Among the other movies we stumbled into that summer was "The Music Lovers," a biography of Tchaikovsky with Richard Chamberlain in the starring role. This movie was taken extremely seriously by others in attendance, and I think developed some kind of cult status, but Ty and I thought it hilarious. It focused on the composer's homosexuality, and IMDB describes it as a "compelling and bizarre story" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066109/; little did we realize at the time how well it was typecast.
This was the first of a trilogic biopia of the classical composer genre directed by Ken Russell. The third movie in the trilogy was Lisztomania, starring Roger Daltrey of the Who. This was far and away the most publicized - and roundly criticized - of the three flicks, what with Daltrey in the lead (Russell had directed the movie version of "Tommy" earlier that year). I missed Liszt.
All of which is to connect to Tift Merritt's photography display in Raleigh last spring (2009), "Other Countries," which was hosted by the Mahler Gallery. I've got a neat little booklet from the exhibition containing copies of all the photos that were on display, along with some of Tift's notes about how the photos tie together with the time she spent in Paris writing the album "Another Country."
I went to the exhibit twice. The first time was the night of the accompanying concert at the Fletcher Opera House in Raleigh, when I was probably still contagious with what may have been the first case of swine flu to hit the Triangle. I'd been at MerleFest the weekend before (as had Tift), where there had been a Mariachi Band, and the first news of swine flu made NPR then. When I got back home, I started getting a sore throat, and the day before Tift's show I spiked a fever. It's even possible I passed the bug on to Tift, who was a bit under the weather a couple days later when she was performing in England. Anyway, not because of the flu but because of the concert, I was only able to rush through the Mahler.
A few weeks later, just before the exhibit closed, I convinced my wife to drop by the Mahler with me, and looked again at the the photographs. I noticed on the opposite wall a montage of scribbled notes lacquered to a canvas; I'd caught a glance of this part of the display the first time through but thought they were some other artist's work. On closer inspection, I discovered it was an assortment of Tift's actual notes as she composed the songs to "Another Country" in her Paris apartment.
Now, I liked the photos, don't get me wrong, there are some interesting portraits, nice geometries, and one or two excellent combinations of portraiture AND geometry. There are a couple of shots I believe from the Rodin museum - the same museum where my wife had bumped a pedestal and very nearly spilled one of Rodin's hands masterpieces onto the floor, where surely it would have broken.
But I was overwhelmed by the bits of text, which were both nicely arranged as a work of visual art, in themselves, as well as a window into the creative heart of the artist.
Odd that my father would have specialized in paper crosses - he never went to church.