‘Head First’ Into Cucalorus: Artist in residence Rozalind MacPhail debuts visual album

Nov 11 • ARTSY SMARTSY, COVER STORY, Cucalorus 2014, FEATURE BOTTOM, MusicNo Comments on ‘Head First’ Into Cucalorus: Artist in residence Rozalind MacPhail debuts visual album

On Sunday Rozalind MacPhail will present the premiere of her seven-year project “Head First,” as part of “Reimagining the Flute in Film,” at downtown’s Bourgie Nights on the final day of the Cucalrous Film Festival. A classically trained flutist and multi-instrumental looping artist, MacPhail will perform live music to 13 short silent films based on experiences from her homeland in Canada. With breathtaking views of land and seascapes, “Head First” encourages filmmakers to explore their outer limits in taking risks with art.

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MYSTERY FLUTE GIRL: “Film artists need to let our material breath and it changes as it need to in the flow,” says Rozalind MacPhail, who performs during Cucalorus. Courtesy photo

MacPhail is in the middle of a three-month artist residency with Cucalorus and is having a blast. “As a multi-instrumental artist I mix different layers of melodies, rhythms and electronics,” she explains of her process. She uses Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation that allows her to create, produce and perform music with inspiring devices and an intuitive workflow. Canadian born-and-bred, this is her first time collaborating with American film directors, and she is grateful for their encouragement and guidance.

“I’ve learned more working with artists in Wilmington than I’ve learned in years,” the 40 year-old musician says. “T.K. Turbo, film and TV editor, helped me complete ‘Head First.’ No one else could have done what he did; T.K. took my program to a whole new level of professionalism.”

The collection of short films includes “Alone,” which was hand-processed using coffee grounds, vitamin C, and other natural materials—something which MacPhail intends to further explore. “Head First” tells oceans about the Canadian artist; the title describes her experience with the winter Olympic sport skeleton. Strapped on a bobsleigh, she sped down a track at a ferocious speed, head first, and experienced a tremendous adrenalin rush afterward.

On a gentler note, “Victoria Street” shows the community where she lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She describes St. John’s, with its many brightly colored houses, as a vibrant arts and film community: “a place where music is a huge part of everyone’s life.”

Impressed by MacPhail’s artistry, Josh Caine, cinematographer for the local TV show “Secrets of Coastal Chefs,” has taught her about lighting a performance. Caine, Turbo and other local artists continue to help the flutist find her voice.

“I’m madly in love with this festival,” she notes of Cucalorus. “The staff is unbelievably supportive. Dan [Brawley, executive director] is a mountain mover. He makes the magic happen, and without his guidance I don’t think I could be pulling off what I’m doing right now.”

Just last week, MacPhail completed a new song, “Gratitude”—the first piece she’s written in Wilmington. She will perform “Gratitude” at director Shona Thomson’s presentation on Sunday, “To See Ourselves as Others See Us!” (showing at Bourgie Nights at 1:30 p.m.) Thomson, a Scottish curator and artist, will showcase a one-off live performance that meshes archive films and live music as an homage to Cucalorus past and present, drawing on its myths and memories. MacPhail calls her participation in it “a taste of what is to come” with her upcoming Wilmington project, which she hopes to screen at Cucalorus next year.

No stranger to film festivals, MacPhail was a long-term resident at the Banff Centre, considered the best art center in Canada. While there she was inspired to document every step of her songwriting journey. Touring back and forth across Canada in her trusty ’91 Buick Century, she fell in love with Vancouver, and completed her first full-length album, “Edgework.”

Canada has recognized MacPhail’s artistry in many different ways, all beginning with an early childhood diagnosis of asthma. Her family wanted a more natural way of treating the lung disease. Her grandmother read that wind instruments helped asthmatics strengthen their respiratory systems. A flute instructor lived down the street in their small community on Toronto Island and the match was made. 

MacPhail became so proficient that she was accepted to the Etobicoke School for the Arts in Toronto (imagine TV’s “Fame” high school). She earned a master’s degree from the University of Ottawa in classical flute performance. Yet, she wanted to experiment with other ways of finding her voice, so she began improvising with other songwriters and played with a few of her favorite artists, including Yo La Tengo from Hoboken, NJ.

On her thirtieth birthday, she saw herself depending on other artists for her livelihood and decided to move away from it to become an independent artist. She learned how to play the guitar and began writing songs suited to her voice. Ten years later, MacPhail is more confident about the next steps of her journey.

“I am collaborating with local filmmakers to create a silent film/music project about Wilmington,” she says. “Over the past nine weeks, I have been recording sound samples with my handheld field recorder. I have captured some pretty cool sounds, including owls who were calling out to one another at night! I plan to include one sound sample in every film, along with a full score of music, and will be recording the music this winter after I’ve returned back home. Filmmakers have until February 1 to complete their films. If all works out, I hope to come back to Wilmington during the festival next year to premiere it. It will be so neat to see how it all turns out.”


Head First: A Visual Album (U.S. Premiere)

November 16, 7 p.m.
Bourgie Nights • 127 Princess St.
Tickets: $5 cash upon entry; free for passholders

To See Ourselves as Others See Us!

November 16, 1:30 p.m.
Bourgie Nights • 127 Princess St.
Tickets: $5 cash upon entry; free for passholders

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