Ah, Music!

Last week Fred Frith and I did a masterclass on film and music at Goldsmiths College, linked to my retrospective at the BFI. After some deliberation I decided to use PLAY – a short film I had made when I was about nineteen – whose enforced silence (having long since lost the original live sound-recording in an endless sequence of house moves) seemed to invite the possibility of a new score.

Peter Hardt (Fred’s regular recording engineer and mixer) flew in from Stuttgart and it was his flying fingers at the laptop that allowed us to work at speed and complete a music cue in the hour or so of recording time we had in front of an audience.

I had prepared the day before – by sitting at the piano and identifying the all-important key that I felt the cue needed to be in (a strange sliding combination of G minor and A minor, for those of you who are interested in this kind of detail) and I had a list of different types of tracks and a provisional structure outlined. But it was Fred’s extraordinary skills as an improviser, his willingness to take risks and our deep knowledge of each other’s work and working methods (having now worked together on five films) which made it possible.

Unlike a lecture or a seminar where the ideas are communicated verbally (though there was a fair amount of talking and explanation, far more than there would ever be in the studio) this event was an act of making…not so much a show as a musical dialogue, amplified and even clarified (to my surprise) by being watched.

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