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White Shadows In The South Seas is the title of a book written in 1919 by Frederick O’Brien as part of a trilogy he wrote based on his experiences living in the Pacific islands in the early part of the 20th century. His book was taken as the starting point for a film to be directed, initially, by Robert Flaherty (famous at the time for his groundbreaking documentary / fiction film Nanook Of The North) with W.S.Van Dyke as his support. The film, ultimately, apart from the title, had little to do with O’Brien’s book and Flaherty left the film after a few months leaving Van Dyke to finish it. I purchased O'Brien's book, along with many others, from Basement Books, a secondhand bookstore in Melbourne/Australia. Part of my 'Islomania' and on going fascination with all things Pacific. When I discovered there was a 1929 silent film based on the book I sought it out and started to present it as part of my 'Live Music/Silent films' repertoire. Tabu by Frederick Murnau, which coincidently also had Flaherty as co-director originally, was the first film I ever wrote / improvised a score for and presented as a live film/music performance. My repertoire extends to over 23 films now. My eclectic and diverse musical and artistic interests extend into 'Hawaiian', ‘Exotica’, ‘Ambient’ and 'Electronic' Music. I have produced several volumes of so called ‘Electronic, Ambient, Exotica’ on CD and Vinyl, including Kiribati, Globe Notes, Rayon Hula ( on Vinyl, CD and digital format ) and most recently, New Globe Note on Vinyl and White Shadows In The South Seas on CD. White Shadows In The South Seas features some of the music presented in my live screenings of the 1929 silent film. The film is the story of Dr. Matthew Lloyd, an alcoholic doctor who is disgusted by the exploitation by white people of the natives on a Polynesian island. The natives dive for pearls, however, numerous accidents occur and one diver dies. In anger, Dr. Lloyd punches Sebastian, the employer. As revenge and to prevent further interruption of his activities, he tricks Dr. Lloyd onto a ship with a diseased crew (thinking they are ill) and his men rough him up and send the ship off into a storm. Dr. Lloyd survives and is washed ashore on an island where none of the natives have ever seen a white man before. Lloyd is rescued and ultimately falls in love with the chief's daughter, who is Taboo, hence Lloyd is prevented from pursuing his love for her. An incident occurs and a young boy is thought to have drowned but Lloyd is able to revive him, earning him points and permission with the chief's daughter. Lloyd begins to realise that the local islanders have no sense of the value of the black pearls which grow in abundance around their island and he starts to dive for them and collect them. One morning the white man Sebastian unexpectedly turns up on a scooner and starts to offer the islanders trade for their pearls. Llloyd tries to interrupt the encounter and is shot and dies. His wife and the islanders morn for his dead body and, symbolically, the passing of a way of life. Mike Cooper plays – Electric and acoustic lap steel guitars / electronics / Zoom Sampletrack / Kaos Pad / Casio SK1 / Korg Drum Machine / Self Made Instruments. It also features field recordings made on Pulau Ubin by Mike Cooper during a month as Artist In Residence for The Artist Village / Singapore. I would like to acknowledge and thank Lawrence English (Room40 Records) for his assistance and encouragement with the original recordings and the CD version of White Shadows In The South Seas. All music written and played by Mike Cooper PRS/MCPS - except Po Mahina (trad. Arr. Cooper) and Hilo Hanakahi (trad. Arr. Cooper) Recorded and Mixed at the Steelworks in Rome 2012/2013. A White Shadow In The South Seas In February 2014 “A White Shadow In The South Seas” was the title of an audio-visual installation I made at the Teatro In Scatola in Rome, Italy, presented as part of a series of sound installations titled ‘Visitazioni’ produced by Proposte Sonore. The essay below, as well as our collection of Hawaiian shirts, Exotica and Hawaiian vinyl records, was an inspiration for this installation. ‘..the transformation and reconstitution of the souvenir commodity as an indigenous ethnic art form and a scarce relic of Hawai’i’s romanticized past…’ from – Clothing and Textile Reasearch Journal – From Kitsch to Chic by Marcia A. Morgado. And.... Michael Thompson’s Rubbish Theory (1979) ‘ …a critical aspect of Western culture is the pre-disposition to see objects in terms of two overt categories: the transient and the durable. Objects identified as transient have finite life spans and lose value over time, whereas those identified as durable have infinite lives and over time increae in value….category assignments are arbitrary, but once assigned a category membership determines relative value. Fashion apparel-by defenition-is assigned to the transient category; paintings commonly are designated durables….how is it that transient objects.. ( e.g. Hawaiian shirts and vinyl records ) ..sometimes become durables. Objects assigned to the rubbish category are largely invisible, have no value and, ideally, no life span. Fashion for example, no longer worn and relegated to the back of the wardrobe has fallen into the covert rubbish category. But rubbish can be rescued and transformed. Thompson says ‘ What I believe happens is a transient object gradually declining in value and in expected life span may slide across into rubbish. Here it exists in a timeless and valueless limbo where it has a chance to be re-discovered and be successfully transformed to a durable. Such transferes are radical: objects gradually slide from transcience to rubbish, but the transformation from rubbish to durable involves an all-or-nothing leap across two boundaries, that separating the worthless from the valuable and that between the covert and the overt. Things drift into obscurity but they leap into prominence. The delightful consequence of this hypothesis is that in order to study the social control of value we must study rubbish. The rubbish-to-durable transformation is accompanied by the development of highly specialized knowledge derived from the discovery of subtle variations and complex details that went unnoticed in the objects transient stage. The discoveries initiate renewed interest in the object and its market value begins to climb. As prices soar beyond the reach of ordinary people, the object becomes available only in high priced collectors’ markets. Furthermore, as market values rise, the aesthetic value of the object undergoes a reassessment as well, and it becomes increasingly apparent that the objects intrinsic beauty has been overlooked. Ultimately the object is re -assigned as a durable and becomes recognized as a timeless classic.
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