P. Adams Sitney

Edited by Jon Auman, Dominic Jaeckle
& Benjamin Pickford
No University Press #1
210pp / 140 x 216mm
Designed and typeset by Traven T. Croves

Spring 2023 

 Forthcoming in 2023, a first work
 in the No University Press series ... 

A ‘melodic landscape’ in cinema refers to the de-dramatized image of place, ritualized by montage, or camera movement, or sound – music, noise, or voice (sometimes by all three)—to specify its status as an image, rather than the place itself, and certainly never as the setting for an illusionary diachronic drama.

Melodic Landscapes—a new essay collection by P. Adams Sitney that collates recent published work into a single volume—presents nine short-form essays on film, ecology, memoir and image that fold explorations of Stan Brakhage, Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub, Robert Beavers, Giles Deleuze and more into a study of the place of land, sound and determination as focal points in the interpretation of film. As Sitney puts it in the collection’s opening essay: “There is a vast literature on montage, language, the human face, the city, sound and silence, fiction and truth in film, but almost nothing on natural beauty.” Tracing the changing function of ecology as an aesthetic influence and conceptual concern in Twentieth Century experimental cinema, these works see Sitney reflect on the changing status of nature as a cinematic apparatus.

Beginning with Brakhage’s Sirius Remembered, Sitney turns his attention to the works of Menken, Beavers, Kurosawa, Baillie, Tarkovsky, Straub, Snow, Mekas, Tcherny, amonst others, to explore what he terms the “melodic landscape” of film. The idea that “the art of cinema is at core an exercise of rhythm, and that every major filmmaker confronts the imagery of natural landscapes and gardens by determining (that is, inventing) rhythms expressive of them.” An archly personal collection—balancing argument, anecdote and analysis—Melodic Landscapes is an exciting counterpoint to Sitney’s previous publications that not only offers a vital new history of experimental film, but also a revisionist and interventionist scrutiny of the practice and study of film theory itself. The essays included in this collection represent an interventionist, interdisciplinary blend and bleed of memoir and argument that not only investigate developments in the history of experimental cinema but also explore Sitney’s own commitment to an interrogation of the field. 

Praise for P. Adams Sitney

Sitney probes the vital questions of poetic narrative and lyric filmmaking in Europe and the United States. Sitney holds film theory and biographical detail in eloquent balance and lets the films & filmmakers speak for themselves. It is as rare in film studies as in filmmaking to encounter the flame of early enthusiasms sustained and matured over decades.

Robert Beavers,
on The Cinema of Poetry (2014)

P. Adams Sitney is not only the preeminent historian of the American avant-garde film; he is one of the finest critics and theorists of the cinematic image and form working today.

Thom Gunning,
on Eyes Upside Down (2008)

Without question it is the first such book on the avant-garde film—the first one that probes this field in such depth, with such perspective and vision, with such insight and intelligence.

Jonas Mekas, The Village Voice
on Visionary Film (1974)

P. Adams Sitney is the author of Visionary Film, Modernist Montage, Vital Crises in Italian Cinema, Eyes Upside Down, and The Poetry of Cinema [all from Oxford University Press]. He edited The Film Culture Reader, The Essential Cinema, The Avant-Garde Film, The Gaze of Orpheus [essays by Maurice Blanchot] and Metaphors on Vision [by Stan Brakhage]. For more than thirty years he taught cinema and a course integrating the history of literature, the arts, and philosophy at Princeton University.


Top- & Mid-
Stills from Jerome Hiller’s Words of Mecury (2010-2011)
16mm / color / silent / 1S / 25' 00
© Jerome Hiller, 2011


P. Adams Sitney at the Harvard Film Archives
© Marcus Halevi, 2008