Speaking for Trees - 2004

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Speaking for Trees - 2004

Post  Nicolaoua on Sun 20 Nov - 15:08

Speaking for Trees (SFT), dvd live sorti en 2004*, est l'un des projets les plus expérimentaux de la carrière de Cat Power. Réalisé par le photographe Mark Borthwick, "SFT" s'apparente en effet davantage aux films d'Andy Warhol qu'aux habituelles captations de concerts proposées par les maisons de disques. En lieu et place d'une salle de spectacle aux effets de lumière travaillés et au montage recherché, l'action de Speaking for Trees se déroule dans une clairière, où Chan Marshall, pieds nus et entourée d'arbres, joue face à une caméra en plan fixe! Austère à l'extrême, le film ne comporte d'ailleurs aucun gros plan sur la chanteuse dont on ne peut que deviner le visage pendant les 1h42 de ce concert. Outre les chansons jouées par Cat Power, la bande-son du film est composée par les criquets et par le vent qui s'engouffre dans les branches. Naturalisme...

Si le DVD est sorti en 2005, il a été filmé lors de l'été 2002, au moment où Chan Marshall travaillait sur l'enregistrement de You are Free. La proximité entre les 2 œuvres est d'ailleurs illustrée par la photo de la pochette de You are Free, prise par Mark Borthwick, où l'on retrouve Cat Power, à peine visible, au milieu des arbres.

Musicalement, l'intérêt de Speaking for Trees est majeur. C'est à la fois l'unique live officiel de Cat Power et sa dernière publication en solo avant le virage pris avec The Greatest et son accompagnement par le Dirty Delta Blues Band. La fin d'un chapitre en quelque sorte...

(Chan par Mark Borthwick)

La set list de ce concert est composée de ses propres compositions et de ses désormais fameuses reprises, ce qui nous donne à nouveau l'occasion de découvrir un peu plus les influences musicales de Chan Marshall. Nulle surprise donc de retrouver entre autres 3 (!) versions de Knocking on Heaven's door de Bob Dylan ou Lord Help the poor and needy, que l'on entendra elle de nouveau sur Jukebox.
Parmi les "friandises" offertes par le film, on découvre avec intérêt une proto version d'I don't blame You, à l'époque pas encore enregistrée, ainsi que la toute première apparition de Love & communication, que l'on retrouvera, méconnaissable, sur The Greatest.
Outre la reprise de Dylan, une autre chanson est jouée à 3 reprises: From Fur City, titre magnifique composé à la mémoire de Benjamin smoke, chanteur et ami de Chan, mort en 1999. Je vous invite d'ailleurs à écouter l'extraordinaire version de cette chanson disponible sur le documentaire de Jem Cohen Benjamin Smoke(youtube est votre ami...).

Chan joue également 2 fois Sad, sad song, de M.Ward, connu aujourd'hui pour être le "Him" du duo "She & Him" qu'il compose avec Zooey Deschanel.
On retrouve le même M.Ward sur le CD qui accompagne le DVD de Speaking for Trees, qui ne comporte qu'une seule chanson de 18 minutes, Willie Deadwilder, signée Chan Marshall/M.Ward. Si d'aventure vous êtes moyennement intéressé par le cinéma expérimental, j'ai le regret de vous annoncer que Willie Deadwilder est indispensable à votre discothèque...
A noter que si les 2 chansons ne partagent pas la même mélodie, une partie des paroles de Willie Deadwilder se retrouve sur le titre Willie de The Greatest.

Speaking for Trees est une œuvre aride et par moments frustrante mais néanmoins incontournable pour tout fan de Cat Power.

(Photo: Mark Borthwick)
La set list du DVD:

"Time Is on My Side" (Jerry Ragovoy as Norman Meade)
"Night Time/ Back of Your Head" (Alex Chilton/Chan Marshall)
"Rule the Islands"
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan)
"From Fur City"
"I Want"
"Dream/ Blue Moon/ Try a Little Tenderness" James Campbell/Reginald Connelly/Lorenz Hart/Chan Marshall/Richard Rodgers/ Harry M. Woods
"From Fur City"
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan)
"Farewell My Enemy"
"Sad, Sad, Song" (M. Ward)
"Rule the Islands"
"Night Time/ Back of Your Head" (Alex Chilton/Chan Marshall)
"Sophisticated Lady" (Duke Ellington/Irving Mills/Mitchell Parish)
"I Don't Blame You"
"Dream/ Blue Moon/ Try a Little Tenderness" (James Campbell/Reginald Connelly/Lorenz Hart/Chan Marshall/Richard Rodgers/ Harry M. Woods)
"The Party"
"Funny Things"
"Love and Communication"
"From Fur City"
"Sad, Sad, Song" (M. Ward)
"Night Time/ Back of Your Head" (Alex Chilton/Chan Marshall)
"Sophisticated Lady" (Duke Ellington/Irving Mills/Mitchell Parish)
"I Want"
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Bob Dylan)
"Lord, Help the Poor and Needy" (Traditionnel)

Les titres dont les auteurs ne sont pas précisés sont de Chan Marshall.
* Le dvd est sorti en 2004 aux USA mais en 2005 en Europe.


