Contrapunctus is a piece of video music. It arose
from a 4 year project on the effects of disconnection and isolation upon the mind and the making of art. Unfortunately, it has
now acquired new meaning in the context of the the global health emergency.
The Social Distancing Festival
Once it became clear that performance was going to be impossible due to the global pandemic, I sought out other possibilities.
Contrapunctus was chosen to be presented on the Toronto-based Social Distancing Festival platform which BBC News described as showing artists' work cancelled and/or shelved because of the global health emergency. Click on the image below or the hyperlink here: Social Distancing Festival.
The piece presents a series of disconnections in uneasy, sometimes conflicting counterpoints: expressive, musical, visual, geographical,psychological, therapeutic and ideological. In Part 1, the repeated failed attempts to fashion and search inside the troubling ghostly head from Durer's Solid speak to the tides of living and making in such a context. Part 2 re-filters and looks from and to a difference place. The music creates ambiguous 'completions' of hitherto unfinished/abandoned and separated pieces of music from the past (material from Contrapunctus XIV from J.S. Bach's Art of Fugue BWV 1080, and and Chopin's unfinished Canon in F minor B.129a ) against a backdrop of magic square number patterns derived from Albrecht Dürer's famous engraving, Melencolia I. The music is scored either for two player pianos, or for a duo of live pianist and player piano.
Reactions to Contrapunctus
Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor: 'Contrapunctus is wonderfully mischievous and elusive.'
Michael Morris, Co-Director, Artangel
'This absorbing and prescient piece, in which form and content are beautifully combined, speaks powerfully to the constant human struggle for integration. The counterpoint resides between inner landscapes of desire, guilt, shame and doubt via the way we project our outward 'personality' onto the world , and the natural environment, where change is managed so effortlessly, The fragmented,half-remembered and incomplete nature of the music underpins it all in the most perfectly unstable way.'
Stephen Newbould, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Spitalfields Festival, Music Theatre Wales
'I think your music-film is quietly extraordinary, and happens to speak to these times as well as it might to individual circumstance. I think your music has real integrity and rigour, but is never ostentatious - I also like its delicacy and the fact that it's just unusual, and that's a compliment! Also, I should say that, although I know of quite a few composer-visual artists, I know of no other whose expressive work across the two media makes such sense as two parts of the same sensibility, albeit in the fascinatingly different worlds of the visual and sonic. Poetry and space, and also the expressionistic quality - I think that's what I'm saying. Compelling and beautifully made. In listening to and looking your various pieces of art, I think you have something unique and very special Jim. Stephen'
Jonas Grimas, Film Director
'The piece is terrific, I don't know how you do this with what you call 'modest resources'. Yet again you prove the point I always make, that if you know what you want to say then you will say it with whatever tools you have at hand. The music is as sharp as a razor and works beautifully with the images. It must have taken you a lot of time to complete, considering the speed with which the images flick past us... you have dazzled me yet again.'
Michael Morris, Professor of Philosophy, Sussex University
'First quick reaction (I'll want to watch and listen again: incredibly powerful. I think the music would probably make sense on its own, but the film and music complement each other brilliantly. In particular, the film keeps you listening to working out of the music. The contrast between the two parts is very striking, of course: the first part sometimes really violent, the second often quite beautiful.
I found myself absorbed by the film and music altogether, and didn't really need the specific programme of the first part. In a way the first part was almost more effective for me when I forgot the programme: the business of reforming and carving/scrunching the head with that slightly creepily gloved hand was almost more frightening and direct on its own.'
Larson Powell, Professor of Film Studies at the University of Missouri, Kansas City
'This is very beautiful and often exciting, and I like it very much. There is an almost Hans Richter-like whimsical humor about the flickering Freud and Jung images and the clay mask; I can sense the relation between the visual polyphony (of cloud bands and central faces, or tree and embedded shape within the bark, with their respective tempi) and the multiple musical lines at different speeds; there is also a kind of punning between the clay face-Freud/Jung and the floating expressions of the clouds (almost as some have seen human forms in Cézanne's landscapes); also a suggestive play between abstract shape and reference to perceived forms in the world. I don't want to make any criticisms until I have let this work on me a bit and watched it again, because I need to grasp the form as a whole before I could comment on it (the first thing one has to do is try to see what the artist has attempted to realize, before one can evaluate how effective the realization is); in particular I want to think about how the various subsections relate (the proportions of the whole) - I can see (hear) links between them (the music sounds very distantly Bach-like ca. 11' in?). I don't really know anything else like this; there is the German filmmaker Kirsten Winter, who has made some good abstract films with composers (but I like your music much better than Elena Kats-Chernin's!). Thank you again for giving me a look; it's very heartening to know someone else is doing work like this. Still just letting the impressions of it seep in, as it were... any genuinely new art is like learning another language (and as you know I love learning languages!) -- thank you, Larson'