Watch This: Balmorhea’s Gorgeous Concert Film, Free for Three Days Only
Live in Marfa breathes new life into The Wind
By Austin Powell,
11:30AM, Thu. Dec. 1, 2022
Balmorhea’s music has always been cinematic in scope, imbued with a distinct sense of time, place, and wonder. But that connection has never been more fully realized than in the band’s new concert film, which you can stream, beginning at 8pm tonight on YouTube, for a limited time.
Live in Marfa captures Balmorhea – the duo of multi-instrumentalists Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller, accompanied here by violinist Aisha Burns, cellist Clarice Jensen, and avant-jazz trumpeter Rob Mazurek – performing their 2021 album, The Wind, in its entirety. Part of the appeal is the venue itself: The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum shaped by the vision of its founder, artist Donald Judd. The band utilized the Arena, one of the museum’s large-scale installations, whose gravel floors, stucco interiors, and walls of East- and West-facing windows offer the perfect backdrop for Balmorhea’s absorbing arrangements.
“I loved seeing how the light changed throughout the day in that space,” notes Muller via email, adding that the band performed the album sequentially from “just after dawn to just before dusk” to maximize the effect. He adds: “The film almost acts as a slow time-lapse from the first song to the last.”
The Arena breathes new life into The Wind – literally.
“It creaks and groans in any slight pressure, temperature or wind variation upon its exterior,” acknowledges Muller. “We embraced these noises almost as an instrument itself – the building as part of the music.”
Let’s be honest: Balmorhea’s not-quite-classical instrumentals have always seemed at least as well – if not better – suited for art galleries than rock venues, and Live in Marfa showcases the group in their element, oscillating between restraint and reverie. Credit director Jared Hogan, who often focuses his lens on subtle details – the hammer pins rolling in the piano, the bow of a violin in motion – and weaves in scenic footage from around Marfa to create a compelling portrait.
Hogan may be better known these days as either Amazon Music’s Creative Director or for his work with Muse and Joji, but he also crafted Balmorhea’s first music video, 2014’s “Remembrance,” which has more than 10 million views. Not bad considering, according to Muller, the video was “edited from B-roll from his senior thesis at film school (SCAD).”
“We kept up over the years and have always been on the lookout for a project to reconnect on,” says Muller, who recently completed the score for Hogan’s upcoming short film, "How To Make A Ghost." “When this Marfa idea formulated, he was first on our list.”
As gorgeous as Live in Marfa looks, it arguably sounds even better. John Michael Landon from Austin’s Estuary Recording – where Balmorhea recorded 2008’s Rivers Arms, 2009’s All is Wild, All is Silent, and 2010’s Constellations – hauled in a mobile recording rig to capture the audio, which was then mixed for Dolby Atmos.
“Our main goal was to simply portray this music being performed in one-go within this wide, open space,” says Muller. “In the same line of thinking that ‘silence magnifies sound,’ so too does an instrument and a player within a much grander surrounding and the sound that comes forth.”
Live in Marfa premieres at 8pm CT on Dec. 1 and will be viewable for just 72 hours. After that, you’ll need a subscription to STAGE+, the new streaming service from Deutsche Grammophon, the world’s oldest operating record label. Deutsche Grammophon is also responsible for Live in Marfa’s accompanying digital soundtrack, out Dec. 2. Watch the trailer for Live in Marfa below.