The Exquisite Risk of Civil War Brass The 1st Brigade Band - Winner at the da Vinci Film and Video Festival
A documentary by Dan Senn | Motivations: Artist Statement
"In 1999, I took a day off a lecture tour to visit my folks in Watertown, Wisconsin, and while driving around and reminiscing I noticed that a new organization had moved into the nearby Congregational Church. Disappointed, because this church had played an important role in developing a social conscience in me during the 1960s, I recovered to learn that it was now the home of a Civil War reenactment band called the 1st Brigade Band, a volunteer organization known for its performances on vintage Civil War instruments. As a lapsed brass player and inventor of sculptural instruments, the focus of my lectures, I was curious and then fortunate to attend a rehearsal that very evening where I observed an ensemble of about 40 men and woman playing an odd collection of brass instruments, with bells pointing in every direction, producing a wonderfully resonant and mellow sound unlike anything I had heard before. After some discreet questioning, I learned that these instruments had been experimental in the 1860's and exhibited many of the same peculiar traits of my sculptural instruments, that is, an innate awkwardness which rendered them difficult to play by the standards of modern instruments. With my instruments, I had come to think of this built-in resistance as a kind of opaqueness which contrasted the transparency of more efficient and easy-to-play instruments, an awareness that originated in my experiences with raku pottery in the 1970's. Yet, in my current work this opaqueness had evolved consciously, as a by-product of balancing visual and aural criteria, and after many years of performing and exhibiting my instruments, as I "negotiated" with them in an odd anthropomorphic dance, I had been fundamentally changed. Therefore, as I experienced the beautiful music of this community band I was curious to learn the nature of the imperfection in their instruments and how ongoing exposure was affecting band members as individuals and as an ensemble. At what level were they being drawn to these instruments and the organization? What was the nature of this interaction? Was it an unconscious integration with a conscience-raising result? Perhaps the impact, as I had experienced it in my own work, was being masked by organizational and social concerns? Maybe it was all so much of nothing? I had to find out and The Exquisite Risk of Civil War Brass: The 1st Brigade Band is the result of these inquiries, through interviews and recording the band in action, an effort which was greeted with extraordinary helpfulness and kindness by the band for which I am very thankful." Dan Senn, director.
| synopsis | director bio | press | video stills | extended bio | Dan Senn | The 1st Brigade Band |