Filmmaker Aurélien Bernard captures a creative ritual of London jazz cornerstone Shabaka Hutchings in (reed), a short meditation on the power of sound.
“I am a big advocate of entry points – when you end that circle you always reach the center point,” says London jazz visionary and band leader Shabaka Hutchings in (reed), a meditative portrait of the musician and treatise on ritual and creativity from filmmaker Aurélien Bernard. “The center point is a point of communality in the way that there is no sense of strain in the sound,” continues Hutchings. “It feels like it is a very direct connection between inhalation and exhalation.” The non-linear trajectory between the entry point and the centre, mapped out by the musician with the audience in tow in the moment of performance, is the space Bernard explores in (reed), tracing how a simple ritual, like preparing a saxophone’s reed, can serve as a window into som of the inexplicable power of sound.
“Since sounds differ in their outer expression, this results in space stretching between function and
existence, between performance and effect,” explains Bernard. “It seems the deeper we explore the mystery of sound, the more we are able to trace what’s connecting them. These links are what the musician acknowledges as harmony, which asks how repetition and movements could impact, through rhythm and expression, the search for this harmony.” Though the path of this search might be uncertain, Hutchings’ ritualistic approach to performance enables an initial certainty, the first firm foothold of complex climb, something Bernard picks out in monochromatic close focus, foregrounding his his fingers, his lips and his throat.
Setting Hutchings’ playing in counterpoint against the foggy ambience of Space Afrika‘s 2018 modern classic, Somewhere Decent To Live, Bernard exposes the process of finding solid forms within clouds of what the musician describes as “an undefined source of energy, or power, or knowledge, whatever you want to describe it as.” As though coaxing raw blasts of blistering saxophone from Space Afrika’s dubbed-out smudges, (reed) itself serves as a glimpse into Hutchings’ process, winding its way from words, the nascent sparks of inspiration, through measured inhalation into an urgent exhalation, a burst of sound that arrives through the musician’s ritual, from grounded reed to transcendent frequency.
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