The Vancouver Sun
McCartney's magical understanding of music
Song has healing power as Maysles documentary of Beatle's New York tour post 9/11 attestsBy Alex Strachan, Postmedia News August 8, 2011
Sir James Paul McCartney was momentarily lost in thought. And even though his thoughts were silent in the empty air of a satellite transmission from Cincinnati, where he would perform a concert later that evening, those thoughts took on an almost vibrant, visible quality.
A writer from Postmedia News had just asked the former Beatle - an ardent, tireless supporter of charity benefit concerts and the most commercially successful songwriter in history, according to Guinness World Records - about the transformative, healing power of music, and why music can heal on a global scale following moments of tragedy in a way that politicians' speeches and the late-night comedy shows can't.
Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, the filmmaker behind Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens, has crafted a new cinema-verite film, The Love We Make, chronicling McCartney's poignant, cathartic pilgrimage through the streets of New York City in the hours and days following the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
McCartney appeared via satellite before the summer gathering of the TV Critics Association to promote the film's première on the U.S. paycable channel Showtime, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Maysles chronicled the Beatles' first visit to America in his 1964 film, What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.
On one level, The Love We Make - shot in black and white, in the same grainy, 16-millimetre, handheld style as the earlier film - brings the story full circle. On a deeper, more fundamental level, The Love We Make is a chronicle about how an entire society can come together following a moment of life-changing tragedy. The centrepiece in the film is McCartney's involvement in the planning and performance of The Concert for New York City, the benefit concert at Madison Square Garden that was staged just six weeks after Sept. 11.
Maysles' film features never-beforeseen footage of McCartney wandering the streets of New York, kibitzing and connecting with passersby, as well as providing viewers with an all-access backstage pass to the concert itself.
The unifying link throughout, though - from The Concert for New York to Live Aid, The Prince's Trust, and The Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, to Band Aid, Knebworth, the Friendship First concert in Tel Aviv and Live 8 - is music.
"I've thought of it a lot," McCartney said, "because that's my game. I've come to the conclusion that it's magical. There's so much ... what is it? Shakespeare: 'There's more in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.' There's so much we don't know.
"When you get down to the scientific theory about music, it's about vibrations. It's measurable. The fact that there are vibrations working on people, that's part of the answer. In the future, I think we will know more about the science, a more scientific answer than I can give now."
"It's the first word I use: 'magical.' It is a magical thing, and I do mean that. People say, 'Do you believe in magic, you know, really?' I say, 'Yeah, I really do.' I think I have to.
"A story, just to quickly sum up: One of my most famous songs is Yesterday. Like Let It Be, Yesterday came to me in a dream, but this time, it wasn't just my mom saying a phrase. This was a whole tune in my head.
"I had no idea where it came from. Best I can think of is my computer, through the years, loaded all these things and finally printed out this song in a dream. I had this song that was to become very famous, and I just dreamed it. I have to believe that's magical. I have no other rational explanation for it.
"Music is a great, great thing, and I love that it can reach people and touch their hearts in the way that it can."
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