Man & Mother Nature: A Slideshow inspired by Townes Van Zandt’s “Our Mother the Mountain”

I’ve been reading Marc Eliot’s biography of folksinger/activist/poet Phil Ochs, The Death of a Rebel, and this passage lept out at me, not so much because I wanted to include it in a larger project about Phil I’m working on, but because it seemed to encapsulate what I am trying to do in these slideshows I seem to be making at a remarkable pace. Eliot’s is describing how, in the early sixties in the Greenwich Village folk scene, Phil, Bob Dylan, David Cohen, and Dave Van Ronk would all pile into a cab and go to catch a double feature, often westerns:

They all loved the movies. Dylan’s use of the landscape as a metaphor for the soul (down the backroads of my mind) couldn’t be learned any better than by watching the cinematic technique of dramatizing internal conflict through visual images. (p. 82)

This technique, which dates back at least to the Icelandic sagas and probably a good deal further, applies very well to slideshows, where you are taking static visual images and–through transitions as well controlling the movement of the camera–both expressing an issue and attitudes (which may well be complex and contradictory) towards it.  Ideally, of course, you want to express not only the heart (or soul) of an issue, but also touch and possibly even transform the viewers mind (and soul).  In that spirit, I offer the following slideshow, inspired and accompanied by the influential (but never that successful in record industry terms) Townes Van Zandt.  As the song is both mysterious and oblique, I’m not sure that I’ve really taken inappropriate liberties with it but–of course–now that I’ve put it out there that’s really for you to decide. You could argue that I’ve taken a song about human romance and turned it as a way of talking about man’s relationship to (and exploitation of) the natural world. However, the more I listen to the song, the more I find myself wondering if Townes intended it to be about romantic relationships in the first place.

Peace. Help if you can.

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