My engagement with Maya Deren’s films started some 10 years ago.
I have now completed new performance scores to accompany three of her best known films, and I can deliver a bespoke introduction to Deren’s work.
In April 2017, I delivered – The Eye for Magic – a special lecture and film showing of Deren’s work on the day of her centenary at An Lanntair Arts Centre, Stornoway:
Transfigured Time – Three Films by Maya Deren
In this programme, available throughout 2018, I accompany three films by Maya Deren (see below),
Meshes of the Afternoon
Ritual in Transfigured Time (includes Maya Deren and Anais Nin in the cast): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038885/?ref_=tt_rec_tt
At Land (with Maya Deren and John Cage in the cast):
Maya Deren was a unique film maker, photographer, film theorist and choreographer in the USA in the post-war period, and the three film performances offered in this programme, represent key examples of Deren’s creative output in the mid 1940s.
Originally a refugee from the Ukranian pograms of the early 1920s, she was born Eleanora Derenkowskaia. For more on Maya Deren’s influential and enduring work, please see the informative wiki:
I have worked on new scores and improvisations for and to Maya Deren’s films for many years. In Deren’s films, for me, the tight hand of narrative is open – perhaps like the flat palm on which she places a key in Meshes in the Afternoon, or as a gesture, receiving, forbidding.
I work with a sound set for the films that is entirely pianistic, and, as in all my work in silent film, I place the relationship between the viewer and the screen as the principle relationship in the theatre space at the time of performance. My role is that of accompanist. Many might find this approach a kind of denial, but for me the creative space of the accompaniest is too little explored.
Every time I perform, the film remains the same, it is immutable, it does not perform with me, but still its meaning and impact can change and are fluid. Part of the joy of this process is, for me, that live music does have the ability to enhance and provoke different responses in the audience, maybe enabling new insights into familiar films.
A great deal of interesting material is available in book form and on the web exploring Deren’s films and her impact as a filmmaker.
Speaking of her own film, ‘Meshes Of The Afternoon’, Deren said:
“This film is concerned with the interior experiences of an individual. It does not record an event which could be witnessed by other persons. Rather, it reproduces the way in which the subconscious of an individual will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience.” —Maya Deren on Meshes of the Afternoon, from DVD release Maya Deren: Experimental Films 1943–58.
For promoters / film programmers, I think Deren’s films are widely recognised as masterpieces of avant garde filmmaking and as key examples of early film making by women. But their interest far exceeds these polemics. They are fascinating and highly engaging films in their own right.