Let me preface this by stating that I am not a high art sort of person. I love cheap food, top 40 radio, and yes, I even get enjoyment out of watching Jersey Shore. But I try. Alright, let’s do this.
Yesterday, I went to a show at the MET called “Cinema 16”. The following is straight from the program:
“Cinema 16 resurrects communal performance experience. Cinema 16 revives the silent film era in which live music would accompany black and white 16mm projections…Each screening modernizes the tradition of silent film by pairing contemporary musicians with vintage shorts…Postmodern and edgy these events give films a new identity by scoring live contemporary music.”
Four musicians provided the music:
MV Carbon on cello
Shahin Motia on guitar (or maybe bass?)
Nick Zinner on guitar
Brian Chase also on guitar
We sat down a little bit into the first film. Six films were shown altogether:
Poeme Electronique, dir. Edgard Varèse and Le Corbusier (1958)
Photographs and short clips were shown, with colored effects over many of them. The music was dark and ethereal. It made me think of David Lynch, but I’m not actually that knowledgeable about David Lynch.
Salvador Dali, dir. Andy Warhol (1966)
I believe this was only a short clip of the full film and featured an upside down Dali looking around andholding what looked like a small clutch. I really liked the accompaniment for this film. It was mostly the cello. The aggressive, crunchy sounds MV Carbon got out of her cello almost made it seem like her playing was electrifying the film. Every movement of Dali’s head was like a reaction to her.
The Face, dir. Herbert Kosower (1967)
This film featured different variations on engravings by Piero Fornasetti. This piece was mainly accompanied by one guitar. The music was perfectly timed, notes changing every time the image changed, The film was short but very simple and elegant.
Seeing the World, dir. Rudy Burckhardt (1937)
This film was featured documentary-like footage of New York City—views of the sidewalks and architecture. There were also two scenes, one of a wealthy couple lounging despondently in their apartment. They eventually get in an argument over the alignment of a painting and leave the apartment. The other scene took place in a bar. Two men talk at a table, one getting visibly more irate. The irate man pulls out a gun, but the other man gets the best of him (sorry, spoiler). The music was similar to that of Poeme Electronique, soundscapes of dissonance and feedback and effects. I actually had mixed feelings about this piece as a whole because the film seemed so frivolous, almost comical, and the music so sprawling. Maybe because the two scenes took place in such small spaces, the music seemed too large. Maybe the beauty was in the juxtaposition. Please refer back to the statement that I don’t really understand art.
Stone Welcome Mat, dir. Gina Carducci (2003)
Home movies from Italy were featured in this film. The director looks back on her grandparent’s home in Italy. The clips gave an intimate picture of a person’s memories. The music completed the feeling of nostalgia, dreamlike sounds as if you were going back to the time when the video was originally taken.
NY NY, dir. Francis Thompson (1957)
The last film was another look at the City. Buildings and sidewalks were seen through mirror and prism effects. The piece featured some entertaining audio-visual play, like avant-garde sound effects. One shot was of hands on a typewriter and rows of ornate type. The accompaniment featured tapping on the strings. This obviously doesn’t sound like a typewriter but transforms the typewriter into a musical instrument, the action accompanying the sound. Another shot was of an elevator. The music imitated the rising motion on screen, which seems almost cartoonish, but because of the dreamlike sounds it made something as quotidian as an elevator ride seem more infinite.
Overall, this was an amazing show, especially for someone unfamiliar with film (as opposed to just “movies,” I suppose). Although it was a small ensemble, the sounds were able to go from stark and minimal to sweeping and space-filling. Together, the music and visuals made a beautiful, immersive experience.