WISCASSET, Maine Composer and filmmaker, Sumner McKane of Wiscasset, has just finished his latest project, a documentary film and live “docu-exhibitâ€ť titled â€śIn The Bloodâ€ť. It is a vivid illustration of the life, skills and character of the turn-of-the-century Maine lumbermen and river drivers. â€śIn The Bloodâ€ť features stunning and historic films, photos, interviews, authentic sound design, and a compelling musical score composed by McKane.
“Over two years ago the concept of the project was solely based on a live show”, said McKane in a recent interview.Â At that time The Sumner McKane Group had recently completed a string of performances in which they played a live musical score along with the 1922 silent film, â€śNanook of the Northâ€ť. McKane expresses that composing music to perform live with Nanook was a great experience and proved fitting for his musical brand of so-called “Ambient Americana.Â “After Nanook, we were looking to take on a similar project with another film”, says McKane. Josh Robbins, McKane’s bass player, suggested a silent film from the 1920s, titled “From Stump To Ship”, a 1930 documentary film about a log drive on the Machias River. “It would have been a perfect fit for us, but the film is only 30 minutes long.” McKane states.Â After watching â€śFrom Stump To Shipâ€ť (McKane reveals, for the second time since 3rd grade at Great Salt Bay School, in Damariscotta) he became intrigued by the men in the film and began to research deeper.
With help from grants from the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Arts Commission, McKane contacted the Maine Folklife Center in Orono and purchased hours of archived audio interviews with early Maine lumbermen.Â McKane travelled to every corner of the state, combing libraries for photographs, films, and interviews.Â “I was stunned and intrigued by what I was finding and seeing for the first time. Having grown up in Maine, I was surprised that I never learned about the remarkable history of these men. They are the pioneering legends who in many ways typify a reputed but diminishing Maine character. These men had an incomparable work ethic and they worked in a brutally unforgiving environment. From fall through spring they would work in the woods and live in rustic logging camps deep in the Maine woods. They withstood conditions and labor that would make an average man whimper and run for civilization.Â They did this without complaint and actually thrived on it.Â To me, this is the material of heroes and legends.â€ť
McKane further emphasizes how the Maine lumbermen’s importance to Maine’s history is vital; but the lumbermenâ€™s importance to the nation’s history is also worthy of recognition. â€śFor example, the fight over New England lumber in the 17th century played an early but significant role in helping spark the American Revolution.Â At the Battle of Bunker Hill, colonial forces flew a flag emblazoned with a pine tree. In addition, the first Naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in Machias, where the British attempted to steal the townspeople’s lumber.â€ť
McKane’s intent is to perform the “docu-exhibit”- â€śIn The Bloodâ€ť, at arts venues and theaters around the state.Â He also hopes to bring the project into schools and colleges, to introduce students to these rugged individuals who are unique to Maine. “By using multimedia and presenting with a contemporary and entertaining approach, I hope to show students that history, especially Maine history, is exciting and actually quite cool.”
â€śIn The Bloodâ€ť is already receiving recognition. The project was recently featured on Echoes, a nightly ambient music program on National Public Radio; McKane is submitting the documentary to film festivals, and he and his bandmate Josh Robbins, are starting to book live shows for the fall of 2011.Â You can purchase the documentary and learn more at www.inthebloodmovie.com. For more on Sumner McKane, please visit www.sumnermckane.com
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