Bill Frisell + Bill Morrison
The Great Flood

Bill Frisell & Bill Morrison

The Great Flood

Still from The Great Flood


Rock, country, jazz, the blues, experimental music — guitar genius Bill Frisell has done it all. After four decades of working with everyone from Pat Metheny to Brian Eno, Frisell is widely treasured for the boundless subtlety of his technique. This new mixed media collaboration with Bill Morrison (best known for his experimental film Decasia) is based on the Mississippi River flood of 1927, which sparked the “Great Migration” of blues musicians from the rural South to the urban North.

Haunting archival footage edited by Morrison looms on an enormous screen behind the instrumentalists as they perform 75 continuous minutes of prismatic roots music. Duke Performances presented The Great Flood on November 5, 2011 at Duke’s Reynolds Industries Theater, an enchanting meditation led by one of the most thoughtful, quietly dazzling American musicians.

“A number of the film fragments [Morrison] employs are beginning to deteriorate, and he happily leaves the eroded images as they are. Mr. Frisell’s music seems actually to be calling forth the flaws, like a modern-day digital effect. It’s a sublime, somewhat eerie touch in a striking experiment in music and moviemaking.”

The New York Times


The Great Flood was co-commissioned by Duke Performances; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (World Premiere); Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University; Carnegie Hall; Symphony Center Presents, Chicago, and Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College. 

The Great Flood was commissioned through Meet The Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA program, which is made possible by generous support from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.  

Additional support made possible by USA Projects, an online initiative of United States Artists.


  • The New York Times, Recalling a Disaster Without Uttering a Word
  • The Daily Beast, ‘The Great Flood’: Hauntingly Poetic Documentary Recounts the Worst Flood in U.S. History
  • The Stranger, Director Bill Morrison and Composer Bill Frisell Remember The Great Flood of 1927
  • Sight & Sound, American refugees: Bill Morrison’s The Great Flood