The Act of Listening #43-44

A Michelangelo Antonioni Triptych: L'Avventura [1960], La Notte [1961] and L'Eclisse [1962] and the later masterpiece The Passenger [1975].

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Monica Vitti performing in Antoninoi's "trilogy on modernity and its discontents", followed by Jack Nicholson listening to Robertson's tape recorded voice in The Passenger [1975]. Sound piece - Antonioni: Anixety part of The Malaise of Modernity suite [2018].

Sep-Nov 2018 Projects

A selection of recent projects [Sep-Nov 2018]:

Sir John Lubbock's Pet Wasp [2018] dir. Ossie Parker & Laurie Hill • Animation
Sound Design: Rob Szeliga
More information here

Listen to My Song [2018] dir. Danny Mitchell • Documentary
Sound Design: John Cohen, Rob Szeliga
More information here

High Passes [2018] dir. Cosima Barzini • Documentary
Sound Design: Rob Szeliga
More information here

Hong Kong West Kowloon Station [2018] / [edit] • Promotional Video
Architect Andrew Bromberg at Aedas
Music and Sound: Rob Szeliga
More information here

Encounters with Noise in the Dark #5

Some brief comments on one of my favourite films this year:

I think it's a mistake to consider Oscar-winning Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's 2018 film Cold War merely a love story. For me it is a story about love and history and Poland and cultural identity, but more than that I think it's a film about music. The act of listening and performing.

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Hard picture cuts, often led through sound or music, throw the film forward into new performance sequences teeming with energy and life. We move through time rapidly, jumping to different locations, never sticking around in one place to long. Conversations are brief, transitions between places fleeting. The experience is like watching a series of separate episodes rather than a story with a continuous narrative arch. The film also lacks a certain conventional psychological perspective…

Continue reading here.

BFI London Film Festival 2018

Fifteen (Quince) is one of three projects (the others being Isha and Naptha) that I’ve been recently involved in playing at this year’s festival. Shot by director / cinematographer Peiman Zekavat, the film unfolds as one continuous 10-minute take. This kind of choreographed camera work lends itself well to a soundscape that changes in direct relation to time and space. See Pascal Aubier’s film here for further ideas in this direction, referenced in Tarkovsky’s Sculpting in Time.

The Act of Listening #41

Survival of the fittest: Kaneto Shinoda’s New Wave masterpiece Onibaba [1964]. Special mention to the brilliant atmospheric score provided by Hikaru Hayashi, who also worked on Shinoda’s Kuroneko [1968] and Naked Island [1960]. An overlooked Japanese director well worth checking out.

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The Act of Listening #35-40

Further updates to the Act of Listening project:

 #35 Stalker [1979] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#35 Stalker [1979] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

 #36 Nostalghia [1983] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#36 Nostalghia [1983] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

 #37 Ivan's Childhood [1962] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

#37 Ivan's Childhood [1962] - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

 #38 A Robert Bresson Triptych:  Diary of a Country Priest  [1951],  Pickpocket  [1958] and  A Man Escaped  [1956]

#38 A Robert Bresson Triptych: Diary of a Country Priest [1951], Pickpocket [1958] and A Man Escaped [1956]

 #39 Dial M for Murder [1954] - dir. Alfred Hitchcock

#39 Dial M for Murder [1954] - dir. Alfred Hitchcock

 #40 Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959] - dir. Alain Resnais

#40 Hiroshima Mon Amour [1959] - dir. Alain Resnais

Brave [2018]

Recent sound and music work for Osbert Parker's animation short Brave [2018].

More information here.

Encounters with Noise in the Dark #4

What I reject is this refusal to let silence have its place, this needs to fill supposed voids.
— M. Antonioni, Cinema 65 100, November 1965
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Strikingly innovative and challenging for their time, Michelangelo Antonioni's films of the 1960s and 1970s favour a poetics of atmosphere and place over conventional narrative. While much has been written about the directors bold visual style, a brief look at the literature would suggest much less space has been dedicated to an examination of his work with sound and music. I recently revisited a number of Antonioni films of this period - L'Avventura [1960], La Notte [1961], L'Eclisse [1962], Il Deserto Rosso [1964] and The Passenger [1975] - to briefly explore how he used sound in his work.

