Kesh is a short, sweet composition by Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) and Todd Barton. Recently re-released this CD/LP version of Music and Poetry of the Kesh (RVNG Intl.) has been captured in this solitary Vanessa Renwick film short. The thirty-three year old recording sounds so fresh here, and were previously only available via cassette (on the self-produced Valley Productions), which accompanied the book “Always Coming Home” by Le Guin. Having known the filmmaker from back in the Pacific Northwest I was chuffed to see the association, and likely an homage to the writer’s memory. And memories are tapped into via colorlessness and the reverse negative effect. The field recordings of a watery scape and spoken word use strings to banter nature’s call.
The Eyes Have It: Renwick’s use of montaging Mother Nature with the aid of Bob Landis‘ composed wildlife films straddles a sense of the bare land resilient with animalia in motion and in repose. Le Guin’s humming and sing-song vocal are open-hearted to Barton’s Fairlight. The film opens with the artist’s signature wolf eyes (in the form of her own moon dog) peering through the clouds and over the horizon, it’s poetic. The marriage of audio + visual here is quite Cage-ian but with an earthy understanding of our fragile nature. Depicting the mighty owl taking off to the striking of open piano wire is evocative of the risk of discovery — I personally have only ever seen an owl close up in Oregon myself and always felt as the barely welcome intruder in their territory. The owl’s wide eyes, so glassy and undeterred, leave way for the sudden wise flash of Le Guin looking back to us. It’s like a soundtrack in reverse caught in slo-mo. Simply stunning and perfectly elusive.
Listen to more from the record that inspired the natural splendor of the film: