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This project was successfully funded on November 10, 2010

The Great Flood

by Bill Frisell


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The Great Flood will be an evening long suite - 75 minutes of original music to be composed and performed by Bill Frisell with accompanying film and staging by Bill Morrison, based on the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and the ensuing transformation of American society and music. Frisell’s wide-ranging musical palette will use elements of the vocabulary in American roots music, but as always, it will be refracted through his own inimitable lens and filters to yield a highly personal and illuminating musical vision, with the overall objective of contributing to a journey of discovery for the audience.  The band will feature Ron Miles (cornet), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums).

The film will be based on actual footage shot of the 1927 Mississippi River flood, including source material from the Fox Movietone Newfilm Archive, and the Pathé collection.  As all footage documenting this catastrophe was shot on the volatile nitrate stock, what footage remains is pock-marked and partially deteriorated. As with their previous collaboration on the film "The Mesmerist", the distorted images of a nitrate print suggest the different planes of reality in the story - those lived, dreamt or remembered. A similar device will be at work in "The Great Flood", where the bubbles and washes of decaying footage are associated with the destructive force of rising water. In contrast to the steady gaze of a newsreel camera, which tends to keep its subject matter at arm's length, the footage itself, in this case, seems to have been bathed in the same water as the images depicted on it.

Raising $20,000 is the last portion of the development funds that Frisell and Morrison need to wrap up their project. It will allow Morrison to access more archives on-line, allowing him to help save time and money that he would otherwise have to spend on travel.  These funds will also enable Frisell to take a grassroots tour with the band that will be performing with him to New Orleans to develop the music, following the path of the sharecroppers exodus to the North ending in Chicago focusing on how their migration transformed the Delta Blues to R&B and eventually to Rock n’ Roll.  Frisell works best from experiential inspiration rather than going into a studio to write the music so he truly feels something authentic rather than writing from some abstract point of view.

Of course floods have been in the headlines recently – not just the Katrina flood which immediately comes to mind, but the earthquake/tsunami disasters that have taken place as well, pitting man against forces that are larger than himself which call on a community to assist and, in some ways, lead to an evolution of the people.  These are the ideas that Frisell and Morrison are interested in pursuing with this piece through their reflection on the human spirit -  particularly through the lens of the Mississippi Flood of 1927.

Frisell and Morrison have known each other for almost 20 years, but have never had a chance to work on a project from the ground up.  They have collaborated in the past, but only with Morrison using pre-existing music of Frisell’s in his short films.   “The Great Flood” would be the first evening length piece they will embark on.  Such an opportunity to work together from the beginning is very exciting to them.  The first performance will be premiered in September, 2011.

Both Bills would deeply appreciate your support!

    • November 10, 2010 Paul Garner Community Member

      I really hope you can bring this to London one day. I pledged several times over because I was so impressed when I saw 'The Mesmerist' along with the Buster Keaton and Jim Woodring films at the Barbican a couple of years ago. Thanks for the great music.

    • November 08, 2010 Zack Avshalomov Artist

      Don't miss Bill Frisell Live in Los Angeles, CA tonight, 8pm @ Largo!

    • October 29, 2010 William R Schermerhorn Community Member

      I can't think of a more intriguing project to undertake, and it's such a match for Bill Frisell. For all the moments of wonder, mystery, dread and enchantment he's given to my musical thoughtscape, my donation is a down payment of thanks.