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Information about Speaking For Trees

Post  Cokelike on Wed 9 May - 8:32

From Chan's interview with Scott Kara for the New Zealand Herald, 2/11/05:

When asked about her latest release, Speaking For Trees - a film of her performing in the countryside by experimental film-maker, and friend, Mark Borthwick - she is hesitant.

Chan: Is that what this interview is about? Because I don't know what I could say about [Speaking For Trees], (she laughs).

Why not?

Chan: I didn't even know it would be released [in New Zealand]. An artist friend of mine wanted to do a project and film me, and I did it and then later the idea came out of releasing it and I agreed. But I never thought anybody ... I thought it would just be seen in a few galleries in the world. I didn't think it would be released, or seen as much, so I was just doing whatever I was doing at that time.

During the nearly two-hour performance she walks in and out of shot, coos to the woods behind her, and pushes her T-shirt sleeves up to form a singlet. There is no sign of amplifiers and microphones, just her and her electric guitar meandering through a collection of random songs. You can't even see her face because the camera is too far away.

Chan: That's what he kept telling me when we talked about releasing it. So I was happy (she laughs). I just thought it was some art piece for my friend. I think he wanted to capture the action ... I don't know what the hell he wanted. I don't look at it as a performance.

The DVD package comes with a CD containing the 18-minute long track, Willie Deadwilder, which gently unravels, virtually into nothing.

Chan: I'd just woken up. I was asleep, it's like I'm yawning in the beginning, and it just goes on and on and on. It's a long song.


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Re: Speaking for Trees - 2004

Post  silent-machine on Thu 30 Aug - 13:26

I love the book that comes with the dvd. So many cool drawings and pictures. Alot of the same images as featured on the artwork for You Are Free.

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Re: Speaking for Trees - 2004

Post  Cokelike on Sat 17 Aug - 8:22


Its been a while since I've seen this, so I thought I would watch again and make some notes about it. 

The film opens with this shot:

''Time Is On My Side'' (0:00 - 1:48) - Chan sings a couple lines of this Rolling Stones cover, a cappella. You can hear cicadas in the forest. Her singing here is overdubbed onto the video for this song and 2 others, but all of the rest of this film's audio is live.

Just before Chan stops singing lyrics, the shot changes to this as Chan hums a few more bars (1:06-1:48):

Chan enters the screen from the right and plugs in her guitar and puts it on. 

The screen goes black from 1:48 to 1:50, then a quick fade in to this:

At this point, the audio is live and the cicadas in the background will continue, though Chan and her guitar are plenty audible. After a while you dont really notice the cicadas. She seems to have her guitar plugged into an amp off screen, which I assume was mic'd and she is wearing a mircophone to capture her singing. I am guessing this was all mixed on the spot straight to the camera. But I dont know if that is right at all. What was this recorded on anyway, in 2002? MiniDV, something else? It would be interesting to know. The footage has been described as grainy. I wonder how well you can see Chan? Let's see. 

Laughing  Okay, so also get used to not really being able to see her. So basically, the main focus falls on the songs, and watching her moving around. I really like the way Chan is framed in the middle of these settings. The film and idea is very natural, very unfinished. 

"Night Time/Back Of Your Head 1" (1:50-5:09) - Chan has her back to the camera at the beginning and then turns around while playing. There is a false start and she starts again. She never actually sings any of "Back Of Your Head'' but rather sings lyrics from Big Star's ''Night Time" over the "Back Of Your Head" guitar part. In other versions from around the time she would sing both songs as a medley. 

''Islands 1" (5:09-6:37) - The full song, played and sang well. 

"Blues Licks/Baby Doll" (6:37 - 8:00) - Chan takes a moment to wave at the kids who are playing somewhere off in the distance. She then goes into what I call her ''Blues Licks'', she often would break into this sort of riff in between songs. She then begins ''Baby Doll''. But the as she wanders to the right side of the screen there is a camera cut. She never returns to ''Baby Doll'' in this film, but she does play a few others from You Are Free. 

"The Moon 1" (8:00 - 11:55) - After the cut, Chan is now seen back in the middle of the screen. After a false start, she begins again. Like "Islands", the song is complete here with all the verses. 

"Knockin' On Heavens Door 1" (11:55 - 15:20) - Basically the full song. Its only got 2 verses. I think this take is the most inspired of the 3 that she plays in this film.

