Music: Supermarket to soundtrack ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’

For several years now, Adelaide’s Media Resource Centre has been running a music production initiative for emerging screen composers called Silent Remasters. After applying for the privilege of performing an original live re-score of a silent movie classic in two previous years, it appears third time’s the charm and Supermarket is on this year’s recipient list. Now I am faced with the equally daunting and exhilerating task of composing and preparing a brand-spanking new electronic score for the horror classic The Cabinet of Dr Caligari… ready for performance in less than three weeks!

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari - Illustrated Poster
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari - Original Illustrated Poster

I was first introduced to Robert Wiene‘s psychological thriller some years ago through a friend with obscure and fascinating taste. Produced in 1920, the film struck me with its dramatic use of light and shadow and the obvious influence of expressionistic painting in the often oblique and wild set designs. For a film of its age, its pace is a little slow but it holds up much better than the majority of works of its age. The likes of Rob Zombie, Tim Burton and countless other artists (past and present) have drawn direct influence from this film and it’s a pleasure to be given the chance to work directly with such a precious piece of cinema’s history. As an exploration of madness and monstrosity, the film brought to light themes that have continued to sustain the horror and thriller genres through decades of permutations.

My proposal for the new soundtrack to the film includes a variety of instrumentation- no honky tonk pianos or string ensembles in sight. A sampler, microphone, delays & fx, an accordian, several synthesizers, some percussion and a theremin will all be put to work. I will be performing the score as Supermarket, though at this stage Emma Sterling (who usually manages the VJ’ing role in our regular audio-visual sets) will not be taking the stage. The film runs a length of 72 minutes, so I’ll be breaking the score into ‘themes’… remixing versions of arrangements at different instances during the film. A necessary design decision to make the task of fulfilling the brief achievable in the tight three weeks of allowed schedule.

Once I have some of the score recorded, Em and I will float a 30 second trailer online and give you all a taste of what lucky cinema-goers in Adelaide will be privvy to on the night of November 26th. The screening starts at 7.30pm, and there will be two short silent films preceding The Cabinet of Dr CaligariLa Folie du Docteur Tube (1915) and Windsor McKay’s Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: The Pet (1922). Windsor McKay is one of the great early pioneers of animated film, and both shorts promise to showcase some impressive special effects that place them far in advance of their years of production.

The Silent Remasters program runs for four nights of original performed re-scores over two weeks. Full details are available on the Mercury Cinema’s website.

Dan Monceaux

Share

Theatre: Hitting the road with Slingsby’s ‘Wolf’

Emma Sterling and I have spent the past several weeks in an intense collaborative bubble, producing and performing (essentially VJing) video content for an innovative new theatrical performance for children. Directed by Andy Packer and performed by Ellen Steele, ‘Wolf’ is an original story by Andy Packer (written by Finegan Kruckemeyer) and developed by a collaborative team of specialists spanning many artistic disciplines. Full team credits are available at the Slingsby website. ‘Wolf’ explores the theme of fear and anxiety and their roles in our lives and Western folk story traditions. The performance is part physical theatre, part video diary and part new media performance, as the lone character Ruby slips into a dreamscape in which she is pursued and confronted by her fears and insecurities.

I’m writing this blog entry from just south of Tailem Bend, an early whistle-stop on the road to Mount Gambier, the place of the play’s original conception last year, and soon to be the place of its public premiere. As latecomers to the project, we had the task of devising the delivery method for three different screens of video content, and producing video sequences for several scenes, in a style harmonious to existing footage created by Sophie Hyde of Closer Productions. Requiring a combination of wrapping double-screen images, and rolling single screen content, the imagery is at times immersive and environmental, at others direct broadcasts from Ruby’s video diary and in more surreal moments, manifestations of pure imagination. The video system prototype before we became involved required three networked computers, syncronised, each driving a single projector.

