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Harmonic Rooms

Harmonic Rooms is a series of online documentaries about musicians of interest, coolly interweaving interviews, live concerts and the odd performance in front of a stunning natural backdrop. Here, for example, is Josephine Foster, singing on a flower-strewn Spanish hill as a great big sun sets behind her. It’s all the work of Bradford based Harry Wheeler, and his mission statement runs thus: “Inspired by the musicians’ ability to transfix spectators and transform a room for a limited but unique period of time. In love with the history of traditional drinking houses of the UK, the old smoke stained wallpapers, the way the light plays with the carved glass mirrors.”
Freeform percussion whiz Chris Corsano cheerfully and articulately discusses his duo with Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Mick Flower, intercut with concert extracts. Radical lutenist Jozef Van Wissem talks about taking the lute out of the museum and onto the streets, and how his pal Jim Jarmusch makes films with the sensibility of a musician. Then we see Van Wissem playing in a New York club with Jarmusch on guitar.
These are such relaxed films, skillfully edited so your patience is not taxed, but presenting unpressured, open ended conversations.
The live footage is from small venues and chimes well with the experience of being present at this kind of event. In an era of time-poor internet surfing and quick on the draw music journalism, these interviews have the space to stretch out.
Some films are oddly humorous: Mendrugo shows Victor Herrero’s group in an absurdly picturesque Spanish village, paying a surprise visit on a Japanese clarinetist called Taku. They play in Taku’s house and in the village square, a roaming troupe of bohemians. Up north in Hull Boathouse (home of the late Paul Burwell) Mama Baer and Kommissar Hjuler engage in a screamfest with Blue Yodal and Harappian Night Recordings. Like a younger Werner Herzog, Hjuler has a calm and sensible German accented explanation for his very bizarre behavior.
Film maker Wheeler himself plays bass in The Family Elan, led by bouzouki player (and ex-Nalle member) Chris Hladowski, and there’s a short film of their European tour, with audiences dancing to their Bollywood medley. But one of Harmonic Rooms’ finest moments is a film about the mystical minimalist, painter and 12-string guitarist Steffen Basho-Junghans. Music is being played in a daisy field that looks like fairyland but is actually in Thuringia, Germany. Wheeler’s latest project is to put Basho-Junghans in a studio together with young UK guitarist Cam Deas, and document their collaboration. I’ll certainly be watching.
Clive Bell (The Wire)


© Architects of Harmonic Rooms 2005 - 2014