Image: cityscape from Wong Kar Wai's beautiful 2046 (2004).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

City View

This is gorgeous. I came across the music of Max Richter today while on my never-ending hunt for music that I can listen to while writing. (Fundamentals: sparse, no lyrics, but not atonal or a-rhythmic, nor overly staccato or martial in tenor... I'm tricky that way... lots of Philip Glass, Eluvium and Arvo Pärt listened to around here.)

Richter is a German-born modernist composer who trained in the UK and Italy. I guess, in truth, I had encountered Richter's music previously, as a few of his songs were part of the soundtrack for Stranger than Fiction, but I can muster no particular memory of their place in the film. His compositions are very "cinematic," I think it could be said. I wonder if this means they work better when NOT placed in the service of film narratives but left to stand on their own, to filter in through my headphones while I try to arrange my disorderly thoughts about films and cities into a persuasive argument. Perhaps, but most likely, Richter's pieces are best served by being wedded with imagery like this:

The images were shot by filmmaker Yulia Mahr, who pointed a camera out Richter's NYC window over five nights while Richter was working on the album "Songs from Before" (2006). The song featured is called "Fragment." Collectively, the unison of image and music is exquisite, and produces impressions lying somewhere between the uncomfortable menace of Wavelength, or the chatty (then menacing) voyeurism of Rear Window, while simultaneously reminding me of the urban nighttime footage from Lawrence Johnston's astonishing recent documentary, Night (which I wrote about here and which I'd encourage you to see no matter where you had to drive or fly to to do so).

In the simplest of assemblages, the short film and the music explore the simultaneous beauty and distanciation of quasi-communal urban living.

You can watch other Richter/Mahr collaborations on youtube and, I imagine, all over the web... if you look.

In my next post: an update on that thing I did the other day, and some other sundry thoughts.

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