The Lady of The Garden

Benjamin M. Berlin

In the fall of 1968, Steve Lacy composed some loose musical ideas to act as soundtrack for an art film by Paul Suttman. The film, based on another short film, La Jetée (by Chris Marker), was shot in 16 mm black & white at the American Academy in Rome using fellow artists at the Academy as actors. The surreal film was never finished, but the music, performed by Steve Lacy, Richard Teitelbaum and Jon Phetteplace still exists on tape.

Three years after Paul Suttman's death in 1993, Mark Berlin began making a digital video from a series of photographs Suttman shot illustrating the entire process of modeling, molding and casting a life-size bronze figure of a woman, The Lady of the Garden. The sculpture was finished at the Academy just a year before the film/music project, so Lacy's music seemed appropriate as a score for the video.

"I have tapes of Steve Lacy, Richard Teitlebaum and Jon Phetteplace performing in Rome in 1968. I believe the music was done for a film my father, sculptor Paul Suttman was making. Steve and Paul were friends in Rome, at the American Academy (?). The group, or the film, or both, were called CONTRABAND. I first heard Steve Lacy's music in Rome in 1974, at the apartment of John Dowell. Wow!

"I hope to use some of this music in a video I am making about the creation of a sculpture by my father in Rome in 1967. […]

"Now I can confidently rent equipment to hear these tapes. I'll let you know how they sound. We have been unable to find the Contraband film, but Paul's widow, Virginia Bush (an art historian formerly with the American Academy) is doing comprehensive search for everything ever done by or with Paul. I remember him talking about film in '74, but not since. This is a real pleasure. I've been a Lacy freak for a long time. We were out of town when he played in Portland, where my wife and I live. Alors. The web page is very good, very well written and conceived. […]

"This is exciting. Have been waiting on money from writing jobs, but will finally be able to rent a tape deck next week. It has been strange doing video compositions without the music, only an idea of the music, leaving it loose enough to bring into rhythm later. Definitely in the same spirit, though. One long segment uses 3 visual planes to be tuned to each musician. The controls in digital video are incredible. The only limits are the imagination and the commitment to craft. Paul re-entered my life when I was 16, and only now (at 40) am I able to comit myself to craftsmanship as he did in his work, and as this video requires of me.

Benjamin Mark Berlin