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IF A TREE FALLS AND NO ONE IS AROUND TO HEAR IT

Bomba Estero | A Take Away Show | Part 1 from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

To those who live to scour Berlin’s soundscape, teeming with many a diamond in the rough, Petite Planètes will stand as the ultimate lovesong (excuse the cliché) to music’s overlooked, obscure, or near obliterated.  Uniting documentary, music video, and art film,  Vincent Moon began his series in 2008 when he left his successful career in music film for wanderlust.  On the road with a backpack and camera, he found a sleeping giant–Tom Zé, in the late 1960s one of the leaders of Brazil’s Tropicália’s musical arm but whose fame political suppression had then stifled–resulting in the first Petite Planète.   Since then, Moon continues to roam, having plotted a trail through six continents and a constellation of artists: Singapore’s One Man Nation, Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo (see above), and Russia’s Retuses to name a few.  A staunch supporter of local, DIY aesthetic, Moon crafts films that are austere yet starkly intimate, striking a tone of melancholy suitable for performances that are both debuts and swansongs.  At times he follows the subjects casually crooning in their homes while the camera meanders between their knicknacks and their spellbound faces.

On a more socio-anthropological level, his present focus on documenting traditional and spiritual music amplifies certain questions that have percolated since Petite Planètes’ inception.  How does tradition be comfortably transition into ephemera?  Does the archival of sacred song, which usually draws power from secrecy, signal the performers resignation to their disappearing lifestyles?  As a European project, does Moon’s ‘experimental ethnography’ and similar works ex. Ron Fricke’s Baraka ultimately engender exoticism and narcissistic Occidental feedback?

Hard to say, but freeze the central image of Tom Zé’s chapter and you can forgive Moon for not struggling more with P.P.’s complexes.  On the rooftop the man is a solitary crack in the São Paulo sky–a powerful frame of sheer beauty and emotion.  With the series title, the image echoes Le Petite Prince. Its universe buzzes with innumerable microcosms ruled by strange and wonderful personalities, but only a few are imparted to stranded pilot by the eponymous prince, stirring the reader’s curiosity into restlessness.  Here, Moon acts the prince, we the pilot, and these musicians all kings, perhaps wise, perhaps doomed, but kings of their locales, their small planets.

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