"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Carved presidents

"Wounded Knee is empty and quiet. No visitors come to remember. Yet there would be no United States without the persecution and expulsion for which Wounded Knee has become a symbol."

Laced with loss & ghosts, Stephan Mathieu's Sacred Ground soundtrack (out recently on his own Schwebung label) is - sorry for the bombast - about as profound as music gets. 

While the claim is both grandiloquent & a bit banal, since all of his work has enormous depthSG seems a special case all the same. Mathieu's empyreal, gathering sound takes on even more weight within (& in the service of) a sustained enquiry into persecution & expulsion. 

The music's insistence, a kind of fierce ethereality, underscores the film's themes - the forgotten slaughter of Native Americans, the juxtaposition of the Wounded Knee & Mt Rushmore sites (made even more painful by the Black Hills' spiritual resonance for the indigenous people), the descendants' shocking poverty. 

The fit of sound & subject is strikingly apt - you could almost say it makes Mathieu a co-author of SG... 

With more aptness, the release is dedicated to Herzog soundtracker Florian Fricke, incidentally.

Sacred Ground Trailer from Ludwig Schmidtpeter

"What do the Native Americans think about this perennial mass tourism that is happening on their own ground? Do the visitors know that the granite spires of the Black Hills into which the presidents were carved are sacred to the Indians of the Midwest? 

What happens when the perspective is reversed? When a Lakota Indian becomes the director of Mt Rushmore? When white Americans stand at the sober mass grave of slaughtered Indians? How do the tourists confront the abject poverty of the victims’ descendants?

How do people live with the presence of the past in the present? 

Is it possible for America to come to terms with its history?"

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