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Related to the latter, you’ll find a short piece that workshop members Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson made for the cult movie The Legend of Hell House (John Hough, 1973) – one of their collaborative projects in the aftermath of the first legendary White Noise LP (a group project with another pioneer of electronic music in Britain, David Vorhaus, whose work can be heard, for example, in the soundtrack of Phase IV – featured in other Shadows of the Unseen mixes).
Two composers who were at one time associated with The Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, which was for several decades the most important electronic music studio in the US after its founding in 1959 by Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky, are featured here: Bülent Arel (with student Daria Semegen) and Wendy Carlos, whose work is now slowly but surely getting the recognition it deserves (check out the excellent mix at MUBI). I’m sure other one-time members of the Music Center – like İlhan Mimaroğlu, Halim El-Dabh, Pril Smiley, or Alice Shields – will find a place in future editions of this series.
Quite a few members of the GRM Group are featured in previous mixes, amongst whom Bernard Parmegiani, Beatriz Ferreyra, Yannis Xenakis, and Luc Ferrari (Another adept of GRM, Jean Schwarz, who made some great work for Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, needs rediscovery). Here you’ll find pieces by Robert Cohen-Solal (mostly well known for his invigorating soundtrack for the animated TV series Les Shadoks (1968-1974), which was recently brought to light by WRWTFWW Records) and Philippe Arthuys in collaboration with Ivo Malec. The latter – a riveting soundtrack for Jacques Rivette’s Paris nous appartient (1961) – is just one of the many Rivette scores which sadly remains unreleased. Others include The Nun (1966) and L’amour fou (1969) (both OSTs by Jean-Claude Eloy), Out 1 (1971, OST Jean-Pierre Drouet), Duelle and Noirôt (both 1976, with contributions by Jean Cohen-Solal, Robert Cohen-Solal and Daniel Ponsard), and Merry-Go-Round (1980), whose playful score by Barre Phillips and John Surman is featured here (note: Phillips also played with Ornette Coleman on the Naked Lunch OST, presented elsewhere in the series).
More unreleased music here that deserves to be brought to notice: Gottfried Hüngsberg fantastic electronic score for Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (lauded by Lucrecia Dalt), the pre-Oval atomic cut-ups that one-time Kraftwerk member Klaus Röder (whose work partly resurfaced on PLANAM records) made for Andreas Strach’s series of Stop-Trick films (1980), or the pieces composed by Max Roach and Gideon Nxumalo for Dilemma, filmed clandestinely in apartheid South Africa by Henning Carlsen (1962).
A few of my favorite masters of collage are included here: Arthur Lipsett (find his films on Youtube and his soundtracks on Global A Records), Étienne O’Leary (find his films on Re:Voir and his soundtracks on TenzierRecords), Jeff Keen (his films are released by British Film Institute, some of his compositions by Trunk records. The piece here has whispered abstract vocals by Bob Cobbing and Annea Lockwood) and Henry Hills, whose marriage of language poetry and the NY downtown music scene (John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, Christian Marclay, and many others make their appearance in this film), as Ken Jacobs has noted, “places audiovisual particle energies in combustive arrangements… taking synesthesia further.”
The mix finishes with a bang with one all my all-time favorite Morricone compositions and a radical reworking of sorts that is equally brilliant.

1. Madame Sin (David Greene, 1972) – Featuring sounds by Hugh Davies
2. Louis & Bebe Barron, Anaïs Nin – Bells of Atlantis (Ian Hugo, 1952)
3. Robert Cohen-Solal – Délicieuse catastrophe (Piotr Kamler, 1970)
4. Jeff Keen, Annea Lockwood, Bob Cobbing – Marvo Movie (Jeff Keen, 1967)
5. Joan LaBarbara – Dance Frame (Doris Chase, 1978)
6. Le gai savoir (Jean-Luc Godard, 1969)
7. Włodzimierz Kotoński – Dom [House] (Jan Lenica & Walerian Borowczyk, 1959)
8. Philippe Arthuys, Ivo Malec – Paris nous appartient (Jacques Rivette, 1961)
9. Very Nice, Very Nice (Arthur Lipsett, 1961)
10. Day Tripper (Étienne O’Leary, 1966)
11. Money (Henry Hills, 1985)
12. Bülent Arel, Daria Semegen – Out of Into (Irving Kriesberg, 1972)
13. Klaus Röder – Unendlichkeit Nr. 1 (Andreas Strach, 1977)
14. Terminals (Sandra Lahire, 1985)
15. Howard Shore – Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
16. Wendy Carlos – The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
17. Krzysztof Komeda, Mia Farrow – Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
18. Toru Takemitsu, Beverly Maeda – Tanin no kao [The Face of Another] (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1966)
19. François de Roubaix – Le samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
20. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)
21. Brian Hodgson, Delia Derbyshire – The Legend of Hell House (John Hough, 1973)
22. Gottfried Hüngsberg – Welt am Draht (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973)
23. Gil Mellé – The Andromeda Strain (Robert Wise, 1971)
24. The Last Man on Earth (Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow, 1964)
25. Krzysztof Penderecki – Je t’aime, je t’aime (Alain Resnais, 1968)
26. Stephan Wittwer – Der rechte Weg (Peter Fischli & David Weiss, 1983)
27. C-Schulz – Flicker (Christina von Greve & Carsten Schulz, 2006)
28. Fabio Frizzi, Giorgio Cascio – Zombi 2 (Lucio Fulci, 1979)
29. Daniel Lentz – Luminare (John Sanborn & Dean Winkler, 1985)
30. Philip Glass – Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992)
31. Tim Krog, Jan Bartlett – The Boogey Man (Ulli Lommel, 1980)
32. Vince Tempera, Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi (Magnetic System) – Godzilla (Luigi Cozzi, 1977)
33. Martin Cooper, David Hughes – C.H.U.D. (Douglas Cheek, 1984)
34. Audre Lorde – Die Berliner Jahre 1984-1992 (Dagmar Schultz, 2012)
35. George Lewis – A Visual Diary (Shirley Clarke, 1980)
36. Teo Macero – Bridges-Go-Round (Shirley Clarke, 1958)
37. Barre Phillips, John Surman – Merry-Go-Round (Jacques Rivette, 1980)
38. Max Roach, Gideon Nxumalo – Dilemma (Henning Carlsen, 1962)
39. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Melvin van Peebles, 1971)
40. Child of Resistance (Haile Gerima, 1973)
41. Ennio Morricone ‎- Maddalena (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1971) + rework by Peter Rehberg aka Pita (1999)