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CIFF Spotlight – Music Meets Sport: The fabulous fusion behind Contemporary Color

American Flag Girl - Bill Ross

Wednesday, April 5 at 9:00 PM (Code: CONT05)
Friday, April 7 at 11:10 AM (Code: CONT07)

Use code CELLAR at checkout to receive $2 off the cost of admission; go to www.clevelandfilm.org to purchase tickets.

Part performance piece, part documentary, and musical experiment: Contemporary Color may be the most fantastic fusion film of 2016. David Byrne is a man of many hats: lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the American new wave band Talking Heads, a writer, visual artist, and winner of Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe awards.

Yet one thing Byrne probably couldn’t have imagined in his future was facilitating a yearlong program, culminating with “Contemporary Color” a performance event held at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center in 2015, and the documentary directed by brothers Bill and Turner Ross that captured the project on film.

Color guards are normally associated with high school and college level marching bands, in that they too perform but with recorded music, using flags, sabers, and rifles to execute certain, often aerobatic, choreography. It’s as much of a creative endeavor as a sport, generally using thematic music to generate multi-song programs.

“I had an idea, kind of by accident. ‘What if they had live music?’ That’s the world I know. What if you brought in live musicians, singers, bands so that it ramped it up to another level?” said Byrne addressing members of “Field of View” for the first time, a year out from the final show, in their home gymnasium. The outcome was a dazzling re-imagination of color guard outside of a competitive realm, incorporating modern dance and transforming what is normally considered sport into stand-alone pieces of art set to, in most cases, progressive electronic music.

St.Vincent - combo of Jarred Alterman and Wyatt Garfield

St.Vincent – combo of Jarred Alterman and Wyatt Garfield

Ten teams were selected and paired with original compositions by Nelly Furtado, Tom Krell of How To Dress Well, Devonte Hynes of Blood Orange, Zola Jesus, Lucius, Money Mark & AD-ROCK (Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys), St. Vincent, Ira Glass & Nico Muhly, and tUnE-yArDs to choreograph routines. For the final act, the composers came to the Barclay Center for a live performance on stage with their color guard teams.

In the same way that audiences are dazzled by competitive dancing reality TV shows, the moves that these color guard teams lay down will leave you in awe. “I think it’s a wonderful, peculiar, under-appreciated and very creative art form and that deserves to be seen and experienced—in a slightly different context, by a wider public,” Byrne said in a statement.

For music lovers, the soundtrack could not be more perfect, a definite added bonus is being able to experience a live concert with not one, but 11 of my personal favorite artists writing the score. In fact, the music frames the performances like a dystopian acid trip, so perfect to dance to that I couldn’t help creating a playlist of my past favorites from these artists.

Check it out on Spotify here and view it for a limited time at the Cleveland International Film Festival this week.

David Byrne Photo - Turner Ross

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Rachel Hunt

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