Mashing up some more

Well, it was fun picking out those YouTube clips where silents had been creatively mashed up with modern music tracks, so here are three more examples. These aren’t the same as silents to which modern composers (or would-be composers) have added new tracks – that’s an interesting subject for another time. Instead these are examples of re-edits or montages to modern music tracks which illuminate or heighten the films in interesting ways. To impose some sort of thematic reasoning to all this, the three videos below all derive from classic German 1920s silents.

Louise Brooks is one of the most popular search terms used on this blog, but such researchers have been going away disappointed. Well, no more, because here’s a dynamic and assured mix of scenes from Pandora’s Box (1929), skilfully edited by Adam Armand to the tune of The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’. It doesn’t tell us anything more about the film or the image of Brooks than we already know, but what else might the film have to say? The video expresses the quintessence of the iconography of Pabst’s film with a song that resonates with sexual torment and urgency. It may vulgarise Pabst’s artistry by reducing it to MTV-style editing, but it also expresses Brooks’ modernity and lasting appeal.

Paul Wegener’s Der Golem (1920), the classic proto-horror film telling of the creation of a clay creature, the Golem, brought to life to protect the Jews of 16th-century Prague, is accompanied by the death metal music of Fantomas, a band who sound like they know a silent film or two. In this case the band wrote a song inspired either by the legend or the film itself, and a fan (‘Monster Island Media‘) decided to do the decent think and match song to clips – which is why lyrics and imagery go together so well. Not exactly most people’s musical cup of tea, but it undoubtedly places the film within a modern, if crude, sensibility. What pop video director could ever have conjured up so convincing a vision of medieval magic?

Others have had the same idea: see here for a more frantically-edited homage.

After all that sex and musical violence, here’s some a little more surprising, and graceful. Scenes from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) are accompanied by Françoise Hardy singing ‘La Terre’, seemingly for no other reason than the chanson is a pretty one and it brings out the mystery of Robert Weine’s film. Note how well it fits in with Conrad Veidt’s Cesare slowly opening his eyes, and how delicately it accompanies the way the characters move.

The clip’s creator, Clay, has treated other silents to new scores, including Christus (1914), The Abyss (1910), Alice in Wonderland (1915) and Evgenii Bauer’s After Death (1915).

More examples to follow, as the mood takes me.

5 responses

  1. Yes, particularly impressed with the Louise Brooks piece….the song, about obsession leading to near-madness, chimes in with all her European film roles…and the editing is excellent.

  2. I think the Pandoras’s Box tribute is a dazzling piece of work. Makes you think that most musical accompaniment to silents is double-edged – authentic doubtless, nostalgic certainly, but also pigeon-holing the medium into too small a niche for it to survive as it should. Of course, ninety minutes of The Killers accompanying Pandora’s Box would be horrendous, but we need new sounds if we are going to see the films anew.

  3. Hmmmmm…..not so sure. By and large, and with very few exceptions, I much prefer traditional (ie, not impossible to have been heard in a silent-era Cinema) accompaniments to Silent films….but that is a different thing to modern filmmakers/video artists appropriating and reusing/recycling silent-era iconography for their own purposes…that’s fair game… long as they’re clear, in their own mind and in publicity, that that is what they’re doing, not presenting a silent film as such.
    Off the top of my head, the two exceptions that spring to mind are National Braid’s soundtrack to Richard Dix’s Redskin (Electric guitar, violin, tape loops) which failed to gel in a couple of places, but in others had hairs standing up on the back of my neck; that was in Pordenone about five years back, and not, shall we say, universally popular; the other is a Taveneresque choral suite called Voices of Light, designed as a concert piece to accompany Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, available as an alternative audio track on the Criterion DVD release …… and that’s breathtaking. But so much silent film live presentation in the UK is dependent on having newly commissioned scores written by composers picked for their trendiness rather than their suitability for the project, often with the result that ordinary Joe Public comes away feeling underwhelmed by silent cinema, because the music failed to do its job…although again, part of me is wondering what Damon Albarn could do now that he has got Monkey out of the way !!
    Enabling an audience to ‘See films anew’ needn’t be the preserve of non-traditional exponents….just a fresh pair of eyes and a desire to and ability to convey what has been seen. Neil Brand’s Bologna score for Blackmail did just that…and it could scarcely have been more traditional in technique and orchestration.

  4. I’m not decrying ‘traditional’ accompaniments – the very best are utterly thrilling, especially live, and I am unstinting in my admiration of the great keyboard accompanists (Brand, Sweeney, Horne, Model, Sosin, Coppola, Carli etc) who make silent come alive and whose creativity of interpretation seems boundless. But I want to see the medium challenged to find new modes of expression, and if that upsets a few folk at Pordenone along the way, then so be it. I’ve sat through some real shockers in my time (a practically two note, Tangerine Dream-style ‘accompaniment’ to Earth by a group who seemingly had not seen the film before nor bothered looking at it during performance is a particularly painful memory), and I don’t like to see silents used merely as a vanity project for some modern musicians. But those ‘trendy’ composers might just see something that we haven’t seen, and it’s that newness than I’m interested in. Silent films are a canvas on which any kind of sound accompaniment might be painted (if you’ll excuse the muddled metaphor). It would be wrong – and for the medium maybe fatal – not to try.

  5. It doesn’t take much to upset a few at Pordenone…!!
    The answer is, I suppose, that quality is everything, no matter what the source or style….my bugbear is – or was, more strictly, I think the situation has improved – that outside of festivals, Joe Public was only getting the trendy composer’s first and only stab, or the avant garde attempts – Nosferatu accompanied by a block of concrete and a pneumatic drill anyone?? – hopefully the Merton/Brand tours, amongst others, are redressing the balance….there has to be room for all, and the traditional was being elbowed out of the way a few years ago, thanks to the vagaries of Arts funding in the UK (Only ‘Originality’ was getting the funding)

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