ALBERTON: a time travel device
Review by Wade Doak, August 2012
Bruce Paine has created a brilliant multi media composition "Alberton" that takes us time travelling to the Victorian era on the wings of his guitar music. As befits a slower age, the production has the gentle pace of a dream journey. We explore the past on so many unusual levels: from the aesthetics of William Morris wall paper to Indian design we watch a colonial farm house evolve into a stately home. There is an amazing duet with bagpipes and guitar and another in which the musician blends with a sprightly music box tune with the subtlety of double skipping. Generation by generation we pass through the lives of a Victorian family from a Scottish General to his pioneering son and his games playing, dancing Auckland family, from their local bird life to long tailed horses and yes, even the mundane but other worldly contents of the caretaker's shed: every iota on the disc contributes to the story and has its special significance. We are intrigued at the skill of the music box repairer.
Bruce Paine‚Äôs ability to match guitar with a music box and then, bagpipes is very special. I think I enjoyed those pipes for the first time in my life. Bruce can adapt influences from the east; from Celtic folk music and sea shanty, note after perfect note, with a deftness that has us spellbound. His guitar is so mellow and resonant -like a concert piano. Each note is as individually perfect as a water drop entering a pool. With consummate fingering we hear no skin slip noises on the bass strings.
I reflected on how slow and contemplative the act of letter writing must once have been. Even the putting of ink on paper was an artistic process. The film re-enacts this superbly with such elegant calligraphy. As modern living revs up faster and faster we need to contemplate a former, more relaxed era to regain some sort of balance. Technological change is outstripping our capacity to assimilate its advances.
Perhaps this is something we can gain from a blend of music and image: a healthy form of meditation. I am no Luddite! This is why I value the Alberton CD/ DVD package: I can enjoy the music for itself with my own eidetic movies, or on our wide screen monitor undergo a whole gamut of stimulation per multi media documentary. Perhaps this medium is the most complex form of communication humans have ever devised: video and old images; Victorian sheet music along with modern composition take us into the Alberton world both then and now. Cleverly recreated 'old movie' scenes complement Victorian still photos and delicate watercolour landscapes along with sparing use of pleasantly modulated spoken word. Alberton is almost a sensory overload; it satiates but never exceeds. For once the DVD medium has been fully exploited as an artwork. This 'Alberton' documentary should be a part of the culture of every Kiwi.