Phil Niblock - The Movement of the People
16 years ago
This DVD collects a number of Niblock's documentary films analysing the dynamics of motion involved in manual labour. The images on the disc are all accompanied by Niblock's own minimalist approach to soundtracking. Niblock started making these films back in 1973, upon visiting Mexico and Peru. It was here that he set out on his observation of the impersonal machinations of work. These films concentrate specifically on the work of human hands, both in terms of crafts, like weaving, and on the more industrial scale of farming, as is focussed on by the films shot in Hungary, made in 1985 (the most recent work here). In this Hungarian sequence a man reaps in a field using an old-fashioned scythe: the worker's rhythmic torsional movements are beautifully mirrored by Niblock's droning woodwind, as the composer continually renews his breath and restarts on the same pitch, replicating the visual cycle of unbroken repetition. Later on, we see a close-up of a woman milking a cow. Again, a rhythmic structure is established in both visual and auditory terms. It's pretty bewitching stuff considering how simple the component elements are. In addition to the conceptual success of the piece - which finds Niblock evoking a powerful sense of existential non-movement - he amply shows off his chops both as a filmmaker and a composer. The films here were produced on beautiful Kodachrome print stock, while the music is utterly timeless, the kind of infinite-chord drone work that only the very best artists in the genre can come up with. Magnificent.
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