Sunday, November 3, 2013

Movements: A Film by Anne Berrini on Being One Self Within Two Cultures

In her splendid film about the life and character of Ursula Mamlok, Berrini succeeds beautifully in presenting a multi-layered portrait of the dilemma of all modern music and musicians, not just of her subject.

The Yellow Submarine we all inhabit is always multi-cultural, and increasingly so.  Not all of us have experienced forced displacement from our native land.  Yet for many American musicians defining what is native can be a real dilemma.  We are assigned Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart as if their music is the real thing on which our musical identities depend.  Well, maybe.   But maybe not so much.

Rather than define this dilemma, Berrini, with the insightful collaboration of Bettina Brand, has observed it playing itself out in a kind of reverse action: The German-born young Mamlok, newly arrived in America at age 16, has devoted a lifetime to finding her voice, affirming her voice, becoming a world citizen whose identity spans not just an ocean but centuries of the musics of profoundly singular minds.  That she is completely at home in their company is evidenced in the splendid performances her music evinces whenever and wherever it is played.