May the Golem be with you

Posted on Apr 6th, 2012 by Jeanne Golan

I fainted a few weeks ago.  Actually swooned at a crowded opening of an art installation.  I’d like to think it had something to do with the show itself – a brilliant flight of fancy and history revolving around the Golem legend by Matt Freedman.   The following day, I got reviews of my ‘performance’ from those who had witnessed it.  “Elegant,” “delicate folding over in the most Scarlet O’Hara way” – and so the spirit of the Golem overtook me for a brief moment.

This idea of a creation from the past finding new life in the present is everywhere in Ullmann for whom, like Golem, Prague was home.  In preparing to talk at the Spertus Institute this month about music and memory in Ullmann, I am happy for the excuse to focus on the narrative of Ullmann’s life as told through his Sonatas.   As a composer who often wove in pre-existing music, what melodies he chose to quote and when he chose to quote them offers autobiographical clues.   As I look around to other contemporary artists, also sees instances of this in film.  Just discovered the work of Bill Morrison –cutting and pasting from lost or forgotten footage to make something new.  Using this technique, he has his own Golem figure in his version of Frankenstein, who was himself a creator of the cut-and-paste variety, even if Mary Shelley dubbed him The Modern Prometheus.

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