Recent posts about airships, nuclear energy, and smart breeding put me in mind of the "video opera" Three Tales, by composer Steve Reich and video artist Beryl Korot, which I saw in 2002 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's yearly Next Wave festival.
The three tales of the title--"Hindenburg," "Bikini," and "Dolly"-- juxtaposed technological positivism with destructive, profoundly sad or unfathomable real-life consequences. In the manner of terriblisma, these results are often appallingly beautiful. Reich's layered music incorporated recorded voices, live musicians and vocalists, repetition and looping, joined with Korot's manipuations and multiples of images.
In a sense, Three Tales is a bittersweet love letter romanticizing the tragic beauty of destruction and the inevitable folly of human achievement. In Three Tales, iconography becomes art, science becomes religion. These three incredible stories, joined by the hauntingly impressive yet overplayed images of September 11, became icons unto themselves -- the elegant flames of the Hindenburg, the awesome power of an atomic bomb and the future of genomic wizardry as a cloned sheep looks you in the face. Reactions to these events have sparked positive and negative aspects in the technologies that relate to our lives, and Reich and Korot see the impact of media on the social and cultural environment as a driving force of their work...(more)
Guardian review of the CD/DVD:
"Korot's images provide the increasingly virtuoso surface - the images in Dolly especially are quite dazzling - while Reich's music provides the binding structure, and the proportioning of the whole 65-minute work [...] no other musical work I know comes near its imaginative synthesis. It is unique, and seems all the more extraordinary the more you watch and hear it."
The New Yorker review, posted along with many others on Steve Reich's site, is reassuring,
"On paper, it looks to be a typical avant-garde hootenanny, decipherable only to initiates. But it is a major work, a sneaky sort of tragic masterpiece, whose sounds and images haunt the mind for days."
I'm glad the Guardian and I agree on the worth of Three Tales.