The Colors of the Prism, the Mechanics of Time

Jacqueline Caux's docu samples the works of modern composers, all leading proponents of the minimalism often associated with Philip Glass.

Jacqueline Caux’s docu samples the works and theories of modern classical composers, all leading proponents of the repetitive, trancelike minimalism often associated with Philip Glass. Gallic production is conceived as a testimonial to the helmer’s visionary late husband, musicologist/impresario Daniel Caux, but aside from sparse voiceover quotes from him and American composer John Cage (in badly accented French), it proposes no overview, allowing the artists to supply their own exposition with varying degrees of brio. Specialty item, which opened June 17 in Gotham, lacks the resonance of Frank Scheffer’s brilliant Elliott Carter study “A Labyrinth of Time,” but strikes no egregiously wrong notes.

On-camera interviews are supplemented with solo piano performances or full-scale rehearsals; elsewhere, audio excerpts are played over New York cityscapes. Helmer Caux’s selections emphasize rhythmic similarities between different genres and instrumentations; thus, La Monte Young’s lively, off-the-cuff, two-part vocal configuration, with Marian Zazeela as drone, is followed by his magisterial “Well-Tuned Piano.” Terry Riley’s experimentation with desynchronized tape loops counterpoints Gavin Bryars’ postmodern madrigals. Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros and Meredith Monk round out the classical roster; techno DJ Plastikman, aka Richie Hawtin, reps the sole populist entry.

The Colors of the Prism, the Mechanics of Time


  • Production: A Jacqueline Caux production in co-production with le Centre Pompidou. Produced, directed by Jacqueline Caux. Written by Daniel Caux.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Patrick Ghiringhelli, Claude Garnier, Sylvie Carcedo, Gregoire Pedron, Stephane Compain-Tissier; editor, Dora Soltani. Reviewed at Anthology Film Archives, New York, June 21, 2011. Running time: 96 MIN.
  • With: With: John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Gavin Bryars, Richie Hawtin, Marian Zazeela. (English, French dialogue)