12 January 2008
Bill Morrison, filmmaker
Los Angeles Philharmonic
David Robertson, conductor
Capturing the aura of cities is an ongoing project I have with filmmaker Bill Morrison. With Dystopia we turned to Los Angeles for inspiration. The goal was to start at high speed and never slow down, like a ride down the freeway at 90 mph with only a few detours. The question we ask ourselves about the ride is, "Is it beautiful or is it ugly?"
I've tried to translate this question into musical terms by asking, "Do I want to hear an orchestra that is neat and well manicured or frenzied and chaotic?" Musically, I explore the gray areas between harmony and dissonance, where pleasure meets pain. I thought about the sound of a phonograph record speeding up and slowing down that point where you hear the beauty of the music but also its altered state. I have slurred into a great blender disparate sounds taken from a palette that stretches from the Renaissance composer Johannes Ockeghem to contemporary Drum and Bass (a 1990s dance music characterized by very rapid tempos). Don't be disappointed if you don't recognize any of these influences.
Bill Morrison's visual material is a combination of new footage shot in Los Angeles and archival footage. From the Library of Congress comes the first film ever shot in Los Angeles, "South Spring Street, Los Angeles," by Thomas Edison in 1898 and featuring horse driven carriages.
Like in Decasia, Gotham, and our other collaborations, the music was composed first, and then the film was cut to the score.