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Chamnan (1990)

From the FILMS for MUSIC for FILM series
16mm B&W
14 min


The Original score (for piano, percussion & tape) by Douglas Cohen

Original tape sounds by Lawrence F. Brose

Model: Chamnan Thaiprakob

Piano: Michael McCandless

Percussion: Robert Schulz

Restoration funded in part by Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music

Digital transfer by Gordon Nelson, The George Eastman Museum, Rochester NY, USA


In this film, all of the effects, layering of images, and editing were achieved via camera techniques employed during the shoot. However, the rhythms and tempi were all planned and projected before the filming. Chamnan was shot in a single room in Bangkok, in the Reno Hotel, over several days.  This film might be the closest I have come to a self-study. It was an extremely emotional time as my brother had just been killed. I left for Thailand to remove myself from the abstractions of daily living and to spend time with my friend Chamnan. His image is present in most of the film. This film is a meditation on being and that vast space between the self and the other, where the gaze is returned in mute silence and the sense of knowing oneself is shattered.


The soundtrack includes live sounds taped during the time of filming: the television in the room, frogs outside the window, the swimming pool, riding in a taxi, the percussive sounds of coins dropping in the cast-iron pots in the temple of the Reclining Buddha, and the ritual chanting during Buddhist Lent. The sounds were then altered, layered, and edited by composer Douglas Cohen and used as the foundation for live instruments' composition.

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