How does a group of musicians come together to create an entirely new work of art? Work, a new film from director Mani Mehrvarz, follows Wooden Cities, the Buffalo-based collective of performers and composers, as they record their latest album.
Continuing our city’s storied history of experimental and political music, Wooden Cities has long aimed to bring music by Buffalo composers to a wider audience. Their work ranges from free improv to the thoroughly notated—and everything in between. While Wooden Cities’ latest album is the culmination of years of work, bringing together the most exciting pieces from their history as a group, each performance is entirely unique.
Work captures the collective’s democratic process, as the ensemble decides what kind of music they want to make—and the new Wooden Cities’ album begins to take form. A testament to passion of the performers and the thrill of creation, the film itself is a work of interdisciplinary art, melding documentary footage, music, and cutting-edge animation.
WORK documents the recording process of the first album by the Buffalo-based new music ensemble Wooden Cities. The film features 56 minutes filmed during their summer 2018 recording sessions, as well as director Mani Mehrvarz’s interviews with Wooden Cities’ musicians and ensemble director Brendan Fitzgerald. The film also includes cutting-edge animations to two sections of Frederic Rzewski’s The Price of Oil (recorded for the first time ever for this album), emphasizing the piece’s themes of labor and environmental justice, and made using stop motion techniques amounting to over 80,000 frames. Also, featured are Cardew’s Red Flag Prelude—a musical commemoration of the martyrs of the early labor movement—and Wooden Cities’ Chain Gang, a dynamic free improvisation.
Directed by MANI MEHRVARZ Music by WOODEN CITIES Animation by MARYAM MULIAEE Produced by BUFFALO DOCUMENTARY PROJECT & WOODEN CITIES Featuring BRENDAN FITZGERALD, MEGAN KYLE, ETHAN HAYDEN, NICHOLAS EMMANUEL, EVAN COURTIN, KATIE WEISSMAN
“This striking film provides welcome opportunity to meet the musicians of the Buffalo, N.Y. ensemble, Wooden Cities; and see its artistic and educational mission come to life through a series of interviews, rehearsals, and an extended, animated performance. Recommended!”
— Jeffrey Stadelman, Composer
“This film shows how making music makes a difference and how making a film about it may truly be the only answer to those who would rather make war. When a film emulates the subject and the art it brings to life, and when music is about life, you get a film that works. Watch WORK, and be moved. Be moved to action.”
— Carine Mardorossian, Professor of English
“With an extremely important and present political message, the film, through the dramatization archeology of media, shows us the deep roots of neoliberal exploitation.
The compositional structure of the film equally emphasizes the poetic-typographic, musical, graphic-animation treatment of the structure, in comprehensively successful experimentation with form.””
— The Unforeseen – International Experimental Film Festival
“[Wooden Cities’] playing is brilliant. I’m rather familiar with Eastman’s Stay On It and I’m impressed with this realization, which is true to the original yet taken to another level. Big thumbs up.”
— Jan Williams, Percussionist
“The documentary is an intimate and sensitive look at the professional new music ensemble, Wooden Cities. This young ensemble of musicians’ musical gifts are substantial, and their political convictions are admirable. The film orbits around the ensemble’s rehearsals of a Frederic Rzewski’s composition entitled The Price of Oil, which carries an environmentally important message. A wonderful example of the confluence of art and politics.”
— Cort Lippe, Composer