Mike Curb Institute to Present “The Great Flood” Film by Bill Morrison with Music by Bill Frisell

On Feb. 26, Rhodes’ Mike Curb Institute for Music will present 75 minutes of original music composed and performed live by Bill Frisell with accompanying footage from the film by Bill Morrison, “The Great Flood.” This film is a reflection of the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and the ensuing transformation of American society, culture and music. The event also features musicians Ron Miles, Tony Sherr, and Kenny Wollesen.

The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in American history. In the spring of 1927, the river broke out of its banks in 145 places and inundated 27,000 square miles to a depth of up to 30 feet. This resulted in a mass exodus of displaced sharecroppers. Rural southerners were forced to move into Northern cities, triggering the spread of music born in the delta at a much more rapid pace. Furthermore, the increased exposure of the Delta Blues in areas outside of the Mississippi Delta resulted in an adaptation of the music into distinct genres that have come to be known as Chicago Blues, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and Roll. The flood also played a role in Memphis becoming the blues center that it is known to be today. 

Using minimal text and no spoken dialogue, filmmaker Bill Morrison and composer/guitarist Bill Frisell have created a powerful portrait of this seminal moment in American history through a collection of silent images matched to a searing original soundtrack. The film is primarily stock footage and tells the story by weaving together images and music without words. The showing of the film accompanied by a live performance of the soundtrack aligns well with the Curb Institute’s mission to use history to inform the present, while serving as a vehicle for fueling creativity.

The event is being co-sponsored by the Germantown Performing Arts Center, which reinforces the importance of the subject matter for the Memphis community as a whole. Bass notes that he is thrilled to be working together to create a more vibrant arts scene, and he hopes this will lead to more partnership events both in Germantown and here at Rhodes. “Having events that span the entire metro area can better connect us all,” he says.

“Beyond the fascinating nature of the project,” Bass says, “Bill Frisell is a musician who transcends boundaries in beautiful ways. His music is impossible to categorize, and students should take advantage of the opportunity to hear it.”