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.
The terms ‘Freeware’ and ‘Open Source‘ mean many things to many people. Generally speaking, software of this nature is the fruit of collaboration between programmers in their own time, who see a need in the community and address it with love and attention. Back in the ’90s the term ‘Freeware’ used to be synonymous with ugly interfaces and limited applications. The game has evolved nicely though, and collaborative teams have grown with the open-source ethos (making software code transparent and accessible, and seeking contributions) so much so that many of our core software needs are met by such products.
What follows is a list of our favourite, heavy-use software that has grown out of open-source culture. All the projects’ development teams make calls to donate to further their cause, and if you find them useful, we strongly recommend you give something back to these generous and talented developers.
This fully-fledged suite of productivity software is a big deal. Since discovering it a couple of years ago, I gave Microsoft Office the flick and haven’t looked back. OpenOffice can open and handle any Microsoft Office data, and cuts you loose of the software giant’s tentacles. You can also export anything you genereate in OpenOffice in a plethora of file formats, including many different versions of Microsoft standards. We primarily use Writer and Calc (the wordprocessor and spreadsheet applications) but the suite also includes titles comparable to Powerpoint, Access, Draw and others. I’ve heard people complain that sometimes complex layouts in Word documents can get scrambled when they are imported into Writer, but if complex layouts are important to you, you should probably be using a higher-end desktop publishing solution anyway, like InDesign or Quark Express. All in all, this is an incredible package, that gets better with every revision.
I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of blog posts devoted to browsers, so I won’t linger on this one. Firefox may not be the fastest kid on the block, but it does have a formiddable volume of great plugins to choose from. The selling points for us are the integration of our chosen password manager, a Facebook toolbar, and EchoFon, a twitter plugin which allows us to follow and tweet more conveniently. I’ll make a separate post about favourite Firefox plugins in the coming month or so- in the meantime, download Firefox and get more out of your web-browsing.
Yes, I’m a bit of a Mozilla fan I admit. Again, I got onto this package many years ago, and haven’t touched Outlook or any other mail client since. It’s quick, clean and intuitive interface suits me fine, and the program handles a massive amount data if you’re an email hoarder like I am. Equally indispensible is the utility MozBackup, which allows you to backup your archive of emails. This can be handy if you’re like us, and upgrade computers and travel regularly. MozBackup makes it easy to migrate your email from one machine to the next, and it also takes with it all your mail settings, along with settings from any other Mozilla software.
Don’t you just hate having to use Windows Media Player to play back some media files, Quicktime for others and still ending up being herded onto websites to download missing codecs? Enter VLC PLayer. This simple, no-fuss media player cuts through the crap and delivers fast, stable playback of more file-types than you’re ever likely to come accross. It’s still at version 1 at the moment, and is a project well worth supporting.
Don’t be misled by the seemingly obsolete title- CD BurnerXP handles BluRay and many other media peculiarities and does it with style, efficiency and grace. It’s an attractive application, has a drag & drop interface and it has quickly become our media burner of choice. As with all the software mentioned here, it may be written by nerds, but not for nerds- so it’s an application that should keep young, heavy-harvesting media farmers and casual-use retirees equally happy. It can burn .ISO images along with the usual combinations of data, audio and video discs bringing it damn close to perfection.
If you use any OpenSource or Freeware tools you couldn’t live with out, please leave your recommendation as a comment below.
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.