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In Farnsworth Score, Marfa-based composer explores sound and vision

May 4th, 2017 under Arts
Rob Mazurek

Rob Mazurek

By CAMERON DODD
cameron@bigbendnow.com

MARFA — Musician and composer Rob Mazurek considers himself a sound sculptor. He is trained in jazz and classical music but thinks very visually about sound. That physical approach to sound guided the creation The Farnsworth Score, his collaboration with the filmmaker Lee Ann Schmitt that screens this weekend at the CineMarfa film festival.

The film features the Farnsworth House, a landmark in Plano, Illinois, built in 1929 by the late German-American architect Ludwig Miles Van der Rohe. The house is modern and minimalist. There is at least as much outdoor patio space attached to the house as there is interior space. The walls are almost entirely glass, giving occupants panoramic views of the Illinois forest and Fox River.

It’s a hallmark of international architecture and a building close to Mazurek’s heart.

“The Farnsworth house is about an hour west of Chicago, very close to where my folks lived,” Mazurek told the Big Bend Sentinel. “When I would visit them I would visit the house, almost religiously. I always wanted to do some kind of piece centered around that architecture… It’s striking in a way that I guess could be construed as cold by some but for me it’s one of the most human and warm buildings I could imagine.”

Mazurek and his wife Brit won a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in Chicago and reached out the California-based filmmaker Lee Ann Schmitt.

“I’ve always admired her films and thought she’d be a great person to collaborate with,” Mazurek said.

The collaboration has Schmitt’s careful filming capturing Mazurek playing cornet inside and outside the house. The film’s score was influenced by and features the house itself, Mazurek said. The wide window pains reflect and refract light and nature through the house across as a day progresses and the sun rises and sets. Mazurek set out to build the film and composition as if it were the architecture. The score feature’s Mazurek’s cornet playing as well as samples of sounds from inside and outside the house, including sounds form nature but also the house’s electricity system and air conditioner.

“The composition was really based on the idea of inside sound, outside sound and the large pains of glass representing silence,” Mazurek said. “There is as much silence in the film as there are structured sound. So I took al those elements and built a score after what I saw.”

In addition to his musical work, Mazurek paints and sculpts. He said that visual creativity was influential in his conception of the Farnsworth Score.

“I conceived it as a musical and visual score using sound from inside and outside the house with the windows acting as a barrier, acting as a catalyst for the idea of silence,” he said. “I started with the idea for this shot of the inside the house from the bell of the horn slowly pulling back and revealing the architecture.”

The Farnsworth Score, Mazurek said, is an experience as much as it is a documentary.

“The object of the film is to try to see architecture wonder in a different light and see it in a different light,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s to understand anything, but just to experience sound in a different way and see in a different way.”

The film screens at the free CineMarfa Film Festival this Friday, May 5 at the Lumberyard. Mazurek and Schmitt will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening.

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