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Bill Frisell to Premiere New Work at Ellnora Guitar Festival in Illinois

Guitarist collaborates with filmmaker Bill Morrison for The Great Flood, a multimedia piece about 1927 flood of Mississippi River

Poster for The Great Flood, multimedia collaboration between Bill Frisell and Bill Morrison
Still from The Great Flood
Bill Morrison

The Mississippi River looms large in American history and culture. Mark Twain, Vicksburg, the Great Migration, Bisecting the country both geographically and even culturally, the river is entwined with nearly every aspect of American society, providing a conduit, barrier and, occasionally cause of natural disaster. For guitarist Bill Frisell, it was the latter that inspired him to create a musical work in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. Their multimedia piece of original music and film is called The Great Flood and will debut at Ellnora, Guitar Festival at Krannert Center in Urbanna, Illinois on September 2011.

This is neither artist’s first time at the multimedia rodeo. Frisell has composed numerous scores for silent films, including Buster Keaton films and many more. And the experimental filmmaker Morrison directed Spark of Being, a film based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, that was scored by Dave Douglas. The subject of their collaboration for Ellnora is the often overlooked flood of the Mississippi River in the spring of 1927, when the river broke out of its banks in 145 places and devastated much of the deep South, including uncounted sharecroppers and farmers. Sadly, given the current state of affairs along the same river and the terrible tragedy of Katrina nearly six years ago, the topic of a 1927 disaster seems oddly contemporary.

According to the festival’s artistic advisor, David Spelman, the festival has premiered work this sort of work before. “It’s exciting to have Bill Frisell return to the festival with a project commissioned by Krannert Center,” said Spelman in a press release received at JT. “We’ve presented several world premieres since launching the festival in 2005, including Phil Kline’s large sound installation World on a String and The Long Count, a multimedia work from The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner. Our programming philosophy stems from Krannert Center’s commitment to fostering the art of the future while celebrating the many rich cultural and aesthetic legacies of the past. The Great Flood is a project that perfectly reflects this philosophy.”

Most of the other artists appearing at the guitar festival are non-jazz, but nonetheless notable in the roots music field, including: Calexico, My Brightest Diamond, Richard Thompson, Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub, Sharon Isbin, Taj Mahal, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Adrian Belew, Robert Randolph, The Tony Rice Unit, Cindy Cashdollar, and many others.

For more information about the festival, you can visit their website.

Originally Published