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Michael Nyman

Publisher: Chester Music

Man with a Movie Camera (2001)
Work Notes
exclusive to the Michael Nyman Band
Chester Music Ltd
Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
1 Hour 0 Minutes
Unavailable Explain this...
Programme Note
Michael Nyman Man with a Movie Camera (2001)
Michael Nyman has built up a vivid metropolitan score for Dziga Vertov’s legendary 1929 silent movie THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA, a human and optimistic film about the relationship between the city and its people. Nyman's energetic and sensitive music is turning the experimental film into an acoustic poem. Scored for the Michael Nyman Band and to be performed with a 35mm film. Released as a DVD by the British Film Institute,

Soviet Russia was the subject of two films screened at the South Bank, accompanied by live performances of recent scores by Michael Nyman. Man with a Movie Camera is a classic of Russian modernist cinema, directed in 1929 by Dziga Vertov, and The Commissar Vanishes uses photographs by Alexander Rodchenko. The latter manipulates photographs of the victims of Stalin's purges. Their faces are erased by thick, leathery masks of black paint. Chris Kondek's 1999 film juxtaposes these obliterated icons with unadulterated photographs. The restless camerawork transforms the blank faces into living, dramatic characters. Rodchenko's overlaid paint destroys their identity - an emblem of the tyrannical extermination wrought by the Soviet regime. For all its abstract construction, Kondek's film invites us to empathise with the victims of the Soviet regime. But Nyman's music, performed by the Michael Nyman Band, initially seems disengaged from the subject matter of the film. Full of motoric rhythms, and played relentlessly loudly, the music inhabits a different expressive world. And the score was not originally conceived for The Commissar Vanishes. In fact, it reworks Nyman's music for a dance work, The Fall of Icarus. But weirdly, as the half-hour film progresses, it is precisely the music's objectivity that makes the whole experience so compelling. The difference between the visual rhythm of the film and the pace of the music forces us to interpret the appalling events suggested by the photographs. Yet there are also moments when the music seems to chime with the visuals: the acerbic saxophone riff that accompanies Stalin's photograph, and the driving intensity of the final section. Nyman's music for Man with a Movie Camera is much more closely co-ordinated with the film. Directing from the piano, the composer ensured that the musicians were precisely synchronised with the film-track. But instead of a literal interpretation of Vertov's scenes of city life, Nyman's score finds a deeper connection with the film's aesthetic. Man with a Movie Camera celebrates the relationship between the workers of the city and the technology of factories, transport, and leisure. The mechanical relentlessness of the music was an aural reflection of the typewriters, trams, and assembly lines of the film. But the most sumptuous tune was reserved for a sequence in which the movie camera itself was made to dance. Just as the film celebrates the techniques of film-making, so the energy and directness of Nyman's music revels in its own construction.
Tom Service, The Guardian,20/05/2002
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