The Great Human Odyssey

It’s convention time again. Today’s highlights come from back-to-back sessions regarding the recent documentary The Great Human Odyssey.




Niobe Thompson

Anthropologist and filmmaker Niobe Thompson gave a talk this morning. Using clips from the documentary, Thompson raised some fascinating ideas about the near-extinction of early homo sapiens followed by their adaptation to living on the South African coast. Once nourished with seafood, our ancestors were able to expand their range, and use their expanding intelligence and language to adapt to a wide range of environments. I don’t think that Dr. Thompson brought a ton of new ideas to the session, but he framed them intelligently and provocatively.



After the information session, we left the Conference Centre and went to the fabulous Winspear Centre.

Darren Fung

The Great Human Odyssey was supported by a soundtrack composed by Darren Fung. The film was funded to allow Fung to record the soundtrack with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Pro Coro Canada—a rare thing for today’s documentaries.

In the Winspear, we were treated to a full orchestra and choir rehearsal under Darren Fung’s baton, with Niobe Thompson narrating, and a specially editied (80 minute) version of the film on a large overhead screen. It was stunning.

Thompson is more than a scientist and filmmaker; he’s a showman. His reading was absolutely brilliant. But the real revelation was the live orchestration. I’d heard the score and seen the film already, but it’s always stunning to be reminded of the power of a live orchestra and choir in an acoustically superb hall. The panorama of human evolution is a wonder in itself, and Thompson’s videography measures up to the emotions of such an enormous set of ideas. With the choir and orchestra, the experience was wonderfully moving.

Finally, it was truly wonderful to see Darren Fung at the podium. He was my student more than 20 years ago. A clever and witty child, Darren was one of those kids who made every day something of an adventure. But above all else, Darren loved music. And he’s had the privilege of making music for a living into his adult life.

And I’ve once again had the privilege of seeing a student in adult life, looking out to the world and saying, “I’m ok. Everything is just great.”

Absolutely, Darren. Absolutely.



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