The Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival 2011 features a set of four unusual screenings titled ‘Silent Cinema of the 21st Century’, which blend silent pictures and live performance. Amongst them are ‘Metropolis’ (Fritz Lang), ‘The Water Magician’ (Kenji Mizoguchi), films used by the Australian Corrick Family Entertainers and works by Stan Brakhage. The silent pictures converse with audiences again, enhanced by newly composed sound tracks or live narrations. This is an innovative homage to silent cinema which contextualises and modernises international and Australian cinema heritage.

‘Music of Light’ is dedicated to the work of American experimentalist Stan Brakhage (1933-2003). A film philosopher, Brakhage discards narrative to bring to the surface profound life observations by using a variety of techniques such as painting, scratching on film, handheld camera effects and combinations of multiple exposures. His films are short essays of movement and luminosity which tell stories of the mind’s impressions and depths and illustrate the transcendental. They look like art installations and fit well in art gallery spaces.

Brakhage’s works intersect also with music, boasting unique inherent beats and chiariscuro tones. This performance was a study of the musical elements of Brakhage's film composition and his personal interest in music. The live and recorded music accompanying the films emphasised the pulsating images and their contrapuntal structure. Pianist Stephen Wittington’s selection included corresponding readings of excerpts from writings by Brakhage, J. W. von Goethe, A. Schoenberg and V. Kandinsky combined with music by J. S. Bach, J. Tenney, A. Scriabin, A. Schoenberg, P. Corner, A Webern, J. M. Hauer, and a premiere of Wittington’s new piece ‘Passacaglia B.A.C.H.’ The material was organised in five sections, each touching on compositional and biographical narration.

The program brought to light fourteen relatively unknown short films by Brakhage, one of them the influential ‘Mothlight’. The music and its performance did not dominate but accompanied and augmented the rhythm and tone of the pictures. The synthesis of music, film and excerpts of philosophical texts achieved a mood of deep reflection in the almost full Ron Rodford Auditorium at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The audience left satisfied with the aesthetic concept of the show and invigorated by the unusual experience.

Recitals Australia in association with the 2011 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival
The Music of Light
The Films of Stan Brakhage

With Stephen Whittington, piano, percussion, electronics

Venue: Art Gallery of South Australia | Radford Auditorium, North Tce Adelaide
Date: 27 February, 2011

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