There is a film that is composed only of a man walking out into the desert over and over again. Each scene lasts one minute precisely and is shot head-on. In the first iteration, the man, who sports a light beard, is shown exiting a small wooden house. He slings a backpack over his shoulder and adjusts the waist of his pants. Then he walks out of frame into the desert. In each subsequent iteration, the man changes appearance: sometimes he has no beard, or his beard is a different color, or his face is different, or he is a woman or a child or an animal (horse, dog, cat, and bear are the most frequent animal substitutes). The time of day never changes. The shadows are always the same. The desert never changes. The sun is always in the same place. The film is seven hours long.
Colin Stetson has reimagined Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 as Sorrow. Reimagined in the same way that Dirty Projectors did Black Flag with Rise Above, or Christopher Logue did Homer’s Iliad with War Music—it’s a cover, in a sense, but it’s so full of interpolation and new creation that it becomes a different, separate thing. Sorrow is a work of obsession and devotion. Stetson has remarked that the impetus for the project came from listening to Górecki’s work over and over again and wanting to understand it fully. What Stetson has made is a Symphony No. 3 that seethes and crashes, that builds and dissipates like a thunderstorm. There is Stetson’s sax and his sister Megan’s voice—those elements guide you through the lashing percussion and the squalling strings. This album is a big, staggering piece of music, full of pockets of detail that don’t become apparent or parseable until the third or fourth time through; it rewards sustained attention and repeated listens.
Dry desert highway. Sand, in dunes and not. Long lines of telephone wire strung on desiccated poles. Abandoned ranches. The weirdness of high heat. Ruckled rockwalls. The pure white slanting light of mid-morning. Everything warped. Trees shrunk low to the ground. A 10,000 year-old creosote bush. Woods’s City Sun Eater in the River of Light is a sweet and beautiful record, a desert country record, a sun-blasted road record. A long-drives-to-nowhere-and-back kind of record.
A young woman jumps on top of a car (on fire) and yells her lover’s name out over the crowd (milling/mobbing) in the street. Five people, all not the young woman’s lover, look up hopefully at the sound of their name. Not you, the young woman says, shaking her head. Someone else.