6. Theater and film
Robert, did you consider making music for theater plays?
Robert: Well yes, actually I’m in the process of working on a project with another artist right now, doing a theater piece. We have taken Jean Cocteau’s piece ‘’The human voice’’ and we have re-imagined the idea of the stage play, which is meant both for theater, gallery installation and film. It would be a two persons stage play, myself and this other artist called Alex Wolkowicz. She is reciting Cocteau’s text from the play, and I’m doing a live manipulation of the voice with a synthesizer. The entire length of the play is a one person play, where a woman is on the telephone having a conversation, yet she’s always being interrupted or having sort of a dialogue with (you can’t hear it on the other side) the telephone operator. And so, myself, with this patch bay, I’m the telephone operator on the other side, that’s interacting with her. So that’s one way of this installation, this stage play.
Robert: Also, I just came from Detroit, where I had an artist residency and I did a piece for a museum in Detroit; that was a piece for sound in movement. I worked with this dancer and choreographer called Biba Bell and we produced this dance piece, as a commission for the Cranbrook museum. It was improvised, as a part of the exhibition of their permanent collection called Hall of Wonders. It was like taxidermic animals, pieces from antiquity, they were all combined; and she would move inside of all these stuff, which is quite risky for a museum to let it happen. But they did and it was nice. It was really good.
What about you Ariel?
Ariel: Well, I haven’t been active in concerts or collaborations with theaters for a long time, but I used to do that a lot. I used to do dance theater pieces with several of my friends of that time. One of the dancers I worked with did a composition dance, on my first album, ‘Reternelle’, which is 19-minute piece with a saxophone, echoes. Later, I did a piece with a beautiful dancer and another musician, where the other musician was playing titanium pieces of metal, and I was playing harmonium and flutes; it was very very interesting music. And the dancer was moving on stage, between big glass light elements and large wooden sculptures on which she would dance and do movements in space, and using as an artifact to dance it was beautiful. And I did many dance events where I would perform music in different variations with only me or other people. But I haven’t done that for a long time, because my life has changed at one point in the ‘80s.
Simona: Speaking of music for theater and film, I want to ask Robert how did you get to make the score for the horror flick Last Kind Words. If I’m not wrong, you won the best original score at the Brooklyn Film Festival 2012.
Robert: I know the director of this film (Kevin Barker), we worked together before and he approached me and said he was working on a movie and wanted very much for me to do the score for the film. So it’s the first time I had done a complete film score, like bodywork for a film. But that’s really it, that’s how it came about. And then it screened at some festival and I did won Best Original Music at the Brooklyn Film Festival, which I didn't even know that I was nominated for. But I got a text message from him, in the night of the awards ceremony, and said ‘hey.. you won.’ And I had no idea.
Simona: Do you have any horror music composers that influenced or inspired you?
Robert: There’s a lot of horror music composers that I like quite a lot, but I think it has less to do with a specific genre and more to do with the form. I grew up with the cinema, I saw a lot of film when I was very young, it’s something that I really appreciated, I was introduced to cinema from around the world at a young age. There are a lot of composers that I think they have made really wonderful and really interesting sound from the inception of film, the turn of the century on up. There is not necessarily one composer that I like more than another. I actually like very much John Carpenter, but I think that has in a lot of ways more to do with the fact that he was an author and he wrote the films, he made the films, he composed music for the films, it was a complete work and that’s something that I think is really wonderful.
Actually he recently released his first studio album. Did you check it out?
Robert: I did, I heard it, I like it! But when he was asked ‘why now’, why he decided now to make an album that had no relation to a film, he said ‘well, why not?’
Ariel: End of ‘60s is a great age!
Simona: Robert, you were saying that you grew up with the cinema. How did you meet Ben Russell?
Robert: Ben and I, we both lived in Chicago some years ago; we've met through mutual friends. We had a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we did a small trip together some time ago, each doing performances. He was using film projectors with light sensitive electronics, to create a sort of big chaotic sounds and I was doing voice pieces. And on this particular trip (this is at the time after I had moved to New York), he and I had decided that we wanted to work together in some way, to collaborate. And at the time it had not revealed to us what it was, but after he met Ben Rivers and they decided to make a film together, Ben Russel said ‘there’s this one person I would like to be involved’ which is myself. And he approached me with the idea, I went to London, I met Ben Rivers for the first time and we got along very well. And it made sense to work together.
Simona: So how did the script of ‘A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness’ come up?
Robert: They would come up together with the concept of the film. They would travel doing a tour, showing their films in different cities. In Australia they have done a long series of travelling with their films, this is about the time that they decided that they wanted to do a collaborative film and came up with the concept for the film. So in that regard, it was already in motion, it was already in place what they would do and I had no say in that. It was also nice for me, in the capacity that I was involved, to work with other artists in a round where I had to completely let go and sort of let them direct me through these actions, throughout the course of the film, but also then I would facilitate certain aspects like the last 30 minutes, the black medal scene. I put a group of people together and we composed this music that was to be performed, the whole film was very performative, but that specifically was a 27-minute block of performance that was sort of unending. Within the collaboration, I would facilitate certain aspects of it. But there was no script, there was no storyboard, it was only the idea in their heads. We would talk about these actions and then we would see them through. So it was interesting in that way, where it’s not a conventional way of making a film, not sort of conventional cinema.
Simona: Do you intent to work in the cinematic field?
Robert: Yeah. I would like to do more, I’ve done a bit more of work with film scores, I’ve worked with this composer called Jóhann Jóhannsson on two films, recently. But as far as the idea of being in a film, or acting in a film, it’s something I can’t be sure. I met Jóhann 7 or 8 years ago. I was invited to support him in some of his concerts in US. We got along very well, and once again, our sensibilities were matched in a way. And we talked about doing some sort of collaboration. And throughout years we talked about certain things, nothing had materialized until very recently. He was in the process of working on these film scores and he specifically wanted my particular voice, or my way of composing and creating sound. One is a Hollywood film and the other one is a short documentary.
Ariel: Hollywood film! I want to see that!
How about a Bollywood film?
Robert: I would love it!