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When Art and Music Collide

Photo courtesy of James Harrar ’92

James Harrar ’92

About midway through his freshman year at Albright, James Harrar ’92 started creating films. He had always had a knack for drawing, but hadn’t thought much about art as a career. Drawing and filmmaking were just things he did for fun.

“I was kind of late in the arts,” Harrar says. “It was really through the English and arts programs that the gears started going and I began seeing poetry and visual art speak to me.” Inspired by the film work that Professors Gary Adelstein and Jerry Tartaglia ’72 had produced  in the early 70s, Harrar officially declared art as his major during his junior year.

Harrar continued his filmmaking after graduation, but became disgruntled when the amount of time and money that went into each film was met with a difficult exhibition process with few venues in which to show his work. “The cycle was very uninspiring,” Harrar says. “I was paying off other films I had just made, some that barely made it out the door, and didn’t have a big life of being seen,” he says. “That’s when the next stage started with incorporating live music.”

Today, the filmmaker and musician pours his heart and soul into Cinema Soloriens, a multi-media performance project he has been working on for more than 20 years with long-time collaborator Marshall Allen, leader of the Sun Ra Arkeskra. Together, they have toured nationally and internationally for 25 years.

Cinema Soloriens combines Harrar’s experimental and highly personal film and video images with live music soundtracks for each film. In an intimate form, Harrar attempts to imprint thoughts, dreams and conceptual ideas while examining the possibilities of perception.

Musically, the concepts are created, directed and performed by Harrar, Allen and a changing line-up of gifted musicians. For Harrar, who plays tenor sax, Akai and Crumar EVI, bulbul tarang, reeds, voice and electronics, the work is an emotional center where he allows his audience to make of it what they will. That’s why many are attracted to his work, he says.

“I don’t want to direct the viewers experience too much in the sense that I know that they are going to have a very highly charged and intimate experience. The most important part is that I don’t want them to close off, fight and resist the bigger experience that is available to them,” he says.

Harrar’s work was presented at Albright this spring as an Experience Event.

– Abbe Lipshutz ’17

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