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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Magic Mushrooms, Messiaen and the Marsh Chapel Miracle

Scholar, performer and composer Peter Bannister
Peter Bannister has the first installment of what is already a fascinating examination of the connection between psychedelic drugs and religious response. Happily, he leads with reminiscences of two Apparition of the Eternal Church screenings, one at Boston University's Marsh Chapel, where decades earlier Harvard researchers dosed churchgoers with psilocybin.

The Apparition pull-quotes:
Extremely extraordinary exercise in musical phenomenology... The film’s genius lies in its portrayal of the capacity of Messiaen’s music, and by extension any music, to affect human consciousness at an extremely deep level... Undeniably gripping, at times hilariously funny, at others highly disturbing...ranks as one of the most penetrating studies of the nature of musical phenomena that I have ever seen.
Two months into my road trip for the new film (working title: Tie It To My Hand), I've encountered a fairly demoralizing concentration of bumps in the road (though the last week's interview/lessons with Jennifer Balderama MacDonald, Laura Miller and Eisa Davis have gone a long way toward remoralizing me), and kudos five years into a film's life is a rare event. Peter's commentary was nice to wake up to.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

April 6: Kansas earnings

Distracted driving #1: Kansas tilts

Distracted Driving #2: Kansas is flat

After my feverish night in Tuscarora, Gail armed me with a bag of fresh-baked bran muffins and I headed straight for a drugstore in Elko. I didn't feel very well at the outset of my 800-mile drive but that's what off-brand No-Doz and flu medication are for. Next stop was Denver, where I would stay with my cousins, but I'm one of those hybrid-driving mileage slowpokes and with all the medications coursing through my system I had to keep pulling over to pee so it was nearly midnight when I found myself in an opaque fog, in the middle of the Medicine Bow National Forest, going 20 mph while semis passed me at, what, 100? They have the road and the placement of stray deer memorized, apparently, but I didn't, so I gave up on Denver and cousins and pulled over and spread my queen-sized memory foam mattress pad (Craig's List, $60) over my luggage in the back seat and curled up and slept, very well thank you, and woke up six hours later and kept driving. By the time I crossed into Kansas I felt perfectly healthy - whatever was wrong with me, I must have scared the shit out of it. 

Driving through Kansas, it occurred to me that once I landed in Lindsborg, I would have to play the Tchaikovsky concerto for my teachers, Lee Becker and her husband Allan Harlock. So at the next rest stop, I found a little picnic shelter and spent 20 minutes practicing. On my way back to the car, a large man in a plaid shirt and wide white visor stepped out of his Winnebago and handed me a dollar. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

April 5: Tuscarora

Driving instead of flying means you can bring more than one carry-on.

I spent some time in the last few days thinking up new names for the blog. "Paul Festa's Inability to Commit" was one; "Paul Festa's Sporadic Contribution to the Global Problem of Information Overload" was another. I was trying to think of a way to avoid boxing myself in to a commitment as foolhardy as "giving you fever every Monday in 2011" and finally decided it would be easier to just update the blog than to rename it. As it happens the archive is brimming with new material, thanks to the recent travels that prevented me from updating this in the first place. New blog resolution: keep it short, screw Mondays.

First stop (April 5th) was Tuscarora, NV, where I stayed up late with the painter Ron Arthaud reminiscing about Juliette. As the evening wore on I began feeling a little woozy and went to my bed downright feverish. It was a strange fever, which felt concentrated in my muscles so that if I stretched very hard the feeling was relieved, somewhat, so I stretched this way, and that way, arms and lower back and neck and hands and legs and then I started over again, because every time I stopped stretching that feverish feeling became oppressive, like it was tightening me up into an undifferentiated mass the size of a billiard ball. If I wanted to remain differentiated, I had to stretch. So I stretched, and kept stretching, until finally, about 90 minutes into this, I realized, darling, Scribble, you're not stretching. You're writhing. 

Tuscarora Community Center and Tourist Information Office

Greater Tuscarora

Leaving Tuscarora - view of Wheeler Mountain (?)

About Me

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.