"From Fur City 1'' (15:20 - 20:05) She moves around for a moment before starting this song. The song is complete. 

"I Want 1" (20:05 - 24:13) - I dont know much about this song. It sounds sort of like "Peking Saint". I guess this is an original? The only other concert I know where she plays this is 6/8/01, where she only sings about 4 lines. The version here seems complete with an intro and an ending part. I wonder if this is one of the 40 tracks that were recorded for You Are Free.
At the end she plays some random chords, including what sounds like ''Satisfaction'', briefly, and walks off screen to the right. 

Then, we get a couple blink and you'll miss'em frames like this one:

And then it cuts to this shot:

"All I Have To Do Is Dream/Blue Moon/Try A Little Tenderness Medley 1" (24:13 - 28:52)
She sings some lines of "Dream", then starts to sing the "Blue Moon" verse but stops. She goes back to the "Dream" lyrics for 1 verse, then into "Blue Moon" for a few verses, then some verses of "Tenderness", then "Blue Moon" again for 2 verses, then back to "Dream" again for a verse. She goes immediately into what sounds like the beginning of "Empty Shell" but then stops. 

"The Moon 2" (28:52 - 33:17 ) - This is the point at which she starts to go back to songs she has already played. Many songs get a second and even third run through. After a quick tune up, she starts. This is complete, and kind of ends it with an extra coda of the chords.

During the song, the camera position and color balance is adjusted ending up with this shot for part of it:

Then at 33:17, another cut and we see this shot:

"From Fur City 2" (33:17 - 39:55) - After some random chords, Chan starts the song. Its windy now and the trees are moving. I think that, like "The Moon" before it, this song sounds better on its second take. Her voice seems stronger now. At the end of the song she plays strums a bit and rolls up her sleeves:

"Knockin' On Heavens Door 2" (39:55 - 41:38) - I think the earlier take was better. 

"Farewell My Enemy" (41:38 - 42:51) - Heres another one I dont know anything about. Is this a Dylan cover? A cover that Dylan played, like Moonshiner? It doesnt sound much like a Chan-penned song. In any case she only sings about 3 lines of it before ending it. 

"Sad, Sad Song 1" (42:51 - 47:32) - The song is complete. During the song the camera position is again adjusted and the color balance is adjusted. At some points the picture is faded out completely and then faded back in. At the end Chan strums a bit more and makes a ''bird call''(?) to the forest.

Seen here:

"Islands 2" (47:32 - 49:05) - A little quicker than the first version, not that different. 

"Evolution" (49:05 - 53:05) -  Along with, "I Want", this one is a highlight of the film for me. Really neat to hear this on guitar instead of piano. She plays it in an even more menacing style than the album version. It kind of sounds like ''Headlights''. 

"Night Time/Back Of Your Head 2'' (53:05 - 58:41) - She goes directly into this song from the last. After a minute and a half intro, she starts singing the "Night Time" lyrics. After the first verse, there is a pause and she picks the song back up for another verse, but then stops singing. She plays the guitar part more in a few different ways, picking, strumming and walks to the right side of the screen. She half tries to get feedback from her amp and strums randomly:

She then walks off screen and there is a cut, and we see this shot:

"Sophisticated Lady 1" (58:41 - 59:41) - Like "Time Is On Your Side" at the beginning, this is another part where Chan's singing is overdubbed. She only sings a few lines of the song. Unexpectedly, Chan comes through the trees with her guitar. She walks to the middle and turns around:

Then another cut and we see this shot:

''I Dont Blame You" (59:41 - 1:03:33) - This is complete and sounds much like it did on the You Are Free tour. 

"All I Had To Do Is Dream/Blue Moon/Try A Little Tenderness Medley 2" (1:03:33 - 1:07:42) - She goes right into this from the last song. She sings a verse of "Dream", a verse of "Blue Moon", then a verse of "Tenderness", back to "Blue Moon" for 2 verses, then back to "Dream" for a verse. 

"From Fur City 3" (1:07:42 - 1:08:52) - She only plays the intro for a while before stopping to look at something on the ground. 

"The Party" (1:08:52 - 1:12:00) - A pretty good version. I like the way she ends it. 

"Funny Things" (1:12:00 - 1:14:52) - This is the only official release of this song. Like the "The Party" also really good. 

"Love And Communication" (1:14:52 - 1:20:36) - This is one of the early versions of this song and here its a lot different from the final version. This is a great take with Chan getting a kind of crunchy sound on her guitar. During this song, the camera position is adjusted again and the color balance is adjusted so that the screen becomes completely white. The image is slowly brought back to the screen:

The color balance is adjusted more as the song continues, before finally settling on this:

"From Fur City 4" (1:20:36 - 1:25:10) - The 3rd version of this with vocals. Her guitar sound here is slightly more distorted than it sounded earlier in the film. Also a good take with a lot of ringing finger picked notes. 

