This Monday: coasts in sound and film
While I usually don’t post my own events here (the monthly academic screenings can be seen at the Passengerfilms blog), Monday’s event (7.30pm, 25th Feb, Roxy Bar & Screen) is explicitly coastal. The Cabinet of Living Cinema are performing a live cinema voyage “from Romantic poetry to avant-garde cinema to surf films, exploring our aesthetic relationship with seascape and coastline”. This will include excerpts from Maya Deren’s second experimental film, At Land, and also the live radio piece, Sound Journeys of Dorset, recorded amidst the quarries of Dorset’s man-made wilderness. The live scoring and live foley will be by Kieron Maguire (guitar, viola) and Robert Parkinson (dulcimer).
At Land, made partly in collaboration with John Cage, is a fifteen minute silent film in which Maya Deren is a creature washed up from the sea, crawling into cramped, claustrophobic society. The soundtrack will be partly composed and partly improvised. Kieron Maguire, founder of The Cabinet of Living Cinema, composes for theatre and film using viola, guitar and loop-pedals to build up layers of melody, “soundscapes” and live sound-effects. Previous work includes composition for Gogol’s ‘The Nose’, Jan Svankmajer’s ‘Faust’, and ‘Music for Homer’s Odyssey’, which can be heard here.
We will also be screening J. B. Holmes’ The Way to the Sea (1936), a curious documentary about the electrification of the London to Portsmouth railway line, which also includes a history of the South Coast and a sweeping historical treatment of the English people’s relationship with the sea, from invasions to holidays. The commentary is by W. H. Auden, writer of one of the most famous British seascape poems, (‘Look, stranger, at this island now’…), and its music was composed by Benjamin Britten, well known for his Four Sea Interludes.
The feature film we’ll be showing, in its first non-theatrical screening, is Penny Woolcock’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond (2012). The film is entirely built from a hundred years of archival coastal footage in the BFI’s collection (see clip / trailer here), and is a collaboration with the Brighton-based band British Sea Power, who have composed the full score. Penny is interviewed by The Quietus in a short article here, which discusses the sea in a century of documentary film, as well as other examples of collective film making. Some of the original archival clips are also mapped out on the English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish coastlines here (click the interactive map).
Finally, Dr. Julie Brown, Reader in Music at Royal Holloway, will discuss the musical dimensions of the original presentation of J.B. Noel’s 1923 and 1924 films of the Royal Geographical Society expeditions to Mt Everest. In addition to publishing on early twentieth-century art music, Julie is contributory editor (with Annette Davison) of The Sounds of the Silents in Britain (OUP, 2013), and was Principal Investigator for the AHRC-funded Research Network ‘The Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain’ and a British Academy Research Development Award entitled ‘“Film fitting” in Britain, 1913–1926’. In April 2011 her reconstruction of Frederick Laurence’s original score for Morozko was performed at the Barbican Cinema as part of the British Silent Film Festival.
This event will be taking place at 7.30pm at the Roxy Bar & Screen in London Bridge. There’s no need to book, so please do come along – ticket price is £5 (to cover the cost of film licensing), and the venue is a lovely screening area with Chesterfield sofas, drinks, and hot food. The event poster is at the bottom of this post and also here, and further details are at the Passengerfilms website here. As usual, please do subscribe to the blog or follow Passengerfilms on Facebook or Twitter (@PASSENGERFILMS) for info on future screenings, which are every month (I usually don’t mention them here).
Within my own research, I thought I would mention that amateur film-maker E. E. Pritchard’s The Island in the Current (1953) is held by the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, and clips can be watched online here. We won’t be screening it on the night, but this is a tribute to Bardsey Island, or Ynys Enlli, and its people, showing how their existence is dominated by the sea and the seasons. The men and women are shown going about their work – e.g. butter churning, lobster potting, lobster pot mending, loading sheep and cattle into boats for the trip to the mainland market, hay-making, milking, feeding a lamb – and the camera catches the one or two children that are usually about, playing nearby, or helping the adults and thereby learning about island life.
I am currently writing a book chapter on the use of Ynys Enlli, ‘the isle of twenty thousand saints’, and its literary histories by modern poets, particularly Peter Riley in his collection The Llyn Writings, although he has written on the saint burials elsewhere. As well as earlier monastic saints, historians, and travellers, Riley’s influences include Brenda Chamberlain’s memoir of Ynys Enlli, Tide Race. Brenda Chamberlain features briefly in this film.
My favourite clip, however, has to be this one, in which two men are recorded rowing and bailing out water in a small pilgrim’s boat from Aberdaron to Bardsey Island. They are transporting a box of cornflakes.