Sounds and visions

Ensemble 360 double bass player Laurene Durantel
Ensemble 360 double bass player Laurene Durantel

Sheffield Chamber Music Festival starts tomorrow night and one of the highlights is an improvised soundtrack to silent film Man with a Movie Camera by Laurene Durantel.

The double bass player revisits the performance she first made last year.

Here, Laurene answers some questions about her performance next Friday, May 18, at the Showroom Cinema, which is also part of the Yorkshire Silent film Festival.

When you first saw the film last year, did you immediately have musical ideas?

The first impression I got, was that I wanted to make sure I would have some silence in it. Silence and very slow motions and movements in the music and between musical sequences, as the film is so fast. I had ideas about the feeling and the emotions I wanted to generate, rather than musical ideas, and those “moods” created music later on.

Last year, there were times when your music illustrated the story, and others when you seemed to be detached from the film. Was that intentional?

Yes it was, I didn’t want to follow the movie and illustrate it too much, thinking that would add too much sense when it was not necessary. And sometimes it was not possible to resist to it, as a good sense of humour can be found in the movie too! What is majorly interesting is the way this is done, those fast cuts, and the distance it requires and which is needed sometimes for a spectator, in order to not get lost in fastness.

How much of what you did was improvised?

I planned before the day some bits of written music I knew I would like to play, but decided to improvise the time and place they would be played, and decided to let free the interpretation too. The rest was improvised. So a kind of improvisation in different levels...

What can we expect this year? Will it be an entirely new performance?

It has to be new, a year has passed! But this is the same movie, and I don’t want to make a new conception just in order to make something new. The strong art of Vertov drives the soundtrack anyway, and I am happy to obey to it, to use the “healing” of it.

But I can say that I won’t reuse anything from last year.

l Music in the Round’s annual festival this year has more music and guest artists and a day of music and maths.

Resident chamber group Ensemble 360 and resident singer Roderick Williams will be joined by guests including harpist Catrin Finch, Seckou Keita, pianist Peter Hill and Professor Marcus du Sautoy.

The festival runs until May 19, mainly in the Crucible Studio. There’ll be free concerts in the Winter Garden in partnership with Classical Sheffield, concerts for babies, late-night events, new music from Platform4 and events around the city centre.

The opening night double bill features Ensemble 360 performing Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A minor and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. They are joined by Roderick Williams for Mahler’s Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen.

Williams performs his final instalment of Schubert song cycle Schwanengesang with pianist Iain Burnside.

On Saturday, When Death Comes to Call explores how music and literature have inspired each other. It includes a performance of Alexander Pushkin’s short play Mozart and Salieri, plus chilling short story The Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe.

Tickets and pr0gramme: Music in the Round