"Sad, Sad Song 2" (1:25:10 - 1:29:25) - Her vocals are a little hesitant on this one compared to the earlier version.

"Night Time/Back Of Your Head 3" (1:29:25 - 1:32:00) - Her guitar continues to sound rather buzzy, which I think works against this song. She sings the lyrics from ''Night Time''. I would definitely say the first version of this song was the best one. She never does sing the ''Back Of Your Head'' lyrics.  

"Sophisticated Lady 2'' (1:32:00 - 1:34:15) - The first version was a cappella. On this one she has the guitar, of course. This song has never really sounded that good when she plays it on guitar, IMO. I much prefer the piano versions. 

"I Want 2" (1:34:15 - 1:36:24) - Not bad, but I think the earlier take is better. At the end, Chan strums some chords and the screen goes completely white for a little bit.

"Knockin' On Heavens Door 3" (1:36:24 - 1:40:44) - The screen remains white for about a minute until its changed to a darker tone like this shot:

At 1:40:44, this darkened image fades out and we cut to the last scene of the film. 

''Lord Help The Poor And Needy" (1:40:44 - 1:42:02) - This is just a few lyrics. Like ''Time Is On My Side" which opened the film and ''Sophisticated Lady" which divides the film, this is the song that ends the film. All of 3 of these songs are sung a capella and overdubbed onto the film. While Chan is singing, we see an image like this one (Chan not present):

Its slowly faded brighter and darker, until its faded to a black screen for the last 10 seconds of the film.


A lot of repetition here. If I had to pick the best stuff from here, I would choose the 12 songs in BOLD:

1. Time Is On My Side 
2. Night Time/Back Of Your Head 1
3. Islands 1
4. Blues Licks/Baby Doll
5. The Moon 1
6. Knocking On Heavens Door 1
7. From Fur City 1
8. I Want 1
9. Dream/Blue Moon/Try A Little Tenderness 1
10. The Moon 2
11. From Fur City 2
12. Knocking On Heavens Door 2
13. Farewell My Enemy
14. Sad, Sad Song 1
15. Islands 2
16. Evolution
17. Night Time/Back Of Your Head 2
18. Sophisticated Lady 1
19. I Dont Blame You
20. Dream/Blue Moon/Try A Little Tenderness 2
21. From Fur City 3 
22. The Party
23. Funny Things
24. Love And Communication
25. From Fur City 4
26. Sad, Sad Song 2
27. Night Time/Back Of Your Head 3
28. Sophisticated Lady 2
29. I Want 2
30. Knocking On Heavens Door 3
31. Lord Help The Poor And Needy

Last edited by Cokelike on Wed 2 Oct - 5:29; edited 2 times in total

"Ready to get depressed?" - Chan, 11/16/13

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Re: Speaking for Trees - 2004

Post  Cokelike on Mon 26 Aug - 1:00


Asked about her performance DVD, Speaking With Trees, in which Marshall wanders in the woods of upstate New York performing her material on an electric guitar, she admits she's only watched the first 10 minutes. Marshall worries she comes across as too vulnerable and exposed.

Yet she celebrates these qualities in other people's art. When conversation drifts to filmmaking and actor/director Vincent Gallo, Marshall argues the vulnerability displayed in his much-maligned The Brown Bunny is what makes it art.

"[The Brown Bunny] is a really deep portrait of a character who's going through something profound. Cannes panned it even though they're supposed to be all 'Godard,' and they panned it simply because of the blowjob scene. But that's just a piece of the foundation of the character. And you know what? People give and receive blowjobs all the time, but shame on you for including one in a movie, right? It's an amazing film."

Marshall admits that her vulnerability in Speaking with Trees is in some ways similar to what Gallo displays in The Brown Bunny. "Emotion is the hardest thing to project," she says. "I mean, Vincent had his dick out. That's being vulnerable, man. We're all looking for that intimacy in art, that camaraderie, and sometimes we're shunned for it. [Gallo] got shunned for it, yet that's why art exists. To communicate something real."

"Ready to get depressed?" - Chan, 11/16/13

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Re: Speaking for Trees - 2004

Post  camille. on Tue 27 Aug - 12:15

Asked if she's bringing a full band with her to Vegoose, she replies: "I'm a professional now, haven't you heard? Get ready, man."

Asked if the band includes the same master musicians (Mabon and Leroy Hodges, Dave Smith) who appeared on The Greatest, she says: "Are you high? No, I'm bringing Superman and Charlie Brown's ex-girlfriend."


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Re: Speaking for Trees - 2004

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