Multimedia film event opens Friday Night Rock concert
By Sarah Scully
Published on Thursday, March 1, 2012
Tomorrow night, Friday Night Rock will join the film and media studies course “Curating and Microcinema” to put on a live music and film event called “Silent Films, LOUD Music” in Fuel. Students in the class, taught by film professor Jodie Mack, have been working throughout the term to curate films and coordinate the musicians who will perform live scores to accompany the films, according to Mack.
Friday Night Rock General Manager Zak Clare-Salzler ’12, who took a class with Mack last fall, worked with her to organize the event and said he hoped to do more multimedia projects for FNR in the future.
Curating is an important part of exhibiting artwork, she said, because the order and presentation elicits certain effects and students in her class learn how to put on arts events.
The students will screen the silent films with the live music accompaniment as an opening act for Bear in Heaven, the band Friday Night Rock will bring to campus to perform this Friday. When the chosen films were presented in the era in which they were made, they typically were complemented by live musical performances, Mack said.
The class has chosen four short avant-garde films made before the 1930s for the event: “Vormittagsspuk” (1928) by Hans Richter, “Entr’acte” (1924) by Rene Clair, “H2O” (1929) by Ralph Steiner ’21 and “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1928) by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber. Made before common formulas or narratives in film had been established, the black-and-white silent films do not necessarily follow a traditional narrative, Mack said.
“These films were made at a time before cinematic language had come to exist,” she said. “They hadn’t sort of formed the cinematic vernacular that we know today.”
In curating the production, the students selected the films and arranged them in a deliberate order to create a particular mood, Monica Dalmau ’12, a student in the class, said.
“We tried to get a lot of variation in the films,” Dalmau said. “We wanted to get some more absurd, crazy films, and we wanted to get some more tranquil films.”
The films all differ from one another, and some have absurd narratives, according to Dalmau. “H20,” for instance, is very abstract and follows clips of water and flowing rivers without a linear narrative.
At the beginning of Winter term, the class called for musicians to help with the project and assigned musicians to different films based on the samples provided in their submissions, according to Mack. Throughout the term, the students have worked loosely with the musicians to prepare for the performance.
“I sort of tried not to influence what [a musician] was going to do,” Dalmau said. “I think it’s more interesting that way.”
For the most part, the students have taken a hands-off approach to the musical aspect.
“They have full creative reign over what they’re making,” Cassie Jackson ’12, another student in the class, said.
One of the musicians, Alex DuPuis GR ’12, said the plot of the film “Fall of the House of Usher,” based on the short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe, influenced the atmosphere of his scoring.
“[Poe] talked a lot about sound in the story and sort of the dramatic impact of sound in this particular world he’s created,” DuPuis said.
In the story, the narrator and his friend Roderick Usher lock Usher’s sister into a tomb while she is still alive, but the narrator at the time thinks she is dead, according to DuPuis.
“[Usher] is unable to deal with a lot of sounds,” DuPuis said of the story. “Sound is a musical manifestation of his guilt.”
DuPuis, who worked with another student, created the musical accompaniment for the film by using voice, instrumental and prerecorded tracks. Influenced by the experimental film artist Xander Marro, who screened her handmade film at the College on Jan. 26 as part of the EYEWASH film series organized by Mack, DuPuis merged distorted voices to give the feel of conversation, he said.
“An implicit script could have taken away from [Marro’s] otherworldly feeling,” DuPuis said. “Similarly, ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ kind of has surreal elements to it — explicit dialogue would take away from that.”
The screening of the films accompanied by the live scores will begin at 9:30 p.m. on Friday night and will be followed by the band Bear in Heaven.