Dust of Snow
16mm transferred to DVD, color and b/w, sound, 6:45, 2009
The musical work Dust of Snow, from 1942, is by Elliott Carter, a well-known composer. The piece, originally for voice and piano, uses the text of a 1923 poem by Robert Frost, one of the most famous U.S. poets. Frost lived most of his life in the countryside of the East Coast of the United States and used the landscape pictured in the film as an inspiration for his work.
The poem presents a moment in time in which a chance event can become a transformative experience. The simple, clear language incorporating a natural theme is characteristic of Frost’s poetry.
The colored rods were developed in the 1920s by Georges Cuisenaire, a Belgian schoolteacher who first used them to teach music and mathematics.
In the film, the animations represent every possible variation of the composition Dust of Snow. The timing of the animated frames are the same as the beats of music, creating varied rhythms.
The voice demonstrating and describing the use of the Cuisenare rods is of Robert Lee, a professor at Miami University, Ohio (USA). Professor Lee performs basic series and the rhythms of the Carter composition.
Each of these artists was inspired by the passage of time and the rhythms of everyday life. Elliot Carter, who turned 100 years old in 2008 and is still an active composer, taught physics and loved math, language, and poetry. Robert Frost believed poetry should use simple, everyday language. Georges Cuisenaire wanted to represent music and math with basic tools to help his students develop a physical relationship to abstract concepts.
Cinematography and editing: Jenny Perlin
Performance: Adam Marks
Voice: Robert Lee, Music Department, Miami University, Ohio
Composition: Elliot Carter, Dust of Snow (1942), Associated Music Publishers, Inc., 1947
Poem: Robert Frost, Dust of Snow, from New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1923