Jordan Belson - Film Notes
"…no other non-objective filmmaker has successfully developed an articulate non-verbal language to the extent or complexity of Belson." (Dr. William Moritz in Film as Film, Arts Council of Great Britain: London, 1980, p. 62).
Mambo, 1951. "...the rather expressionistic oval forms, bright colors, and calligraphic designs of Mambo...at times resembles the texture of Willliam Baziote's paintings." -- Sitney, P. Adams, Visionary Film. Third edition, p. 259.
Bop Scotch, 1952. "[seems] to reveal a hidden soul and life-force in 'inanimate' objects" -William Moritz, in L'art du Mouvement 1919-1996, Paris: Centre Pompidou 1996.
Mandala, 1953,Seance, 1959,
"I think of Allures as a combination of molecular structures and astronomical events mixed with subconscious and subjective phenomena - all happening simultaneously. the beginning is almost purely sensual, the end perhaps totally nonmaterial. It seems to move from matter to spirit in some way."
"...it took a year and a half to make, pieced together in thousands of different ways....Allures actually developed out of images I was working with in the Vortex Concerts." (Jordan Belson, quoted in Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood, p. 160-162).
"The film does manage to transport whoever is looking at it out of the boundaries of the self." - Belson, quoted in Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, p. 167
"In Re-entry he successfully synthesizes the Yogic and the cosmological elements in his art for the first time by forcefully abstracting and playing down both of them...From an opening of symmetrically ordered dots, moving along the plane of the flat screen and along illusionary lines of depth, the film moves, as if impelled by a directional force, through a fluid series of gaseous colors with a single metaphoric allusion to solar prominences." -- Sitney, P. Adams, Visionary Film. Third edition, p. 260.
Phenomena, 1965. See Callenbach, Ernest. "Phenomena and Samadhi." Film Quarterly 21, no. 3 (Spring 1968): 48-9
"It is primarily an abstract cinematic work of art inspired by Yoga and Buddhism. Not a description or explanation of Samadhi." Belson, quoted in MacDonald, A Critical Cinema 3
"...Momentum is Belson's most serene and gentle film since Allures. This treatment of the sun as an almost dreamlike hallucinatory experience is both surprising and curiously realistic." - Youngblood, p. 176
World, 1970, 16mm, color, sound
Compared with Allures, Meditation places greater emphasis on the spiritual significance of the mind's journey inwards, as is indicated by two quotations Belson included in his program notes for the first screening of the film: "By diving deep through your spiritual eye you will see into the fourth dimension, aglow with the wonders of the inner world. It is hard to get there, but how beautiful it is! (Yogananda)," and, "I saw a shining ocean, endless, living, blissful. From all sides luminous waves, with a roaring sound, rushed toward me, engulfed and drowned me; I lost all awareness of outward things. (Ramakrishna)." -- Program notes for the "World Premier" of Meditation, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California, as quoted in Wees, William, Light Moving in Time, p. 132-33
Meditation is an extended visual metaphor of a mind in meditation. Its strength does not lie in the accuracy with which it represents specific details of meditative states—the "shining ocean," "luminous waves," "diving deep through your spiritual eye," and so on—but in its fidelity to the forms light is given by visual processes within the central nervous system. The specks of light and misty, glowing colors, the symmetry and circles, the mutating forms, are characteristic of hallucinations of many kinds—though they seldom achieve the organic unity of Meditation —and they recur in many variations throughout Belson's work as a whole. -- Wees, p. 133
Meditation is “a poetic, abstracted account of the meditational experience, inspired – according to Belson – by the words of three spiritual masters: Yogananda, Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana Maharshi…” (1972 Pyramid Films notes).
Meditation is one of 100 films on the “Essential Cinema” list compiled in 1969 by P. Adams Sitney, Jonas Mekas and others at the founding of Anthology Film Archives. (CVM note)
Usually the subjects I chose to build images around had some kind of traditional form of their own that I found useful in constructing my film. Take Chakra (1972), for instance. If you study the chakras (the psychic centers in the body), you find that there are seven of them…They’re usually depicted as arranged along the spinal column and described starting from the bottom, going to the top. Each chakra has its own unique characteristics, and centuries of elaboration and analysis have accumulated around these characteristics. ... In Chakra, I was able to transfer the traditional order of the chakras into a film, starting with the first (lower) chakra and working up to the seventh (top) chakra…
While I was doing the soundtrack for Chakra, I came across a list of the sounds people have reported hearing when in deep meditation, traditionally about ten sounds. The first is what they describe as the sound of the honey-intoxicated bee. Then there’s the sound of a motor and the sound of a bell, the sound of a flute, and the sound of thunder. I just went right down the list, exactly as listed in the book, and put those sounds on the soundtrack to accompany the chakras. - Belson, interview with Scott MacDonald, quoted in A Critical Cinema 3
Light, 1973, 16mm, color, sound
Cycles, 1974, (collaboration with Stephen Beck,) Pyramid Film Notes (pdf)
Music of the Spheres, 1977 and 2002 versions, 16mm, color, sound (abridged version, 2002)
Music of the Spheres explores the harmonic order of the solar system. As Pythagoras wrote, “There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres.” (CVM)
1977 Pyramid Films notes: “This new film by Jordan Belson connects abstract, cosmic images with the earthly world we know…The abstract order of mathematics and space produces the endless variations of form that composes the visible world – this film weaves their relationships into an aesthetic experience.”
Mysterious Journey, 1997, See Jordan Belson, Last of the Great Masters by William Moritz, online at CVM Library.
Epilogue (completed on video), 2005, (NASA Art Program Grant, Commissioned by The Hirshhorn Museum for the 2005 Visual Music exhibition).
LSD, c. 1962. "An hallucinatory rocket thrust through the apeture of the microconscious, into the nuclear nucleus of the Pluriverse." (Belson)
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All stills from films (c) Center for Visual Music