tv Tavis Smiley PBS January 30, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with the usually silent teller and the director of a new documentary entitled "tim's vermeer." he seeks to unravel just how vermeer created those paintings full of light and detail. then we will turn to a conversation with grammy-winning violinist hilary hahn. she is putting a contemporary music.n classical we are glad you joined us.
clear in a fascinating film called "tim's vermeer" in which an inventor tries to figure out just how vermeer created 150 years before photography those canvases of light and perspective no one was able to uplicate. >> i am moving my head up and both things atee the same time. that is your clue you have matched the paint exactly. it is not subject to of. it is object of.
>> this is pbs. you can actually talk tonight. i'm going to make you talk. speaking of talking, my staff has been talking my ear off about how i have to see this roger. they want -- this project. they wanted me to sign off on this program. they were all excited about a project about a painter painting? when you see it, it is nothing like boring. it is quite fascinating. >> that is one of the jokes to make steering the story. it is a detective story in its way. 350-year-old
mystery of how did vermeer make paintings that looks so much like photographs. we went to amsterdam and saw the originals. away, and you far think you are looking at a fantastic color slide. how does he do that? it is like a supernatural creature that is able to record everything fantastically, but the human eye cannot do that. there is a lot of controversy about it. why step into this one? >> both of my parents were artists. i have always been around painters. this involves a mirror.
these are two things that draw people in. was a genius, tim but he is a genius in our electronics. lightwave. created he knows about making a convincing image, so he is the right one to track down this answer. itit is as much about tim as is about vermeer. >> it is more about him. with thell fascinated text of stories. the more we had the footage we realized this is really about our friend. is sweet. he is funny, but he is
maniacally driven. how forhis theory about me or did the paintings. an absolutely immaculate painting of a photograph of his father, which you saw in the clip. i have to find out if this really would work under the conditions for mere worked under. he goes to the museum, take photographs at all sorts of angles of every photographs he is going to paint all over again. then he goes back to this warehouse in san antonio, texas, andre-creates the studio makes a chair based on these photographs so he gets exactly that. he learns to grind his own
paints. there and grind the lens he is going to use just to make sure he has a lens only as good and completely build vermeer's studio there in san antonio, texas. it would appear to one who does television that you cameras -- it is whenti-camera shoot, but you look at the high-quality nature of the way you see tim doing everything he is doing, technically you shot this. >> tim is a techie. a lot of times there was nobody there when this was being shot except tim and his cameras.
he came every morning. now that he has to paint why he would than an hour setting up the cameras to et it right. this is not a movie that would be possible 10 years ago. you can put a lovely camera up and get good quality pictures. there were lots and lots of cameras. tavis: what to your mind is the message here to those who are non-artist's. assuming they are two different messages and not the same. >> i think most people who riding art, they are along on the joy of the final products, and --
they don't know much about what goes into getting their. there are lots of people who look at a vermeer, and they like to believe that appears out of nowhere. he spent many hours a day onched over a canvas working each and every stroke. i think it is wonderful to get theeople you don't good stuff easy. that is one of the big things for me. getting something as good as vermeer, that doesn't pop out of nowhere. you have to work for it. >> you got close enough. we get the point.
do you think this makes you ? there are more snobs in every field. >> you talk to an artist, and the artist says cool. aagine vermeer wasn't just great composer of paintings but actually may have been involved in a piece of technology that got this level of realism way back then when nobody was doing this. >> that's my point. art ate supposed to be about technology. it's supposed to be about you and your craft. art curators don't have time to do anything but talk about the art. they think somebody simply walks up to a canvas and paints.
it is depressing. if i am an inspired kid, i want to do art, and i believe the only way to do art is to be an inspired genius who can do what no other human can do, that is depressing to me. there is something about tim that is a very can-do attitude. i think this movie celebrates hat. i also think some art historians don't like the idea of working that much. ,hey are used to pontificating which is easy work. they don't like the idea that someone might have to sweat. tim told me shortly into the painting session he has to take two or three aspirants to keep his body from cramping up. don't get the impression that the movie is like a terrible tale of suffering.
it's a funny tale of suffering. >> that it is. what was the personal takeaway for you from what you learned about are mere? ofnever i am in the company icons -- you come to my library, and there are all kinds of biographies and autobiographies because i love to read of the journey those persons have had success in life, how they got there. glory, but you don't know the back story. what was the takeaway for you of what you learned about this other artist, vermeer? >> i had never previously had even a hint that it might have had a scientific bent, so the idea that art and science -- this is around the same period where we had people like da
vinci where art and science are hand-in-hand. da vinci writes about art and and write about scientific inventions. the idea that we should be separating those as much as we can, we tend to go either to art school or science school and not both. i think that is the closest to a surprise for me. the other surprise is that tim hold it off. he was doing something impossible. he was trying to do something that hadn't been done in 350 years, and he did it. realizes hise, he invention doesn't quite do the whole job and has to reinvent it halfway through. just eating around somebody with ist much passion for life exhilarating. tavis: this has been sort of a debut for you. you want to do more of this? are you back to las vegas and the stage?
