A Harry Smith Seance

Harry Smith by Allen Ginsberg

If – long shot approaching – you happen to find yourself in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, have I got a tip for you.

The “first-ever” Harry Smith Seance will seek to channel the spirit of the great American polymath although not – so far as I can judge – through the ouija board or other such paranormality, but rather through presentation of his astonishing experimental films and discussion of his entire confounding oeuvre.

Among the speakers is Rani Singh, who was Smith’s assistant until his death in 1991. She also wrote and directed the 2007 documentary The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, edited a volume of interviews with Smith and co-edited Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular. In addition she is director of the Harry Smith Archives (and given Smith’s mania for collecting the most disparate items in vast quantities imagine what a trip that would be). The archives were recently acquired by the Getty Research Institute.

The “seance” is preceded by “Harry Smith in the Pacific Northwest” a panel discussion which explores Smith’s early influences in Portland (where he was born in 1923) and the surrounding region. Finally on May 19 there’s a “Harry Smith Free For All” which will explore further aspects of Smithery and will include an “indoor air show” celebrating Smith’s collection of paper airplanes.

If you’re entirely new to Harry Smith and can’t make it to Portland, have a look at this quick introduction or read this highly informative longer study. And for a quick flavour of the man, watch this short, animated recollection from one of his friends:



  1. Anne Richardson

    Leo Daedalus discusses Harry Smith, at the Harry Smith Free For All, May 19, 2013. Portland, Oregon.

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