Listening into the eyes
Classic silent films with piano accompaniment are legion. Less common is the attempt to create an adequate music to these films.
The first programme of new music to old films, compositions by Cornelius Schwehr, Caspar Johannes Walter, Catherine Milliken, Martin Smolka and Gunter Lege was premiered in August 2004 in and in collaboration with the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
The films, durations largely between 3 and 17 minutes, are from early masters of experimental and dadaistic film: Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, Hans Richter and Walter Ruttmann. These artists were concerned to make moving pictures into music and rhythm on the screen. They range from the cubist abstraction of Richter's "Rhythm 23" to Fischinger's playful "Study Nr.7" edited to the music of Johannes Brahms' "Hungarian Dance Nr.5".
The composers are not concerned merely to accompany the films but to create an equal and complementary work bringing the visual and auditory into dialogue. The understanding with which we experience pictures and music as a unity can be irritated for example by seeing the same film twice, or even three times, with different musics.
The following year the expanded programme was recorded at ZKM in Karlsruhe for ZDF/Arte and in 2007 a second recording was made. These films have been broadcast several times.
Performances in Berlin, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Leipzig and Dresden introduced new compositions by Carola Bauckholt, Ludger Brummer, Oliver Frick, Georg Katzer, Sven-Ingo Koch, Olga Neuwirth, Friedrich Schenker and Bernd Thewes.
Two films by Fischinger are cut to the rhythm of classical works by J.S.Bach and J.Brahms which ascolta performs in new arrangements by Andrew Digby.
Of particular importance in the programme are two longer films. The legendary film "Entr'acte" by René Clair has an original music by Erik Satie (also arranged for ascolta by Andrew Digby) and a new composition by Martin Smolka. The equally legendary film "Le chien andalou" by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali has been newly composed by Iris ter Schiphorst.
Further performances took place in Berlin Konzerthaus, Würzburg, Baku (Azerbaijan), Salzburg Biennale (with a new composition by Clemens Gadenstätter) and Hannover Herrenhausen.
In 2011 the film project was supplemented for the first time by newly made contemporary films with new music, premiered in the concert series "ascolta plays..Picture Symphony" on October 8th and 9th.