Film and Music Performance: ‘Persistence of Memory’

Saw the premiere of the experimental film ‘Persistence of Memory’ at the opening night of the MaerzMusik Festival 2012 in Berlin, Germany. The festival, subtitled ‘Cage & Consequences’, was organized in celebration of the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth, and the film (directed and produced by Aleksandar Kostic) was exhibited with music composed by Joan La Barbara and performed by Ne(x)tworks.

Inspired by the collaborative process between composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham, Joan La Barbara presented the idea to Aleksandar Kostic of using chance procedures to create an event in which the video and music would be produced separately and played and projected simultaneously for the first time on opening night. The only rules that Joan and Aleksandar set beforehand were that the film and music should each last 30 minutes, and that Aleksandar would not hear Joan’s music until the opening night in Berlin. Joan suggested that the film should have ‘jagged material’, with no linear story line, and employ the visual silence of the black screen.

During the three months of production, I used the title ‘Persistence of Memory’ as a story line, with the goal of creating an experimental film that would remind viewers that we are all just a small part of a vast universe. In her composition process, La Barbara reflected on certain tenets of John Cage’s ideas, including the juxtaposition of musical phrases with ‘noise’, the concept that “all sound should be considered music” and the punctuation and power of sudden silences. To these ideas, she added her affinity for violent weather, including sequences of sonically-produced thunderstorms, avalanches, tornadoes, tree branches cracking, car crashes and splintering glass, using samples combined with instrumental sounds.

persistence-of-memoryshadowClick here to watch the full event, ‘Persistence of Memory’ (30 min).