Monmouth University is in West Long Branch, NJ along the Jersey Shore. It was nice to a get a little closer to nature as I walked along the town’s boardwalk. The shore here is flat and sandy with man made rock jetties ever 100 yards or so. Donna Dolphin, my host at MU, said they are there to help with beach erosion.
On my walk I thought about our connection to nature, which is a major reason I live in Maine–so I can be closer to nature. One of my films, Wilderness and Spirit, A Mountain Called Katahdin, is about Maine’s tallest mountain and northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It was this film that helped connect me with Marian McPartland.
When I first contacted Marian about making a film on her career I sent her a copy of Wilderness and Spirit and another film for her to preview. It wasn’t until a year later when I was filming Marian’s concert piece, A Portrait of Rachel Carson, that I found out that she was an advocate for environmental causes. It was nice to learn that both Marian and I have a passion about the natural world.
Katahdin is a Penobscot word meaning Great Mountain. My connection to the Penobscot people started while doing an artist-in-residency in animating Penobscot stories with the students at Indian Island School. Indian Island, the Penobscot Reservation, is in the Penobscot River. Katahdin is the source of the Penobscot River and is then the source of the people and their culture.
In Wilderness and Spirit, I document the annual Katahdin 100 Run. As Barry Dana, Penobscot chief, explains, it is not a race but a way to renew their connection to their culture by retracing the ancient route of a 100 miles from Indian Island to the base of Katahdin. When the runners enter the camp at Katahdin they are greeted by drummers and singers who sing a song in their honor, an honor song.
A section in In Good Time is on Marian’s improvisations and has a similarity to the Penobscot honor song. Marian does musical portraits of her guests and friends. I think Marian would agree that her musical portraits are a way of honoring a person. So that ancient tradition lives on in all types of music. Music brings us closer to ourselves and others. There is something in music that reaches us on a deeper spiritual level and playing a song to honor someone is a powerful thing to do. In Penobscot music and in Marian’s A Portrait of Rachel Carson the music also reminds us of our connection to nature and to Mother Earth.
Post by Huey, OSIP Touring Filmmaker