The Video Art of Valeria Di Matteo

October 2, 2015

Valeria Di Matteo, video artist

Valeria Di Matteo, video artist

Valeria Di Matteo is a video artist based in Sicily. She creates stunning videos that combine music, text and visuals. Recently, she created two beautiful videos. They are promotional album trailers for contemporary music CDs. One was for the composer/pianist Francesco Di Fiore and the other for pianist Erika Tazawa.

Her works are fantastic film miniatures that capture in moving pictures the essence of the music. Enjoy!

-William Susman

Zefir Records presents Pianosequenza, Francesco Di Fiore, pianist:

Belarca Records presents Rhythm of Silence, Erika Tazawa, pianist:

You can see more of Valeria’s work here.


August 8, 2015

For the past few years film curator, scholar and archivist, Jon Gartenberg has presented Native New Yorker at many exciting film festivals such as the 50th Pesaro International Film Festival in Italy and the Athens Avant-Garde Film Festival in Greece in programs entitled A Panorama of American Experimental Narratives in the New Millennium. In May 2015, Jon curated a screening at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. called “AMERICAN EXPERIMENTS IN NARRATIVE: 2000-2015”


Original DVD box cover for the award-winning film Native New Yorker, Best Documentary Short, Tribeca Film Festival.

Jon recently published the essay NY, NY: A Century of City Symphony Films, Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, Fall 2014. Here is an excerpt:

“…Photographed during both day and night, through distorting mirrors and prisms, as well as by more direct photographic methods, the films include scenes filmed from atop skyscrapers, under bridges, through parks, down Broadway, and in Coney Island. Such motion pictures have come to be identified as “city symphony” films.

In cinematic terms, such works represent the articulation of both a defined time frame (most often from morning until evening) as well as a carefully articulated geographic space (e.g., a loft apartment, a city block, the length of the island of Manhattan)…

…The tragedy of 9/11 is woven into other filmmakers’ works…

In Native New Yorker (US, 2005), filmmaker Steve Bilich employs a hand-cranked 1924 Cine-Kodak camera to shoot a geographical city symphony, extending from the northern reaches of Manhattan to the island’s southern tip. The Native American protagonist first identifies with soaring birds, clusters of trees, and rocky outcroppings, and then is confronted with the effects of modern urbanization. As the protagonist encounters the smoldering World Trade Center towers, the filmmaker challenges in apocalyptic fashion the conflict between who can be considered the American native as opposed to the foreign intruder.”

Jon Gartenberg
Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media
Vol. 55, No. 2 (Fall 2014), pp. 248-276
October 28, 2016, 6:15 p.m. at NYU Cinema Studies, Jon Gartenberg presents Native New Yorker in a special screening:

National Gallery of Art to Screen Native New Yorker

March 17, 2015
Terry 'Coyote' Murphy lead in the film "Native New Yorker.

Terry ‘Coyote’ Murphy lead in the film “Native New Yorker.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. will hold a public screening of the award-winning documentary film Native New Yorker, by Steve Bilich, as part of a retrospective entitled “AMERICAN EXPERIMENTS IN NARRATIVE: 2000-2015”, that has been programmed by curator and archivist Jon Gartenberg. This series highlights contemporary American films (made in the 21st century), that focus on formal experimentation with narrative structure and which incorporate reflections upon individual identity, the family structure, the fabric of the community, and the larger political culture.

The screening of Native New Yorker will take place on Saturday, May 30 at 2:00 p.m. in a program together with NYC Weights and Measures by Jem Cohen and The Time We Killed by Jennifer Reeves.

Native New Yorker is a cerebral and thought-provoking investigation and commentary on Native American influence on New York City. Filmed with a 1924 hand-crank Cine-Kodak camera, the silent documentary follows Shaman Trail Scout ‘Coyote’ as he travels from Inwood Park (where the island was traded for beads and booze), down a native trail (now known as “Broadway”), into lower Manhattan (a sacred burial ground). Shot before, during and after 9/11, the film comes together with a breathtaking original score by William Susman to portray this journey, transcending through time and space.

The film has won many accolades, including the Best Documentary Short at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. Upon its release, The Austin Chronicle raved that Native New Yorker was, “the stuff dreams – and nightmares – are made of,” while New Internationalist called the film “…a conventionally unclassifiable short…In 13 minutes it brilliantly encapsulates aeons.” The film has screened at festivals worldwide, including the Sound of Silent Film Festival with a live orchestra, and most recently the 50th Pesaro Film Festival in Italy, as part of “Panorama U.S.A.”

Camille on Relevant Tones

February 19, 2015
Chicago new music radio show on WFMT 98.7 FM founded by Seth Boustead

Chicago new music radio show on WFMT Classical 98.7 FM hosted by Seth Boustead

The past few years, composer, pianist and Access Contemporary Music founder Seth Boustead has been hosting the show Relevant Tones on the classical station WFMT 98.7 FM in Chicago. Seth’s brilliant vision of a new music radio show in Chicago has grown from local to national and now international syndication.

Vitality from the piece CAMILLE was broadcast twice but with different ensembles and instrumentation.

Click on the links below to take you to Relevant Tones and listen to CAMILLE and a wide variety of music:


CAMILLE: Vitality performed by Piccola Accademia degli Specchi (flute, saxophone, violin, cello, piano 4-hands)


CAMILLE: Vitality performed by OCTET Ensemble (saxophone, trumpet, trombone, double bass, drums, piano, electric piano, vocals)

Album of the Week

December 23, 2014

In Seattle, the radio show Second Inversion, on KING FM 98.1 FM, selected Scatter My Ashes performed by OCTET Ensemble as their album of the week. We also received some very nice accolades, especially about our vocalist Mellissa Hughes. Here are a few excerpts:

“Hughes’ dazzling vocals soar… her voice amplifies the sorrow, hope, and drama of the poetry, making each word glow.”

