EAC Publicity Director Lauren Koss—who studied video and film at Hamilton College in the late 1990s—collaborated extensively with digital musician Samuel Pellman in 2003-04 and again 2012-2015, creating videos to illustrate his album, Selected Planets. Following is Pellman’s Ares Vallis. “The music for this piece was completed on the twentieth anniversary of the first successful landing of a craft from Earth on the planet Mars on July 20, 1976.” noted Pellman. “For many people, the Viking missions affirmed a sense that humankind was about to commence an extraordinarily significant period of historical development.”

The video is a found footage collage, weaving five public domain science fiction films into their own semi-narrative. Though she’d never seen any of them prior to embarking on the piece, Koss loved the tour through the genre, and chose the following for her Mars tale: Things to Come (1936); Flash Gordon: The Deadly Ray From Mars (1938); Flash Gordon: The Purple Death from Outer Space (1940); Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe: Radar Men From the Moon (1952) and Teenagers from Outer Space (1959).

1938 flick Flash Gordon: The Deadly Ray from Mars (1938) is one of five public domain films used in Ares Vallis, a 2003 collaboration between EAC staff member Lauren Koss and (beloved departed) digital musician and mentor Samuel Pellman.

“The title of the work, Ares Vallis (“Mars Valley”), refers to an ancient floodplain on Mars that on July 4, 1997 became the landing site for the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft.” noted Pellman in his ‘liner notes.’ “Although the pace of exploration has turned out to be much slower than many of us had hoped, the dream remains.” Pellman passed away unexpectedly in November, 2017, leaving a deeply bereft musical and artistic community at Hamilton College and beyond, but much of his work may still be accessed online, including his Music from Space project, and many more of the Koss/Pellman collaborations. Thanks to EAC’s Northern Lights Film Society for sponsoring this post. More information about Pellman’s remarkable life and career may be found here.

Samuel Pellman. Photo courtesy of Nancy Ford.

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