music for anemic cinema
Flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin, cello, contrabass, soundtrack.
Music for Duchamp’s film Anemic Cinema commissioned and first performed by the Ergon Ensemble, Athens Megaron, May 2013. Subsequent performances by Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble.
Anemic Cinema (1926) is Marcel Duchamp’s singular foray into film. It is composed of images of moving spirals, alternating with shots of rotating texts. The texts which are to be read from the outside in are made of up complex erotic puns, which force an unstable reading and compliment the hypnotic destabilizing effect of the rotating spirals. It is a cinema which on a basic level tries to highlight the two polar aspects of cinematic illusion: narrative and animation. The soundtrack which is played by the ensemble works in a similar polarized approach. There are unstable harmonies, pulsating with complimentary rhythms to the rotor-reliefs, long slowly changing sounds which destablize the sense of acoustic space. These are juxtaposed with the piano which is encoding the text that we read into vertical music moments; and because the music highlights the lexical and similarities of the puns, the sound of the words are emphasized over the semantic significance of the text. I chose to remake the film using printouts of the image and refilming them while being played on a record player. The record needle picks up the differences between white and black print, so in effect it is sonifying the image. The image of the original film is then played side by side to the remake.