About this project
9 Chains (Buckminster Fuller in Philadelphia) is a film with live music directed and composed by Gene Coleman with cinematography and editing by Nick Lerman. This work will have its premiere on April 28th, 2012 at International House Philadelphia, with subsequent presentations in the USA and Europe later this year and in 2013. We have had considerable success with support for this project (see below) and now we turn to you to help us fully realize our goal! We need to raise an additional $8,000 to cover the final film production costs, plus travel and accommodations costs for our international guest musicians.
Buckminster Fuller was an inventor, architect and "futurist" who made a very large impact on American culture and technology in the 20th century. The first in a series of works by Gene Coleman about Fuller, “9 Chains” explores his presence in the city of Philadelphia between 1973-1980. Moving between documentary style presentation of the facts and pure abstraction, this work focuses on two projects Fuller worked on while in Philadelphia: the lecture series "Everything I Know" and the development of the World Game Institute. In both cases, Coleman uses the concepts behind these endeavors to create a work that moves fluidly from documentary to abstraction, weaving together the past, present and future.
What makes this project a new and challenging step for the Coleman / Lerman collaboration is the incorporation of documentary filmmaking, which will be combined with the personal and experimental approach they have developed in several previous projects. “9 Chains” seeks to explore new ways of dealing with historical narratives, merging personal and objective reality and offering a new way of thinking about the work of Buckminster Fuller.
For the April 28th premiere, the music will be played live by Ensemble N_JP, featuring Toshimaru Nakamura (no input mixing board), Naomi Sato (sho) and Yoko Reikano Kimura (koto and shamisen) along with musicians from Philadelphia and Chicago. As is fitting for a work about Fuller, the composition also features the fantastic "Magnetic Resonance Piano," a special instrument developed by Andrew McPherson at the Drexel University Media Arts Lab.
At the core of this project is the on-going collaboration between Gene Coleman and Nick Lerman. Up to this point, their work has explored connections between architecture, music and cinema in such works as “Andolangen” (based on the Langen Foundation building by Tadao Ando, commissioned in 2007 by the Nord-Rhein Westphalia Culture Foundation in Germany, see http://vimeo.com/8584480), “Kyoto_Naigai” (a mediation on Japanese architecture and culture in Kyoto, created in 2011 (see below) and “Horizon” (a portrait of the city of Hong Kong, commissioned by Tom Bucker, to be premiered later in 2012). These works have been presented in Europe, Asia and the USA with the support of a wide range of private, institutional and governmental sources.
Budget: The approximate cost of the project is $24,000, which is modest for a film with a running time of 34 minutes (plus live music!). We have raised $16,000 of the amount needed and we turn to you to help us with the final push! Your support will help pay for the final film production costs as well as the cost of travel for our 3 great guest musicians from Japan (Toshimaru Nakamura, Naomi Sato and Yoko Reikano Kimura).
This project is supported in part by The American Composers Forum Philadelphia Chapter as part of Community Partners: Film Composers Edition, with funds provided by the William Penn Foundation. It is also funded in part through New Music USA’s MetLife Creative Connections program. Additional support provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, International House Philadelphia, Soundfield, Drexel University and The Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Notes from composer and director Gene Coleman:
"In this work I’m acting as the director and the composer to create a work about R. Buckminster Fuller, focusing on his later years in Philadelphia and examining his presence in the city. I work closely with the cinematographer and editor Nick Lerman, in ways not so different from the musicians I work with. One thing that is unique about this project is the degree to which the music and the images are working together, because I’m acting as both director and composer. The process by which the relation between the music and film is constructed is a reflection of my practice to explore how images and music take unique forms when developed simultaneously, rather than the image and story simply leading the music and sound elements. My collaboration with Nick Lerman focuses on the cinematography and editing and has allowed me to go much further with my ideas than I could possibly do alone.
The work highlights the ideas of Buckminster Fuller, whose work in Philadelphia has been largely forgotten by some and overlooked by others. Many people in the Philadelphia cultural community have no idea that Fuller lived and worked here, despite how well known he is. I think the project has high value in terms of introducing audiences in Philadelphia, and elsewhere, to the work and ideas of this enormously influential individual. Fuller was a visionary in the areas of architecture, science and technology who developed new ways of thinking about societies ("spaceship earth") and design (the geodesic dome). Fuller was ahead of his time with his belief in the ability of technology to advance the human condition, with an environmental awareness of the limits of planetary resources. Most significantly for this project, Fuller drew attention to interconnectivity, communication and holistic network-like models, which offer parallels with the development of digital communications.
Inspired by the title of Fuller's book “Nine Chains to the Moon,” the imagery and music are like elements in a biologic system that reaches around the globe. The ideas of "Everything I Know" (which I imagine to be a vortex like structure) and The World Game (which suggests ideas linked together in a network structure) become the basis for the whole composition, both visually and musically. The work is similar to the way Fuller thought and spoke: a dense collection of ideas that continually revealed new interconnections. The film will feature a montage of architectural forms (from Philadelphia, Japan and other locations), text about Fuller in multiple languages, numbers as formulas and marking time, designs, graphics (created by me, see the thumbnail image of the video) and documentary imagery (such as Fuller appearing on TV in Philadelphia), all combined in ways akin to Fuller’s thought process, which emphasized interconnectivity between things.
Additionally, there is musical meaning to the idea of “chains.” As the composer I’m interested to explore the sonic connections that can be constructed between woodwind and string sounds and so-called “Ghost Chords” produced by the Magnetic Resonance Piano. This will be some of the basic sound material for the composition, building up a set of continually transforming soundfields that are linked together like a chain, or lines within a Geodesic structure."
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