Silent Remasters 2009 – New Scores for Silent Films
On Thursday the 26th of November at 7.30pm, the 2009 season of the Media Resource Centre‘s ‘Silent ReMasters’ program brings to the people of Adelaide the first of four classic silent films, each driven by an exciting new musical score. Each score will be performed live by a variety of ensembles, ranging from solo DJ-driven sets through to orchestras with upwards of twenty instrumentalists. The initiative has run annually for several years now, and goes from strength to strength. The screening event series is proudly supported in 2009 by APRA and Billy Hyde Music.
Supermarket has the launching honours this year and I will be augmenting Robert Wiene’s classic horror film with a variety of electronic and electro-acoustic beats from dub through to drum ‘n’ bass. Expect the cobwebs to be blasted out of this pioneering film of the genre, as I play live overdubs on a strange miscellany of intrumentation, including a theremin.
It’s been an intense couple of weeks setting up and then setting to work in my home studio. It’s been great to get back to making music in a concentrated way.. I’ve not spent so much uninterrupted time making music since Emma Sterling and I launched Supermarket way back in 2007. While at this stage our re-score is a one-off performance, we’re hoping to tour with the work in the future, and will be looking into the possibility of a remix project and subsequent release. Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in booking a performance in your town in the future.
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!
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 Caligari… La 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.
Back in May, while touring as video operator on the childrens’ theatre production ‘WOLF’ I was able to take my new point & shoot Panasonic DMC-FT1 camera underwater and put it through its paces. I was so impressed (astonished really) by the quality of both video and stills that Emma Sterling and I decided that it was high time to commence production on a marine conservation documentary. We have wanted to make this film since way back in 2003, and at last, technology has caught up with our demands.
The cost of shooting high-quality video underwater was prohibitive back then, but now not so- as the Panasonic DMC-FT1 can be used ‘out of the box’ in water to 10 feet of depth. Wanting to go deeper, Emma Sterling and I also bought the matching waterproof housing and have since taken the camera to depths around 8 metres with brilliant results. The whole kit (camera and housing together) cost less than AUD$1000. Inside the housing, the camera is able to handle depth and pressure to 40 metres and has a cold shoe on top to mount external lights on, making it a pretty serious instrument. Panasonic was confident enough in the camera’s abilities that they shot their own TVC for the camera on the camera itself. Check out the latest one below.
When shooting in the Southern Ocean, even when the visibility is brilliant, a blue colour cast dominates. This is remedied by the FT1’s ‘underwater’ mode. Comparable to the technique of slipping an orange glass filter behind or in front of your lens in a traditional rig, the setting restores warm palettes of colours to the image in a very satisfying way. There are occasional instances where the colour balance shifts unnaturally during a shot, but these are infrequent- and a small price to pay for such an affordable and powerful 720p HD camera with 12 megapixel stills capacity. For those of you unfamiliar with the camera, it presents itself as a digital point & shoot stills camera, but offers serious punch for still and moving picture making.
Another neat feature of the camera for underwater video use is its constant white LED. Providing pleasing fill during daytime shoots, this can be switched on or off manually or set to ‘auto’ and diffuses remarkably well (despite the reputation of white LEDs for producing very directional and hard-edged beams of light). While this feature works beautifully in up to ten feet of water, the optional deep water housing’s design obscures the light, rendering it useless. The cold shoe will provide external light-mounting options though, for the serious dive photographer or videographer. Metal buttons (while poorly labelled) provide full button control of the cameras features, and a generous viewing screen make it a pleasure to wield below the briney blue.
I can’t disclose too much about the film we’re making at the moment (especially while we’re still in production) but here are a couple of still photographs taken with the camera. The rocky reefs of the upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia provide the setting, and all images are taken with ambient light exclusively. Nominal photoshopping- just a little tweak of the contrast levels. If you want to know more about the camera, scoot over to Panasonic Australia’s Lumix website … there’s currently a competition running where one in five Australian buyers wins a nice widescreen HDTV with an SD card slot- ready to play your videos and photos straight off the disc!