‘Watching the film and watching each otherfor cue points is quite a tricky thing to do’
Jazz/electronic collective the Cinematic Orchestra take their inspiration from film. Now frontman JASON SWINSCOE and his band have scored a film for real. Words: Miles Fielder
ne of the many legends surrounding the late great
Miles Davis is the story of his recording of the
soundtrack to Louis .Vlalle‘s 1958 French film noir Ast'enseur pour l 'eehafata/ (Lift T0 The Scaffold). Rather than recording the music out of sequence. to segments of scenes. Davis and his musicians improvised around a number of musical themes as the film in its entirety was projected onto a screen in front of them. If you‘ve seen the film. you‘ll know the result was complete harmony of sound and vision.
Jason Swinscoe and the Cinematic Orchestra are attempting something similar at tripTych. The group will be playing a new score they wrote for the 1929 Russian film Man With The Movie Camera. On stage. the orchestra will play live their mix of modem jazz and electronic jigger-pokery.
‘There‘ll be six people on the stage.' says Swinscoe. ‘Keyboards. saxophones. sampler. double bass. electric bass. percussion. There'll be a fair amount of improvising. trying to create a sound that relates to some of the sounds on the film. Quite a lot of freeness.‘
Swinscoe and the orchestra have been getting in some practice. He and the band are just back from Istanbul. where they did two nights at the city’s film festival. performing to Man With The Movie Camera. ‘We were actually in an orchestra pit.‘ says Swinscoe. who is clearly delighted with the gig. ‘But.’ he adds. ‘watching the film and watching each other for cue points. its quite a tricky thing to do.‘
The new score for the film came about when Portugal's Porto Film Festival asked them to write and perform a fresh soundtrack. Swinscoe and co did. playing to an audience of 3500 film and music enthusiasts. ‘It was an amazing experience.’ says Swinscoe. ‘Scoring the film opened up new avenues about how to write music and create sound.‘ he says.
The orchestra’s experience at Porto fed into the writing and recording of the band‘s new album. Every Day. One of the seven tracks takes its name from the ﬁlm. but. in fact. the whole of the album grew out of scoring Man With The Movie Camera. The title of the album refers to the ﬁlm in which ‘the Man~ (Dziga Venov) wanders about a city filming the day-to-day lives of his fellow Russian citizens. And with various, dare I say it. self- reflexive postmodern touches. Vertov‘s ﬁlm is recognised as something of an avant garde classic.
‘This guy with a camera. whatever captures his eye. he'll just follow it.’ says Swinscoe of the film. ‘It was quite a challenge to write the music. because there isn't a specific narrative. The narrative is. it‘s based over a day: people waking. working. leisure time and then the ﬁlm actually goes back into the cinema with people watching the footage on the screen. There’s a lot of quite creative editing and split screen treatment. It‘s a ﬁlm ahead of its time.’
L’nsurprisingly. Swinscoe finds much of his inspiration in the work of film soundtrack composers. Bemard Heirmann is one of his favourites. ‘Just the sheer body of work.’ says Swinscoe. The score for Aseenseur pour l 'eeha/aud is also up there. ‘It suited Miles‘ thing. how minimal his music was at the time.‘ Swinscoe goes onto talk about other jazz musicians who turned their talents to film: Art Blakey. Duke Ellington. Herbie Hancock. Quincy Jones. ‘The jazz and blues soundtracks were much less classically structured] he says.
Has Swinscoe been tempted to make like Davis and score a new ﬁlm? He submitted seventeen minutes of music to the Canadian independent filmmaker Bruce MacDonald for a film he was making with Mickey Rourke and Juliette Lewis. but never heard anything back. That experience hasn’t put him off. though. ‘lf things come up.’ says Swinscoe. ‘deﬁnitelyf
Until that time. check out the Cinematic Orchestra‘s new sound for an old film.
The Cinematic Orchestra play George Square Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 27 Apr; GFT, Glasgow, Sun 28 Apr.
25 Aty—S' May 2302 THE LIST 21