Written by Joseph Marcello
New instrumental CD honors Ashfield journalist killed in 1994
“I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”
— Henry Luce
I have just listened to Tony Jillson’s recent CD, “For Cynthia.” It is a set of eight instrumental works featuring Daniel Plane on cello, Kelly Halloran and Joe Jewett on violins and Jillson himself on guitar. It is available on Jillson’s website, http://www.birdwaves.com/, Elmer’s Store in Ashfield and Turn It Up in Northampton.
The CD honors the memory of Cynthia Elbaum, a 28-year-old photojournalist from Ashfield who was killed on assignment for Time magazine, along with many other civilians, in a bombing in Chechnya in 1994, shortly after arriving there. A graduate of Smith College who majored in Russian studies and film, there is a potent irony in the sense that, in spite of her tender years, her life and even her death were somehow a certain fulfillment of her chosen destiny.
And, given the testimony of this album, almost two decades after the fact, clearly, she is one whose memory still fuels ardent feelings in the hearts of those who knew and loved her.
On the wall just to the left of my computer screen, there’s a black-and-white photo by Ashfield-raised Smith alum Cynthia Elbaum, the subject of Tony Jillson’s For Cynthia. In it, three men — or more precisely, what looks like the ghosts of three men — walk toward the photographer. Behind them is a very bright patch of light and a street scene. The street is wet, strewn with unidentifiable debris, and in the background a small crowd is also approaching. The only location clue is a Lada, one of those distinctive automobiles that filled the roads behind the Iron Curtain.
by Gary Carra
Two years ago, Tony Jillson was asked to contribute music for a short film about Cynthia Elbaum — a friend of his who was killed while covering the Chechen/Russian war in 1994 as a photojournalist.
"The music was well received, but it was recorded with many computer parts," he recalls. "Some things sound great coming from computer, but I realized some things need the human touch. There are so many nuances and details that are nearly impossible to get by programming."
While the process of re-recording all of the parts with live performers was more time- and money-consuming than he'd envisioned, Jillson has finally surfaced from his Ratite Studios with For Cynthia — the fully realized, eight-song version of his audio ode to a fallen friend.
"It's currently available online at my website [birdwaves.com] as well as Turn It Up! in Northampton and Elmer's Store in Ashfield," he says. "I'd like to play it live, and think it deserves to be heard that way, so we'll see. All the musicians involved are up for it, and I've applied for some grants to help make it happen, but it's definitely an uphill battle."
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Cynthia Elbaum: A Life In Pictures
A short film by Jude Elbaum and Kaitlin O'Shea
Purchase the CD
More about 'For Cynthia'
For Cynthia: Press
- Ashfield News | January 2015
- Daily Hampshire Gazette | 2-5-2015
- Nightcrawler Column, Valley Advocate 12-10-2014
- Shelburne Falls & West County Independent • November 24th, 2014
- Springfield Republican | 12-29-2014
- The Greenfield Recorder | Thursday, December 4, 2014
- Valley Advocate Review of 'For Cynthia'
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