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American Magus |
Harry Smith | SESSION #2

Presented by Dark Mofo and Salamanca Arts Centre.

An INVISIBLE HOUSE event, curated by Brendan Walls
for Dark Mofo 2018. Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives, New York.

This retrospective ponders
the pioneering film works of Harry Smith :
American filmmaker, painter, folk music historian,
self-professed shaman and occultist.

Some films also feature a live score
performed by local miscreants.
An Australian premiere.


The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music

Filmmaker, musician, painter, mystic and string collector Harry Smith wore many hats during his long, eventful life as a key figure of underground culture through the latter half of the 20th century. In this jubilant documentary, director Rani Singh hones in on Smith’s incalculably influential Anthology of American Folk Music, a remarkable and enduring collection of blues and country classics recorded by the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Roscoe Holcolmb, the Carter Family and the Memphis Jug Band between 1927 and 1934. Smith, an insatiable amateur musicologist, picked up these rare recordings while still in high school, eventually amassing a collection of more than 8,000 “round black ghosts” (in the words of Smith aficionado Greil Marcus) and releasing the best of the bunch on his Anthology in 1959. Singer/songwriter Bob Neuwirth notes that these songs are about “life, death, blood, betrayal, murder, intoxication” and every one of the seven deadly sins. Upon the collection’s rerelease in 1997, music tribute impresario Hal Wilner organised a series of concerts featuring some of today’s most gifted artists taking a crack at their favourite Anthology tracks. Singh has assembled concert footage, interviews and archival images into a fittingly celebratory, rockin’ doc. Transcendent performances by Beth Orton, DJ Spooky, Sonic Youth, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Richard Thompson, Emmylou Harris, Beck and Nick Cave highlight the proceedings, and just wait until you hear Elvis Costello tear into “The Butcher Boy.” The Old, Weird America is a testament to Smith’s impeccable taste in music and that music’s enduring appeal and relevance. As Marcus says, “The weirdness means the story will always be new.”


Saturday 16 June 2018, 3:00pm – 4:30pm

90 minutes


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