BEYOND The Mind's Eye
Music by Jan Hammer
Video Directed by Michael Boydstun
I saw Jan Hammer once. The year was 1973, the place was Albee Hall in Oshkosh, WI. The event was a concert by the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Hammer played keyboards for this seminal jazz/rock fusion group that also mixed in East/West influences. At the time, they were the cutting edge in music. That night the quintet generated incredible synergy, built musical structures up, filling them with tuneful solos and tearing them down in racing climaxes.
It's been almost twenty years since Your Friendly Editor (Has it really been that long? Ed.) saw that show. Even then I liked Jan Hammer's sound. Today I like it even more. Hammer never seems to have suffered from writer's block - he's been busy the whole time, with his own band, with collaborations, and with solo work in his own Red Gate studio.
For the last ten years a big part of his work has been scoring for TV, film and commercials. His work for Miami Vice led to big-time commercial success. "Miami Vice Theme" became the first TV series theme to reach No. I since the "Peter Gunn Theme" by Henry Mancini in 1959. Hammer eventually scored 92 episodes of Miami Vice, each requiring him to compose and record twenty minutes of music a week. It was as close as Hammer got to burning out.
BEYOND The Mind's Eye is a 45 minute video of computer animation. It's fourteen vignettes are full of surrealism with a sci/fi slant. The animation is fluid, three dimensional, and looks as if it were airbrushed. Vistas pull back into wider vistas, patterns unfold, and the imaginary view moves about rooms. Alien seeds bring life to barren worlds; robots work, fight, transform and have much "too far" juice; a Viking ship sails the solar system. Director Michael Boydstun has done a good job to edit diverse clips together coherently, including some that was used in the film The Lawnmower Man.
Jan Hammer: "I've been building bridges between sight and sound for many years. In fact, I've always considered music to be my ultimate reality. I can submerge myself to the degree where everything ceases to exist."
"Ultimately, it comes down to the experience of playing and improvising in the studio. I try not to think about anything too much and just let it happen, that's always the best approach."
Hammer scored the music frame by frame and the result works to draw the viewer into the movie. Comparisons to Disney's Fantasia aren't out of line, BEYOND is almost a 90's Fantasia.
For the CD, the music has been re-mixed and sequenced different, with the idea of enhancing the listener's experience. All of the pieces are around three minutes long; concise and going about their business. Hammer hasn't ever had to water down his music, so if this music sounds a lot like the Miami Vice stuff, it also has solid echoes of his collaborations with Jeff Beck, not to mention earlier solo work.
The second day I had the CD I played it twice, then had to put it away so I wouldn't play it again. I strongly recommend BEYOND The Mind's Eye. Both the video and the CD are available from Miramar. DP