Die Gotterdammerung – Reason and Mercy

Die Gotterdammerung is the last in Richard Wagner’s cycle of four music dramas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen or The Ring Cycle.

Last year I wrote a short blogpost about The Forest Bird in Wagners Siegfried. This year, I was lucky enough to see the COC production of Die Gotterdammerung, and found myself pondering the role of birds, both in music and in the stories we tell.

 

Like the opera Siegfried, birds are featured once again in Die Gotterdammerung, but this time we meet two ravens called Reason and Mercy. Tragically (this is opera after all) these ravens are the messengers who decree Siegfried’s death. Birds have something to tell us indeed.

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 5.46.29 PM The raven is perhaps humankinds most storied bird. The mythology of the Haida is based on the epic cycle of stories about the Raven and his various exploits.  One of the best-known of these stories tells how the Raven disguised himself in order to enter the house of the Sky Chief, from whom he stole the sun, moon and stars to give to humankind.

 

Be it stories or music, birds are our long time cultural companions. British composer David Matthews believes that western music inspired by birdsong goes back at least as far as the 16th century. You can read more about his ideas in this essay. Matthews also understands what it means to be losing our birds.

 

 

 “Many of our birds are in decline – the cuckoo among them: fewer people now hear this essential sound of spring. Fortunately we still have blackbirds in great numbers, but we had better take care of them, and our other songbirds, otherwise we shall end up with the silent spring that Rachel Carson warned us of in her famous book of that title. Birds were singing millions of years before we evolved: they were the inventors of music. Maybe our future depends on theirs.”

 

Wise words indeed.

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Gratitude

With gratitude, 2016 was a good year for The Messenger. 2017 will be a challenging year for our environment and the world we live in. We hope that the film will continue to inspire and inform.

Winner: Prix Buffon, Paris Science, Le festival international du film scientifique, 2016

Winner: Special Jury Award, Visions of Nature/Voices of Nature Environmental Film Festival 2016

Special Mention for Best Documentary, CinemAmbiente, Italy 2015

Winner: Best Environmental Film Prize, Festival de l’Oiseau et de la Nature, Abbeville Cedex, France 2016

Winner: Best of Fest, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016

Winner: Best Theatrical Feature, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016

Nominated: Best Cinematography in a Feature Documentary, Canadian Screen Awards 2016

Nominated: Best Editing in Feature Documentary, Canadian Cinema Editors Award 2016

Nominated: for Dutch IntL Science Film Festival NTR Audience Award & Youth Jury Award, 2016

Winner: Whistleblower Award Cinema Verde Environmental Film & Arts Festival, 2016

Winner: Favourite Documentary Feature, North Bay Film Festival, 2016

Winner: Best Conservation Film, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, 2015

Winner: Top Ten Audience Award, Hot Docs 2015

Recipient of the 2015 Carl Nunn Media and Conservation Award presented by Ontario Nature

 

Now available on itunes in Canada and the USA.

Canada: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/the-messenger/id1177748023

USA. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-messenger/id1082871787

 

The 6th edition of DREFF – Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival, Santo Domingo

Can’t say enough good things about Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF).

This was a very different kind of film festival.

DREFF is an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and the Global Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) Foundation. Their goal is to promote environmental films and raise the level of public awareness.

 

publico-4They do this by connecting the film a dedicated audience. The Messenger was paired with several high school groups and screened at different locations in Santo Domingo. Teachers had prepared the students for the screening (including assignments) so they were very attentive!  Filmmakers accompanied their films into the classroom, engaging in lively Q&A’s. It’s great to see environmental films reaching these younger audiences and to see these audiences connecting with the material.

The screenings were rewarding, as was the company. All filmmakers stayed in the same hotel, and spent many wonderful evenings talking — exchanging ideas, perspectives and stories from around the globe. Our screening days took us in very different directions, as many filmmakers travelled all over the Island to present their works to a variety of cities, towns and communities. Programming included films from Chile, the Yukon, South Africa, the UK, the USA and more.

 

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Personal Highlights included a walk through the botanical garden accompanied by a local bird guide who pointed out many resident species that I had previously never seen or heard.

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On the last day of the festival we participated in a beach clean-up. Hundreds of people were present, combing through layers of debris, most of which were discarded plastics. The site of all this garbage along the beach was sobering.  Shocking as it seems, recycling programs are rare in Caribbean countries and there is so much waste! (What ever happened to glass bottles and deposits?) And bottled water is such an environmental tragedy on every level).

