Sunday, March 13, 2011

BEV: Sound and Silents

Still from Meshes of the AfternoonFriday night saw a coming together of music and silent film at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as Birds Eye View (or was it WOW? I got confused) presented four silent films with new live scores.

Of the four, I had only seen Meshes of the Afternoon, and so was intrigued to discover a plethora of old and new work, musical and cinematic. Sometimes I didn't know whether to watch the screen or the stage, as the performers could be quite animated.

First up was Hänsel and Gretel by the German pioneer animator Lotte Reiniger, scored by Micachu, standing behind a bank of computers. This was the toughest pairing for me, with Reiniger's delicate silhouette figures paired with Micachu's industrial squeaks. I wasn't quite sure this worked, but it was bold of Micachu to produce something so unmelodious for a fairy tale.

This was followed by Alexander Hammid's / Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon, scored by Seaming, seated at a keyboard and clutching a clarinet. She added some piercing screams, as well, which was quite dramatic. I was enraptured, both by the film-making innovation (Deren's presentation is strikingly forward-looking) and the score.

Last before the interval was Tara Busch sitting down to another bank of instruments to score Lois Weber's melodrama, Suspense. Busch's music was quite modern, in contrast to the film, which was the most conventional narrative of the bunch.

After the break was the premiere of Imogen Heap's ambitious a cappella score with a 30-plus piece choir for Germaine Dulac's completely wacky surrealist film, La Coquille et le Clergyman. WTF? Heap's score featured hand claps, whistling, and some cooing, as well as conventional singing. In fact, one section was positively jaunty, considering the action on screen featured a priest attempting to strangle his love rival. Marvellous stuff.
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