Friday, October 22, 2010
Harvey Nosowitz is Greenough’s man for all seasons
What do an accomplished jazz percussionist, a lauded videographer and a senior litigation attorney have in common? They’re all Harvey Nosowitz, of Maple Street. He and his family live in a house overlooking Greenough Pond, of which he is the faithful chronicler. The toll to be paid at the front door (a belly scratch) is collected by a large golden retriever. Once inside, you walk through a room filled with drums and guitars, onto a screened-in porch overlooking the pond. Noisy bluejays were swooping and jousting just outside.
How did you become someone with multiple professions?
“I attended the Art Institute of Chicago, majoring in filmmaking. I taught at the Art Institute after I graduated. By that time it was the beginning of the Reagan years, and everyone was terrified that there wouldn’t be money for the arts, ever again. I needed to earn a living. My wife [D’Anne Bodman, a published poet and author] and I loved Chicago but not necessarily the Midwest. D’Anne’s sister was here in Carlisle, so we came east. I worked as a legal assistant and then attended Northeastern School of Law. We moved to Carlisle in 1990 and have been on the Greenough land since 1996.”
And the drums happened when?
“I started studying drums in elementary school. I grew up in the mid-60s, when everybody wanted to be [either John, Paul, George or] Ringo. At my school you had to take two years of piano before they’d let you take percussion. I did it pretty much to the day and I have been playing the drums ever since. I’ve been playing drums with the same piano player since college. He lives in Lexington and we try to get together a couple of times a month to practice and a couple of times a year to play a benefit. I also play in two guitar trios, one with Steve Boor [of Carleton Road] on guitar and Mike Travisano [of Rutland Street] on bass. And the other with Stewart Roberts [of Nickles Lane] on guitar and John Lyons [of Baldwin Road] on bass.”
How did you go from wanting to be Ringo to wanting to be Gene Krupa?
“I didn’t get interested in jazz until high school. I was in a garage band in art school. I still get to do a bit of rock and roll because my daughter Clare is a guitarist. She’s in a band that plays kind of country punk, although she’s interested in a number of musical genres. Her band just got offered a gig at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge. You can hear her music at www.clarabones.com.
Their other daughter, Amy, has just finished two years at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, studying American musical theater. She is now at the New School finishing up her bachelor’s degree, and beginning to audition for musicals.
How do you synthesize your life?
“There’s a certain amount of improvising in litigation. Presenting motions and doing trial law involves improvising off a framework, which is very similar to jazz in a way. You know the ideas you want to present but there are often surprises along the way – judges who want to ask questions, for instance. What I like about all of it is that it is a very different part of your brain that you’re using.”
Have you continued to make films?
“I work in video now, but I started on 16 millimeter. That’s a difficult thing; processing is cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming. You send the film to a lab and wait weeks for it to come back. Videotaping is minutes, not weeks. I like the look of film better, although video has improved in terms of image quality.’
What have you been filming?
“I’ve done a lot of work for the Dance Collective of Boston, now sadly defunct. I still work with Mickey Taylor-Pinney, the former director who now runs the dance program at B.U. She’s married to my piano player. I’ve also been working with the ‘Sun Ho Kim and Dancers’ dance company. I’m doing a long piece for them based on changing seasons, using the Greenough footage. Part of it was shown at the Boston Center for the Arts last year, and some of it was shown at the Alvin Ailey School of Dance in New York as part of a showcase.
Mostly, I film Greenough Pond. I went to the same place on the pond and shot the same view once a week for a year. I also made a kayak trip to the same place on the pond at the equinox and solstice [four times a year]. I try to get out on the pond almost every weekend.” (To see some of Nosowitz’s videos on YouTube, go to Solstice/Equinox, A year on the Pond, and 7am Aug 28, 2010.)
You were a senior partner in a law firm and now are a counsel in another – how did you manage to keep this artistic part of your life alive and well?
“I don’t get a lot of sleep,” he said with a smile. “Also, I was ten years out of college before I went to law school – I think that helped me maintain a balance.”
Do you write music? If so, have you used any of your music in your videos?
“I have written a few tunes, although not in a long time. The piano player composes. We play a lot of his stuff and I have used it in some of my video pieces of dance. In most of my work I tend to use live sound.”
There is something magical in the piece on YouTube when you can hear the bird calls and the insects, and the sound of the beaver slapping its tail.
“Yes, it’s a privilege to live where you can get to that kind of a [magical] place so easily. The pond is always changing so there is always something new.”
Is there a favorite moment from your many sojourns on the pond? How much of it have you gotten on tape?
He paused for a long moment. “A while ago there was a pair of great horned owls, and a cattle egret which kept flying to the horses in the pasture, then back to the pond, then to the horses again. I got some footage of hummingbirds this summer. I missed a moose, although D’Anne saw it – it was gone by the time I got there. “
Do you have a favorite time of year on the pond?
“I think it’s probably spring, when the ducks show up. I still tend to need a bird book, but I can identify the ducks: woods and ringnecks and hooded mergansers. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen was a spring snowfall. The pond had thawed, and the ducks were back, and the snow was so gentle and the light was so special. It was a beautiful, quiet moment.”
“I thought that the on-going diary of Greenough in each season would result in a one-hour big film, and I have done a three screen version. But now I think that it’s going to be many, many three to four minute films which will probably be on a website. I’ve got a lot of amazing footage but I need to figure out how to organize it. I want to convey a sense of place and also a sense of time beyond chronology. I could cut it chronological order but that doesn’t convey the feeling of the passage of seasons or sense of landscapes. I want to give people the ability to navigate through it in different ways, tagged so that you can look at things based on content or when they were taken. How does it all fit together – that’s the challenge.”
As we said our good-byes, I stole one last look at the pond, shimmering in the sunlight, and it occurred to me that, although he works in a different medium, Harvey Nosowitz is doing for Greenough Pond what Thoreau did for Walden. ∆
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito