Saturday, May 17, 2008

Musica Surfica - A Finless Fantasia


There's a line in "Cyprus Avenue" - that song of songs from the better back catalogue of Van Morrison - where he stutters "my tongue gets tied, every, every, every time I try to speak". I've had the same problem trying to articulate a long overdue review that would do justice to Musica Surfica - a sublime film shot on King Island, Australia that tracks the progress of a group of extraordinary surfers as they embark on a "grand adventure" where classical music collides with radical surfing.

(I have to thank Mick Sowry, the film's writer and director for his generosity in shipping me an advance copy of the DVD. I first "met" Mick through his Safe To Sea site where humour, insight and humanity meet waves. Life, art and surfing - like it says just under his blog's header. Highly recommended reading.)

If the film's premise sounds peculiar, perhaps it's understandable. There's only fourteen Enigma(tic) Variations but countless more ways to define what that label - "Classical music" - actually means. For many, I suppose, the genre still conjures up stuffy concert halls and a rigidity of musical expression that speaks of times past, not present. If there were any truth in that stiff and stultifying perception, the lead violinist of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Richard Tognetti, blows it out of the water with the fluidity and grace of his bow, strings and not least, his surfboard.

Richard gets together with the mercurial, driven Derek Hynd (of whom I read an interesting piece here)- a surfer with a bagful of other talents to boot who wants - initially at least - to dig deep into the surfing heritage of Hawaii and the Olo style wooden boards they rode. This reflection on what has been see's his vision translated into a gathering of surfers riding a variety of finless boards. Some of these surfers are dudes like Tom Carroll who you follow flailing finless until he masters what he's always known. At one point, one of Derek's mates describes his view of modern surfing as "function without flair" and in this experiment, it strikes me that Derek is passing on some pointers for a generation shackled by sponsors and the profiteers.

But somewhere in this work the surfing and the music mesh - and magically so. For me, this is mirrored beautifully when the legendary (a much bandied but here entirely justified description) Tom Wegener compares his shaping skills and the resonance of crafting a wooden board to a violin and Tognetti reciprocates by comparing Wegener to a luthier.

However you ride a wave, there's something about the experience that's like painting on a moving canvas. Time loses measure. The sea pumps, pushes, pounds and plays all around you - an oceanic soundtrack. For me, surfing equals art. There are few endeavours that prove this point so well as Musica Surfica. Where and how can you get yourselves a copy? Watch this space.


Anonymous said...

richard tognetti is great. I haven't heard of this film but will be watching out for it

did you put in that cyprus hill reference just for me :-)

I'm playing it now.....

surfingjoss said...

Tha would be great if we could see a sample of Tom... Finless!!!
Thanks for your comment BB.

Anonymous said...

Classical music meets finless surfing? A well tasted pairing.