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Songs (Stan Brakhage cycle)

Directed byStan Brakhage
CinematographyStan Brakhage
Release dates
1979–1987 (revisions)
Running time
Approx. 289 min. (Total)
CountryUnited States

The Songs are a cycle of silent color 8mm films by the American experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage produced from 1964 to 1969. They are seen as one of Brakhage's major works [1][2] and include the feature-length 23rd Psalm Branch, considered by some to be one of the filmmaker's masterworks[3] and described by film historian P. Adams Sitney as "an apocalypse of imagination."[4] One of the filmmaker's most overtly political films, 23rd Psalm Branch is often interpreted as being Brakhage's reaction to the Vietnam War.[5]

Production of the Cycle

During a 1964 visit to New York City, Brakhage's 16mm film equipment was stolen.[6] Unable to afford the cost of replacing the equipment, Brakhage instead opted to buy cheaper 8mm film equipment, which at the time was being marketed to amateurs to use for home movies. The Songs were Brakhage's first works in the medium. Altogether, there are 31 parts to the cycle, all but one of which is numbered in some way. Brakhage would occasionally combine two parts to make one film, making for a total of 25 films, including both parts of Song 27, which were released separately. Though most of the Songs are only a few minutes, some are as long as half an hour and the 23rd part, titled 23rd Psalm Branch, runs 69 minutes. Projected as a series, the cycle runs about 289 minutes.

Starting in 1979, Brakhage released reprinted and revised versions of some of the Songs films, including a 16mm version of 23rd Psalm Branch in two parts. This version runs a total of 78 minutes. In 1987, Brakhage released a 20-minute version of My Mtn. Song 27, the first half of the cycle's 27th part.

The Films

Year Title Format Length
1964 Song 1 8mm 3 minutes
1964 Song 2 & Song 3 8mm 412 minutes
1964 Song 4 8mm 3 minutes
1964 Song 5 8mm 312 minutes
1964 Song 6 & Song 7 8mm 412 minutes
1964 Song 8 8mm 312 minutes
1965 Song 9 & Song 10 8mm 7 minutes
1965 Song 11 8mm 3 minutes
1965 Song 12 8mm 3 minutes
1965 Song 13 8mm 3 minutes
1965 Song 14 8mm 3 minutes
1965 15 Song Traits 8mm 3812 minutes
1965 Song 16 8mm 7 minutes
1965 Songs 17 & 18 8mm 5 minutes
1965 Songs 19 & 20 8mm 8 minutes
1965 Songs 21 & 22 8mm 6 minutes
1966 / 1967 23rd Psalm Branch 8mm 69 minutes
1968 Songs 24 & 25 8mm 612 minutes
1968 Song 26 8mm 8 minutes
1968 My Mtn. Song 27 8mm 1712 minutes
1969 Song 27 (Part II) Rivers 8mm 24 minutes
1969 Song 28 8mm 3 minutes
1969 Song 29 8mm 3 minutes
1969 American 30's Song 8mm 35 minutes
1969 Window Suite of Children’s Songs 8mm 24 minutes


  1. ^ Offscreen Review of By Brakhage: An Anthology
  2. ^ Chicago Reader: Films by Stan Brakhage
  3. ^ Frameworks Archive: 23rd Psalm Branch in Chicago
  4. ^ Frameworks Archive: 23rd Psalm Branch in Chicago
  5. ^ James, David E. Stan Brakhage : Filmmaker. New York: Temple UP, 2005.
  6. ^ James, David E. Stan Brakhage : Filmmaker. New York: Temple UP, 2005.
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Songs (Stan Brakhage cycle)
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