Houstonian Mary Ellen Bute (1906–1983) isn’t a household name, so we at MFAH Films are happy to be teaming up with Aurora Picture Show and the Center for Visual Music to showcase Bute’s remarkable talents for her hometown audience. Join us on Saturday, February 3, to enjoy the work of this pioneer in visual music and electronic art.
Seeing Sound features 13 of Bute’s avant-garde, animated shorts from the 1930s to 1950s. Her films encompass a range of visual expression both familiar and unconventional. Bute felt a deep connection to music, and—as the title Seeing Sound implies—she wanted to create films that would express visually what the accompanying music brought to the mind’s, and ear’s, eye. We’re screening all but one of the shorts on celluloid—our format of choice whenever possible!
“Spook Sport” is one of my personal favorites. Animated ghosts, bats, and bells dance in beautiful choreography to Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Danse Macabre.” Not only is the animation unique, the film itself—from the wordless, music-driven narrative to the opening titles—harkens back to silent cinema, playfully pushing the envelope while looking to the past.
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After the screening, stick around for a discussion with scholar and independent curator Kit Smyth Basquin, Ph.D. Our moderator for the evening is Margarita de la Vega-Hurtado, who is a member of the MFAH film committee and sits on the Aurora Picture Show board of directors. You can also stop by the Museum’s Hirsch Library to see a display of books relating to Bute, animation, and classic cinema.
See—and hear—for yourself! Get tickets for “Seeing Sound: Mary Ellen Bute Retrospective” on Saturday, February 3.