The film’s title references an act often seen in the black church that dates back to African religious traditions – a term used to describe a person who becomes so consumed by the Holy Spirit they speak in indecipherable languages. Incoherent words spoken in rapid succession are frequently accompanied by uncontrollable bodily movements that are equally jarring, yet serve the purpose of bringing the possessed vessel closer to the divine.
As an ambassador of spirit music, Milford Graves’s performances are a portal to enlightenment. Saxophonist Dave Murray and poet Amiri Baraka are also featured prominently in the film, each providing context for the black experience. For Murray and Baraka, art is synonymous with life, conversely white supremacy represents death as evidenced by the violence and murder enacted upon black bodies that continues today. The earthly transitions of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler are the primary catalysts for the film. As the narrative unfolds, we see Graves and Murray assume the mantle as spirit music caretakers, a distinction once held by the two jazz legends.
Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal, organized and presented by Ars Nova Workshop and Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (ICA).
Introduction Part 1: Speaking in Tongues
- Speaking in Tongues (1982)
Directed by Doug Harris