The ephemeral and the permanent

Olga Neuwirth 

Armistice: Maudite Soit La Guerre

On 1 November 2018 London Sinfonietta performed Olga Neuwirth's Maudite soit la guerre (2014), a live score in response to the 1914 silent film by Alfred Machin, which poignantly anticipates the agony of the world war to come, in visual terms mixing symbolic, expressionist and narrative modes. The muteness of characters in silent film often defamiliarises and yet makes their presence simultaneously more immediate than in other kinds of (sound) archive film. That certainly worked here.

Olga Neuwirth's music was striking, tensile, somehow constantly searching and travelling fluidly across the episodes of narrative, and yet maintaining connections with the meanings of the film. It worked very well.

I noticed the use of red flashes, that would suddenly saturate the screen, at moments of violence. The simplest devices in cinema can be non-representational - symbolic - and make a big psychological impression.

The music referenced the popular forms of the day. It seems that when popular music is referenced or quoted it very often exists in a relationship of unease - innocence mapped on to an underlying tension. What is really interesting in such effects is the sense of two tempos - one the ephemeral passing moment, another the more permanent, brooding, darker emotion. Somehow consciousness of the latter is piqued by awareness of the former. One notices this in Ives, also.

Ed Hughes