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(Credit: Keyboard Fantasies)

Film

'Keyboard Fantasies' Review: A vague recount of Beverly Glenn-Copeland's career

@Russellisation
'Keyboard Fantasies' - Posy Dixon
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The sound of Beverly Glenn-Copeland is one that seems to exist in another dimension entirely, inhabiting an ethereal space that resonates from the very soul of the human spirit. A folk singer who incorporates elements of jazz, classical and blues, he is a fluid performer who refuses to be tied down to the constraints of genre, expressing himself through constant experimentation and evolution. 

The subject of a new documentary from director Posy Dixon, Beverly Glenn-Copeland is brought to life in a small compact and personal talking heads project that acts as a mirror to the artist’s career without ever excavating deep into his working process. Clocking in at only 63 minutes, Dixon’s film is much like a prolonged interview, simple, fast and straight to the point, for better and for worse. 

Raised as a musical prodigy in Philadelphia by an equally creatively talented family, Copeland was educated on the music of Bach, Chopin and Mozart before heading to Montreal to study the lieder and the oboe. Such sparked a career for the young performer, appearing on the albums of Gene Murtynec, Bob Disalle, and Kathryn Moses whilst also being a temporary writer on Sesame Street. These early efforts led to the release of a debut album in 1970 and a follow-up in 1980, all before the release of the iconic Keyboard Fantasies in 1986. 

Inspired by the arrival of the personal computer, Glenn-Copeland’s album was recorded using rudimental equipment including a Yamaha DX7 and a Roland TR-707 and quickly gained a cult following upon its release. Defined by pensive, relaxing ambient music, Keyboard Fantasies was later recognised as a pioneering album of electronica thanks to tracks such as ‘Ever New’, ‘Slow Dance’ and ‘Sunset Village’. 

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Whilst his impact on the industry is unquestionable, Dixon’s documentary fails to capture the true gravity of his impact, approaching his career with a vague aimlessness. Contextualising his life with a brisk origin story, we are quickly plunged into the contemporary life of Glenn-Copeland, bypassing his fascinating working process to instead focus on his live performances. As such a charming, high-spirited individual, these on-stage moments and brief interviews are certainly enjoyed, though the titular focus of the film is missed as the film flails in the search for purpose.

Missing out on a chance to fully access the heart of a pioneering artist, the joys of Keyboard Fantasies are all too brief with the album itself so faintly defined in terms of its true conception and legacy. 

The lasting sentiment of the film is the joyful spirit of Glenn-Copeland himself who well-imprints his personality on screen, imbuing the film with his own optimism and boundless hope for the future. Such only goes to highlight the shortcomings of the film, however, failing to capitalise on the potential of its own subject by glazing over many key aspects of his life and career as a musician.

As it is Keyboard Fantasies is a rough sketch of a video essay looking into the life of a musical great, frustratingly touching on a multitude of interesting aspects without fleshing any of them out.