Continue reading here.

The Act of Listening #34

A distant voice from across the airwaves: Meg Ryan moved to tears in this Bergman-esque sequence from Sleepless in Seattle [1993]. Sven Nykvist, Ingmar Bergman's longtime collaborator, worked as cinematographer on this picture.

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Photochemical Soundmaking: Optical Soundtrack Tests

My past experience was not to "meddle" with the material, but use my concentration as a guide to what might transpire. I mentioned this to Stockhausen once when he had asked me what my secret was. "I don't push the sounds around." Stockhausen mulled this over, and asked: "Not even a little bit?" [M. Feldman, 'Crippled Symmetry', 1981]

Post-production sound work I think is a business of pushing sounds around in the context of moving image. The pushing often has to happen at speed to meet the demands of shrinking budgets and shifting schedules. For this we have available to us a vast range of commercial sound libraries from which sound files are taken and placed on the timeline. Is there time, or any reason, for one to stop and consider these sounds beyond their pure utility? The physical place of a sound in the world, its inner sonic properties, its potential sacredness?

 James Holcombe's Auricon 100 camera, amp and chunky mic.

James Holcombe's Auricon 100 camera, amp and chunky mic.

Time slows down when the technology stubbornly refuses to keep up. Through these unfamiliar temporal gaps emerges new creative possibilities, new perceptions and meanings. This is how I felt recently when attending an immersive 1-day introductory workshop on 16mm optical sound with filmmaker and artist James Holcombe who I first met at no.w.here in late 2017.

Over the last few years I’ve been developing an interest in 16mm film and have wanted to learn more about the recording, manipulation and playing back of optical sound. Aside from the actual creative possibilities as an audiovisual medium, photochemical filmmaking strikes me as an incredibly ‘deep’ artistic practice involving patient skill, direct engagement with technology, chance, high value risk-taking (money and time), and a generous spirit of shared knowledge and resources through its community. While I can also identify these attributes in the digital realm, what particularly attracts me to this way of working is the difference in how one engages and interacts with the material over time.

 Hanging out to dry before projector test.

Hanging out to dry before projector test.

The embodied, tactile process of photochemical filmmaking involves a radically different perspective on how one engages with the material in time and space. An experience, a way of encountering the world, that feels far removed from the digital environment I regularly operate in as a sound designer. The efficient, precise and total control of the computer is replaced by a sense of experimentation (in the truest sense of the word) and adventure, through an interplay of human skill, technology and chance.

Before me a magical process of energy transference unfolded: acoustic energy into optical, kinetic, chemical and back again to re-produce an audible sound signal. It felt like all aspects of the audio chain - recording, developing, editing, treating and playback - were suddenly resonating with a renewed sense of meaning and mystery. In moments like these our private feelings of awe and wonder are stirred as we rediscover the magic inside phenomena we think we are familiar with.

Special thanks to James Holcombe

Masses and Parts [2018] - the end of a chapter

Inspired by the dense textural work of Penderecki, Ligeti, and the American minimalist tradition, Masses and Parts is a collection of sound pieces that mark the end of a long period of experimentation in computer-based music stretching back to 2002. These ideas were first explored in ealier work for shamisen and computer [2005-2010], and then later through the Otoplexus project [2009-2011] and Systema Naturae [2012-2017]. Other sketches and ideas can be heard in the Signal and Noise playlist. A work-in-progress text here attempts to outline some of the thoughts and ideas surrounding this body of work.

My favoutite piece of this four-part collection is Emerging Lines from Just Intervals which uses a just intonated tuning system for melodic and harmonic exploration. This is inspired by and dedicated to two greats of the American experimental tradition: Pauline Oliveros [1932-2016] and Glenn Branca [1948-2018].