It would be difficult to measure the prodigious influence and achievements of jazz legend and 2014 Norton Lecturer Herbie Hancock (b. 1940). Since first rising to prominence as a pivotal figure of the post-bop jazz movement of the 1960s, most famously through his remarkable presence in Miles Davis' incredible Second Quartet, Hancock has continued to break new boundaries, ever expanding his range as a pianist, keyboardist and composer by boldly embracing new instruments and approaches to composition and improvisation. Deeply grounded in a profound knowledge of the history of jazz and classical music, Hancock has remained open and curious about emerging trends in funk, blues, rock and popular music. A lesser known chapter in Hancock's vast and still growing oeuvre is formed by his work beginning in the 1960s as a composer of innovative and important jazz scores for motion pictures. In conjunction with Hancock's greatly anticipated Norton Lectures, the Harvard Film Archive is pleased to present two major showcases for Hancock's immeasurable talent as a film composer: Blow-Up and The Spook Who Sat By the Door. We are thrilled to welcome Herbie Hancock on February 24 for a conversation about jazz and cinema and his extraordinary career. — Haden Guest
The 2014 Norton Lecturer at Harvard, Herbie Hancock will deliver a series of six lectures entitled “The Ethics of Jazz.”
This program is co-presented with the Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard. Special thanks: Homi Bhaba, Steven Biel, Balraj Gill – MHC; Anne McIlleron, Natalie Dembo.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. With Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings, Sarah Miles
UK/Italy/US 1966, 35mm, color, 111 min
Michelangelo Antonioni's once controversial, now classic, art thriller defined a pinnacle of his career as a master of ambiguous architectural, emotional and narrative space. His first film shot outside of Italy, Blow-Up made extraordinary use of swinging Sixties’ London as the setting for his gently satiric but ultimately haunting meditation on the ineluctability of the moving, and still, image. Herbie Hancock's wonderful score intertwined jazz, funk and rock to bring a complex richness and resonance to the film's unexpected shifts of tone and the mesmerizing suspension of meaning so quintessential to Antonioni's greatest films. Print courtesy of Warner Bros.
Directed by Ivan Dixon. With Lawrence Cook, Paula Kelly, Janet League
US 1973, 35mm, color, 102 min
Beginning with its provocative title, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is perhaps the most powerfully political look at US race relations in the early 1970s to have received a theatrical release. Directed by Ivan Dixon, the film tells a credible tale of a Black CIA agent who rebels against his role as a racial token and uses his training in counterrevolutionary tactics to organize a guerrilla group in Chicago to fight racism. The story proved so controversial that United Artists was content to let The Spook Who Sat by the Door sink out of sight, although it did attract an avid following among scholars and fans of African-American cinema, as did the soundtrack by Herbie Hancock. Hancock’s use of funk and Afrofuturism provide a powerful voice for Black Pride in the film, which has lately been rediscovered to take its place alongside the canon of the 1970s American New Cinema. Print courtesy of University of North Carolina School of the Arts.