“A beautiful and texturally fascinating sonic landscape which fully encompasses the listener in its sinuous melodies and jazz-infused rhythms”

“The album stands as a timeless combination of contemporary classical music, minimalism, and jazz into a profound and dynamic multidisciplinary work” – Second Inversion

Second Inversion on KING FM 98.1 FM

Second Inversion on KING FM 98.1 FM

Experiencing a Live Performance

November 8, 2014

It’s a different experience watching a live performance of music than listening to a studio recording on your stereo (or earbuds). Here the Rome-based Italian ensemble Piccola Accademia degli Specchi perform the first movement of Camille at Zeeuwse Concertzaal in Middelburg, Netherlands in 2011.

Camille (2010) was commissioned by Piccola Accademia degli Specchi. The work is scored for the group’s instrumentation which is a hybrid of the traditional “Pierrot Ensemble”:  flute, saxophone, violin, cello and piano 4-hands. The saxophone gives the work a unique quality different from the traditional clarinet used in a “Pierrot Ensemble”. Having the piano part played by 20 fingers instead of 10 expands the rhythmic and sound possibilities. There are three movements in Camille with the titles I. Vitality II. Tranquility and III. Triumph.

Album of the Month at textura

October 6, 2014

textura honored Scatter My Ashes choosing it as an October 2014 Album of the Month. Here are a few quotes from their review:

“…resplendent and melodious, and easy to embrace when its fresh blend of neo-classical, jazz, and popular song-based forms sparkles so effervescently…”

“…ruminating on the self’s dissolution and communing with nature…”

“…the experience of big city alienation and its citizens’ insatiable appetite for sensory stimulation…”

“…rambunctious syncopations…”

“…both density and clarity…”

It was also a pleasure to participate in a thought-provoking interview where the album was described as a “genre-transcending fusion of contemporary Western classical, jazz, pop, and non-Western folk musics.”

textura October 2014 cover featuring Albums of the Month by Maya Beiser, William Susman and yMusic

textura October 2014 cover featuring the “Albums of the Month” by Maya Beiser, William Susman and yMusic

Melancholy, Unconscious, and Postmodern Solitude in Poetry

September 22, 2014

A recent review of the album Scatter My Ashes in The Voice gives new insight into the poems of my sister Sue Susman. Wanda Waterman discusses how they were set to music as well as doing some in-depth research into the compositional approach.

Here are some excerpts from the review entitled Where Multiple Streams of Inspiration Joyously Meet and Mingle:

“The poems of his sister seem to arrive, first, from a melancholy soul and, second, from the common unconscious of a culture unnerved by rapid transitions, growing shallowness, and ignorance.”

“…we explore the absurdity of postmodern solitude by means of the poem itself…”

“…the harmonious intertwining of jazz and Western classical, of straight rhythm with swing, of notes rich with sobriety overlaid by cheerfully rippling melodies. …”

“This album, in addition to being delightfully listenable, serves as a short introductory course in new developments in serious music…”

Scatter My Ashes - CD back cover

Scatter My Ashes – CD back cover

Setting a Poem to Music

June 15, 2014

Title Track from OCTET ensemble’s album debut featuring soprano Mellissa Hughes.

The poem Scatter My Ashes is by my sister Sue Susman. I originally set this poem for voice and piano. It was subsequently arranged for OCTET ensemble. I like the sound of these words, their message and the movement they create in their meaning and  story. I try to let the music capture the narrative’s essence sculpting words into motion.

Scatter my ashes before I die.
Let me blow and fade
in the wind
over water
into nothing.
Watch me dissolve in air.
Scatter my old bones.
I am keeping the young ones
fresh, strong the blood circles
and weaves me into a whole piece
with long slender red thread
buried under my skin.

copyright © 1984 – 87 by Sue Susman. All Rights Reserved.

The Poetry of Sue Susman

April 29, 2014

I am drawn to my sister’s poems because they tell honest and flowing stories. They are truthful and insightful narratives about things we see or ought to see.

Recently, I asked Sue to talk a little about her poems sung on the album Scatter My Ashes. You can download the  album booklet  which includes the poems heard in the two song cycles. -William Susman


“I wrote Scatter My Ashes when I was standing on a street corner handing out leaflets for a political candidate.  No one was around, so I had nothing to do.  I wrote this poem on the back of one of the leaflets.  It just came to me.

With Hot Time, I did have some inspiration.  Some friends and I had just come out of a movie theater.  We were on Clark and Division, an area in Chicago where there a lot of bars.  The whole poem is a description of the way I experience bars.  The “hot dark rooms filled with sweating, hungry bodies, dancing with fever into the morning.” “You can choose one to take home with you,”  is about “one night stands, people picking up strangers in bars and taking them home. “You can go on alone” is the choice not to pick someone up and just go home yourself.   “You can help yourself” has a double meaning—“You can help yourself” to the many people around you to take home with you or you can “help yourself”, as in you can take care of yourself and not need another person to do it.

In Begging the Night For Change, I was in a parking lot and a woman came up to me and asked me for money.  “I said, ‘No’ and walked away.”  I wrote the poem afterwards.  It was a real experience.

In Moving In To An Empty Space,  I was on a personal retreat, staying in a cabin in St. Charles, IL.  I went there fairly often when I was in graduate school.  I spent some of the time writing and some of the time just taking long walks.  I didn’t see anybody for most of the time.  That’s what I came there for, silence and peace.  I wrote “Moving In To An Empty Space” after standing outside in the cold.  It was winter then. I was looking up at the night sky filled with stars.  There was no sound and the words just came to me and I wrote the poem.” -Sue Susman


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,242 other followers