Our first challenge was to devise a neater technical solution that would also provide us with the performance flexibility we need to allow us to respond spontaneously with video, augmenting the performer’s movement and the story’s progress. Since we were already committed users of Arkaos’ and Numark’s NuVJ package, we roadtested and ran with Arkaos’ GrandVJ for the ultimate solution. Using this concise and powerful program, we are now able to run all three screens from a single Acer Aspire 6930G laptop, which we bought with the spoils of the commission. The key factors in running the system smoothly are many, with tech specs an important part of the picture. The Vista laptop we run has a 1 Gb dedicated video card, 4Gb of RAM and a dual core 2.4 GHz processor. Feeding the software files with the best compression codecs and ratios is critical. For GrandVJ, I’ve followed the recommended workflow and use H264 for HDV dual-screen clips, and Quicktime PhotoJPEG for SD clips. Starting the compression at 80%, I wind it back on some of the longer HDV clips when they start to stagger on playback.


Theatre: Slingsby’s WOLF Premieres May 6 (TVC)

Another early task we were set was to deliver a TVC for broadcast in regional South Australia, advertising the show and its imminent tour. For this we re-edited the existing prologue, shot by Sophie Hyde, and inserted an animated sequence created by Luku. We’ve also distributed the TVC via TubeMogul, a terrific tool for re-distributing online video across multiple portal sites.

So we’re passing twisted gumtrees, expansive pastures and the occasional road-train, racing towards the official premiere on May 6th. After three showings with test audiences last week at the Odeon Theatre in Norwood. After Mount Gambier, we hit a string of country towns across SA, including Kadina, Keith, Bordertown, Port Augusta, Whyalla, Port Pirie, Roxby Downs, Ceduna and Port Lincoln. As always, Em and I are packing multiple cameras so we’ll be documenting the trip as well as the show as both unfold.

Dan Monceaux

Share

Music: Basement Beats makes waves in the media

We’re steaming on towards our second episode of our Adelaide Fringe show, Basement Beats this Thursday night, and it seems like word is getting around. We had a fine turnout last week for our show featuring Amoeba Muzak, which ramped up from chilled out a/v zone to pumping underground club with the transition from Supermarket to Amoeba Muzak beats. While Em was VJing through the Amoeba Muzak set, I shot a little video which we’ve just finished cutting and assembling to some sweet original minimal techno from the dancefloor driving duo. Relive the party (or see what you missed out on) with the clip below!


Basement Beats: Amoeba Muzak & Supermarket (a/v) from Dan Monceaux on Vimeo.

Going to air yesterday, the widget below launches the Adelaide Fringe special episode of Star Formation, an internet radio show produced by Young Australia Productions. In part an educational institution powered by youth, they’re a great supporter of our creative community here in Adelaide and their website is worth a visit. Tune in to the widget below if you want to hear an in-depth interview with me about Supermarket’s recent exploits (including Basement Beats). No, I don’t have a nasty lisp… that’s just a crazy audio compression artifact!

Word about Basement Beats has been hitting the press too it seems, and we appear to have a new friend at local newspaper The Independent Weekly, if Jo Vabolis’ review of our premiere show is anything to go by. The fine young chaps at Merge Magazine also appear to have a soft spot for our work, listing us as one of their 10 ‘Fringe of the Fringe’ must-see picks. Thanks fellas! If you’re unable to pick up a copy of Merge Magazine, you can actually download the whole mag via their website and we can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s always a fine read and has breathed some fresh air into the free street-press scene here in Adelaide over the last few months.

So, if this has whet your appetite for some Basement Beats, this week’s show features DJ Tr!p and is set to go off. Just make your way down to Big Star CD’s, 197 Rundle St at 7.30pm on Thursday night (March 12) and bring $12/10 for a ticket to two hours of audio-visual bliss. There will also be a guest appearance by an Atari 2600 console- a perfect compliment to Tr!p’s promised set of original chiptune breakbeats. Tickets are also available online from FringeTIX. See you there!

Share