i i don't ever decide where want to be. i decide what i want to do. tavis: i love that. wanted to be never on broadway. we never wanted to be off- broadway. we wanted to do the show we were doing. eventually we had a chance to get lucky and get off-broadway. i have always loved motion pictures and spend a lot of time tending to them. direct thisnity to thing arose. also, i was nestled in the middle of an amazing group of people. you give the director credit for -- his but the director name is patrick sheffield. looking at 2800 hours worth of footage and saying, what can we
do with that? how do we pull a story out of that? i would be nowhere without him. i'm not the guy talking to tim in that movie when tim is talking to the camera. that's our producer in los angeles on skype with him. a director deserves only so much. to a: you are generous fault. before i let you go, i want to hear this from you. we have seen your work with penn & teller over the years. for you, what is the power, what is the authority in the silent part of your performance? the silence is what? >> intimacy. silence is intimacy because when you have words between yourself and another person, that person doesn't have to look at you and detail of what is going on, but when you strip that away you are quite naked on stage. you are quite naked between the
other person, and there is a kind of intimacy. tavis: you done good here. you and your cast and crew. >> that flew by. >> that means you got to come back again. it's just vegas. hop over. >> invite me. tavis: i just did. coming up, violinist hilary hahn . stay with us. two-time grammy winner hilary hahn began playing the violin before her fourth birthday. she made her carnegie hall debut at 17. her latest cd is titled "in 27 pieces." it features new compositions she commission, and she will be performing this weekend with the l.a. phil. let's take a look.
does it put in the level of ?ressure or intimidation >> it only puts as much intimidation as they put into the situation. actually, i need to be able to play the music, so i don't like to have intimidation be part of it. i always try to find a way to collaborate. also they are great conductors because they think so much about the expression of the emotion. they think about how to get an orchestra to do what needs to be make thealso how to orchestra the best they are already, to bring out the best they could be as well. speaking of dudamel, i had a fascinating conversation about his suggestion that we have to find a new word for
classical music. >> it such a misnomer. had a really deep conversation about it. he put it out there, and those thoseve classical music, who think it is stale at times, took to twitter and facebook and all sorts of media outlets, and we got some ideas for how to rename classical. it is a fascinating conversation. what he was getting at is more than just a name change. it's how you expose the music, how you treat the music, how you --ng in a new compensation composition, and you have done what he was talking about, which is being a great artist ringing new stuff to listen to. that is what this is. >> essentially, yes. i was noticing there are a lot of encore pieces. the encore is the short piece after the program is finished
where the performer brings out something the audience doesn't expect, so it's a chance to program in the spur of the moment exactly what you feel like laying -- playing, so i noticed a lot of the encore pieces like violin and pn oh the older pieces, not contemporary pieces, and i really wanted to create more of for theon favorites future that reflect our era. down any of the things that have been written before because they are fantastic works and sentimentally important to listeners, but there really is a need for a continuum because the times,epresents our represent these artistic ideas that are reflections on everything the composer has asked dreams, so it is important. >> this might be an impossible
question. artistically, how do you think the sound of these pieces represent the times in which we live? >> it is a good question. it's hard to generalize because each piece comes from a separate person with their own life story? think they reflect all the things the composers have been exposed to. they are by composers from all over the world and from composers of various generations, from people in their 30's two people in their 80's, and i think it is also all their musical influences as well. composers don't just sit in the room and write what is in their head. they listened to a lot of pop music, jazz, rock 'n roll. any combination of music that catches their year, in addition
to the classical repertory -- repertoire that is gone before. the ultimate,se meant to you and the composers of these pieces would be that years from now people are playing these as encores. >> i hope so. that is what i want to have happen. i have worked on this project for a while now, but it also feels like it is just beginning now that the record is out. there is going to be a published editions of other violinists can learn these pieces. idea was to increase awareness of contemporary possibility in writing and encore piece. i also had a contest for one of them that was open to the public. i got about 400 entries. in the whole theme of this shortt, it is almost 450 leases for violin and piano.
only playpeople not these but also think about what they would want to write. what they want to express in these pieces but also in others. i would like this project to be bigger than me. tavis: that's the hope. that the work is bigger than them and that it goes on and on. i suspect it will. ." is called "in 27 pieces" you might want to add this to your collection if you are hilary hahn sam. >> can i ask you a question? what kind of music do you like to listen to at the end of an evening? tavis: that's a good question. it depends what kind of an evening it is and what i am doing. generally speaking, i prefer to hear classical music in the evening. i prefer to hear jazz in the
evening. such a long day of tv and radio and appearances and speeches or writing, whatever i am doing -- for me it is about two things. it is about bringing the heart rate down. for me it is also about being introspective. morning, which is essentially when evening comes and night falls i want to be able to look back on this day and see something i have done that i can present to my creator that might not make me feel so ashamed. at the end of the day i want to find something in that day, something small, something large, but something i have done in some shape or form that has enhanced the quality of life for other people. when i want to get into that introspective space to figure that out, classical helps, jazz helps. a good goal.
that ties into the music. -- did id i ever do or answer the question? >> yes. host: will be a talk show in the future. what a great question it was. i am not sure about my answer, but it was a great question. the new book is called "in 27 pieces." thanks for watching. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a samersation with writer friedman and james harris, who changed the sport. that's next time. we will see you then.
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