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Lichtspiel: Opus I

A new score written for Walther Ruttmann’s seminal sound film Lichtspiel: Opus I.

Lichtspiel: Opus I seemed like the most natural counterpart to the Shape of Words to Come. His comments on our understanding of film as music read as relevant now as they did when he first wrote them, with the complex potential of sound film a long way from being fully explored. As an ardent modernist I am certain he would have welcomed my new score for his film, though likely not the showing of his work almost 100 years on from its creation.

With this in mind I was keen to create a contemporary score that was far removed from Max Butting’s original serialist one. However, understanding how and where Ruttman intended the music to synchronise with the visual was vital to composing a true sound film. The Goethe Institute provided me with a copy of the string quintet score onto which Ruttman had hand drawn markings of synchrony. I used this to inform the music I wrote, however I resisted imitating the form of Butting’s, instead approaching the soundtrack with an alternative vigor and expressiveness that was afforded to me through contemporary recording techniques.

I decided to write for a modern quintet, with each instrument representing a different form of visual music. The iPhone, in particular the Tenori-on, Bloom and modAxis apps that were used, are obviously indicative of the post-millennial understanding of visual music, whereby form is created through direct visual engagement with the instrument. The digitally modeled ARP Odyssey Mk II synth is analogous with the mid 1970s-80s explorations into digital audiovisual synchrony. The guitar makes reference to the Visual Music movement a la the Joshua Light Show, whilst the cello is a nod to that of the original butting score, which Ruttman himself played at it’s premier. The percussion tracks reference our deep-rooted, yet currently linguistically inexpressible understanding of the audiovisual. Particularly, the West African understanding of Djembe, to a Western listener only a drum, but in the original, the drum, dance and music exist in a hypostatic relationship which is closer to my soundfilm understanding of the audiovisual.

Unlike my soundfilm works however, my music for Lichtspiel: Opus I is reactive to the visual, rather than fundamentally intrinsic to it. Still, I feel it important to exhibit the parallels between historic and contemporary visual music, to highlight how little progress we have made in 100 years without an appropriate language with which to investigate it.

Further information can be read in the Programme Note.

Kindly given permission by the Goethe Institut to create a new score for this film. Please do not show in public without prior consent.

password: opusone

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