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While the beach clean-up left us with the feeling that so much work needs to be done, the festival was a shining example of what can be done, and what is being done with positive and tangible impacts.

GO TWEETLESS on April 12

We’re asking people to go tweetless for a #silenttweet hour on April 12th at 12PM EST, which is Bird Impact Reduction Day – show your support!

Bird Impact Reduction Day is part of National Wildlife Week, put on by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which runs April 10th through 16th.

Their theme this year is “Giving Wings to Wildlife Conservation.”

For anyone who has seen The Messenger, you are aware of the devastating number of birds that collide with skyscrapers across North America.

In Canada alone, 25 million birds die from collisions annually.

In The Messenger, we document the important work being done by FLAP in Toronto, to track collisions and improve commercial buildings in order to reduce them.

Michael Mesure of FLAP

Michael Mesure of FLAP

For Bird Impact Reduction Day, the Canadian Wildlife Federation has asked commercial buildings to turn off their lights for an evening to support the safety of migratory birds.

GO TWEETLESS!

On April 12 at 12pm EST, we’re asking people to go tweetless on Twitter with us for one hour for the birds. #silenttweet

What would Twitter be without its infamous songbird? The truth is, songbirds are declining at an alarming rate and indicating something much bigger for our planet. The TWEETS are at risk.

So join us as we recognize a moment of silence for our fine feathered friends.

What can you do to reduce collision deaths? See the full list here.

  • Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Draw blinds and/or drapes when working at night.
  • Urge your building manager to extinguish all architectural, landscape and roof-top lighting during bird migration seasons: March through May and August through October.
  • Apply visual markers to your windows.
  • Place bird feeders 10 metres or more from your windows.
  • Keep your cats indoors.

You can read more about the risks birds face from collisions, and how to reduce them, from the Canadian Wildlife Federation and from FLAP.

Join us for a tweetless hour! #silenttweet

Birdsong: The Forest Bird in Wagners’ Siegfried

The Forest Bird in Siegfried, not unlike today’s songbirds plays a role in warning Siegfried of impending danger.

Birds have something to tell us indeed.

I recently had the opportunity to see Wagners’ Siegfried, one of the four operas that combine to create the epic “Ring des Nibelungen” or Ring Cycle. Wagner took his inspiration for The Ring Cycle from Norse mythology and an ancient German epic called the “Nibelunglied.” The Ring Cycle took more than 20 years to write, and was first performed August 16, 1876.

While I had seen Siegfried ten years ago, the experience was more significant after making The Messenger. What made it so special this time round was the role of the Forest Bird.

The Forest Bird is an actual character in the drama and has its own musical themes. Much of the Siegfried score occupies a somber yet beautiful low, bass tonal range with the exception of the Forest Bird — a musical motif that soars beautifully over the dramatic, emotional music.

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In act 2 Siegfried takes in the tranquility of the forest around him. Here, the audience is treated to a series of birdcalls, which Wagner is said to have modeled on actual birdsong. The oboe plays the first and it is answered by a second on the flute. Next the clarinet takes up a melody. This melody on the clarinet later becomes incorporated into the soprano vocal lines of the Forest Bird character.

bird calls

Humans have been inspired by birdsong for hundreds of years, and there is evidence to suggest that music pre-dates language in humans. In The Messenger we playfully re-purpose the musical motif of Wagner’s Forest Bird. Framed within a scene featuring contemporary techno artist and DJ Dominik Eulberg we created our own unique operatic moment with real forest birds singing along with the symphony. You can watch a short excerpt of the scene here.

 

Once we believed that birds were messengers between humans and the supernatural world. We would interpret the flight and songs of birds to foretell the future.

The Messenger opens with the voice over quoted above. Herein lies another interesting connection between The Messenger and Wagner’s Ring Cycle – as the Forest Bird does indeed have something to tell Siegfried. Like today’s songbirds, who in their very decline warn us of the environmental dangers we all face, the Forest bird warns Siegfried of danger, and by listening to the bird he is saved from a betrayal that would have cost him his life. Birds have something to tell us indeed.

Watch an except of The Messenger with Dominik Eulberg on Youtube.

Sneak Peek Preview: Dominik Eulberg

 

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