Nitrate Disintegration / Autumn In New York

Honestly, I hadn’t been missing NYC at all since I moved out west last May. Then the autumn equinox hit. Ever since, I’ve been aching to take a long bike ride through the fiery foliage of Prospect Park.

My soundtrack of choice would be Light Is Calling, an album by Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon. Its title track was written specifically for this stunning short film of the same name by Bill Morrison:

Gordon and Morrison previously worked together on Morrison’s full length movie Decasia. Both pieces build around a very simple premise; film is a fragile medium. Nearly all of that old nitrate-based film stock is too grimy and scratched, rotting and stinking of vinegar to be of much use to film preservationists. Morrison salvaged 70 minutes of archival footage from someone’s rubbish bin, stitched it together and re-shot film that showed decay or was actively decaying, frame-by-frame, using an optical printer.

The cumulative effect is breathtaking, and for reasons that are difficult to articulate, will always remind me of New York in the fall.

(Readers in Antwerp will be delighted to know that the Vlaams Radio Orkest are providing live accompaniment to Decasia on October 21st, as well as what I’m sure will be a stentorian rendition of John Cage’s 4’33”. *cough*)

5 Responses to “Nitrate Disintegration / Autumn In New York”

  1. q. gauti andrisson Says:

    Was fortunate enough to see this as well as decasia earlier this year. thanks for bringing it to people’s attention, most certainly deserves to be seen.

  2. dan mcenroe Says:

    You’re not missing much – it’s been so damn warm that the leaves haven’t changed yet. Some of them are starting to change, but I think that’s mostly because they don’t know what else to do with themselves.

  3. theremina Says:

    Sigh…and somewhere northeast of us, a polar bear is desperately treading water. Thanks, global warming.

  4. Bill Morrison Says:

    Hey thanks for the mention of my work.

    I writing because want to try to set the record straight about a piece of misinformation that has been circulating about my process. I don’t melt film with a projector’s lamp or any other way. I re-shot film that showed decayed or was actively decaying, frame-by-frame using an optical printer. I know this may seem incidental, but what we are seeing is actually nature’s decomposition, unassisted by a human hand.

    Thanks again.


  5. theremina Says:

    Woops. So much for multiple sources…
    I’ve corrected the text. Thanks for the heads up, Bill. You’re amazing. We love your stuff.