Sunday, 23 June 2013

03/03/2013 - 20:30
Q-O2 Brussels, Belgium

Via di San Teodoro 8 (2010)

David Ryan’s film, Via di San Teodoro 8, explores Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi’s (1905-1988) house in the heart of Rome. It investigates different aspects of this house: its spaces, sounds and vistas, and its unique ambience opposite the ancient Roman Forum. It lies somewhere between experimental documentary and the filmic poetic essay, also portraying the early electronic instruments (Ondiolas) on which Scelsi composed and improvised in a rare performance by pianist Oscar Pizzo. Without any dialogue, the film attempts to capture something of what the Hungarian film theorist Bela Balazs alluded to: the possibility of sound and image combining to articulate, “all that has speech beyond human speech, and speaks to us with the vast conversational powers of life […]”.

HD Video 40 minutes 2010
Director David Ryan
Cinematography: Tim Sidell
Sound: Emanuele Costantini

Tower: a Composition for Two Musicians and Architecture (2012) 

Tower explores the relationship between performing improvised music and the space in which it takes place. In this instance, it features two improvisers, Jennifer Allum, violin and Ute Kanngiesser, ‘cello, performing in the medieval tower of St. Augustine in Hackney, London. Ultimately it explores the tension between the film as a document of performance and as a thing, a composition, in itself. Ryan’s interest is in the way film and video can allow us to inhabit performance in a different way, but also asks questions about the structure of both film and music, sound and vision, and how each of these interact.

With introduction by the artist.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Screening at Aid and Abet, Cambridge

Several screen shots from the final film:

After spending some time reworking various parts from the rough edit Tower was ready for the first screening at Aid and Abet in Cambridge.  I decided that it would work best if there was a live element and if we could explore something of the acoustic of the building as a prelude to the screening.  This was performed by myself and Jennifer Allum (due to Ute's unavailability that day).  The audience present seemed to enjoy this relationship between the film and the 'liveness' of the performance. Some responses are recorded below...

Audience Response to the Screening at Aid and Abet, Cambridge, October 20

“I was given your email by the gallery so that I could tell you how much I really enjoyed your film Tower and the improvisation on Saturday at Aid & Abet in Cambridge. It is an interesting companion piece to Via di San Teodoro 8 that I saw at V22 some time ago. Your films have triggered a long running debate that I have been having in my head about my relationship between film, art, and architecture (I studied architecture by using video to explore space and time).” 
 Alex, London

“I really enjoyed your screening and performance on Saturday… I thought it worked really well to have the live element along side the film - Jennifer is quite brilliant. I loved the relationship between the way the camera and sound simultaneously explored and interrogated the space and the sense this gave of containment and leakage both in and out of the space.”
 Rosy, Cambridge

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A composition?

Why is this film referring to a 'composition' - when its subject is improvisation?? here I think, Jacques Attali’s idea of an open-ended notion of composition is relevant to me, with its questions of time, collaboration, and reinvention for oneself (not necessarily innovation per se).  To go through these various levels associated with ‘composition’, firstly, Attali sees improvisation as a key mode of transgressing the templates laid down by the stockpile of objects: “Each [composition] entity can call its program into question at any moment; production is not foreseeable before its conclusion. It becomes a starting point, rather than being an end product; and time is lived time, not only in exchange and usage, but also in production itself.” Improvisation not only entails this positioning of oneself at the centre of production, but also an exploration of the body in relation to the sensuality of materials or instruments (“in composition, it is no longer, as in representation, a question of marking the body; nor is it a question of producing it, as in repetition.  It is a question of taking pleasure in it.”), through a direct experience of temporality (“composition liberates time so that it can be lived”), as well as the destruction of the codes of normative communication (“Inventing new codes, inventing the message at the same time as the language”). 

Why would all this seem relevant now? Because, I think, stripped of its hyperbole, Attali’s text suggests an emphasis on both praxis and practice that goes beyond a mere academic or theoretical commentary on repetition or glut, or the recycling of ‘known forms’ as an endgame tactic, and suggests real value in participating and experimenting.

 It does not replace, or undermine, of course, any traditional sense of musical composition, but simply looks at the possibility of binding diverse threads, the possibility of the development of another tradition even.   Attali looks towards how these individualized moments can reshape the idea of the collective, ultimately displacing what he calls ‘stockpiled’ time, through a composition that refigures ‘lived time’.  This can seem, of course, utopian, but I feel that it has also been on the agenda of much contemporary art practice of late (even if not couched in the same hyperbolic terms as Attali’s text).   Within these various 'networks' of composition outlined above, another aspect is seen as an important tool for the development of composition: video. In its infancy at the time of Attali’s text, video recording, as he sees it, was a potential tool for expanding composition,  moving from the “visual stockpiling” of concerts to “becom[ing] one of the essential technologies of composition.”  Here Attali looks at the potential mutation of the correlative video image to music (in documenting concerts, early ‘music video’) into its own contributing force.  I rediscovered a resonance within this position when filming Via di San Teodoro 8, and perhaps this new film is even closer in some respects?

More Rough Stuff

Producing a rough shot list was the next aspect of the shoot.  These were produced from the sequences done on a mini-dv camera and then turned into stills.  The actual shoot (on May 29th) used these for the basis of lining up the shots, and it was useful in determining any problematic shots within the location.  We went for a series of shorter improvisation performances with Jenny and Ute, the musicians, to create a potentially flexible situation for the edit.  But, we'll see when we come to the edit.

Jennifer Allum in the Clock room

Another aspect of these performances was utilizing the different spaces; one sequence with Jenny in the clock room, for example,  and Ute below in the pendulum room. acoustically these were interesting with a kind of distant  commentary on the closer 'soloist' being filmed and recorded in the room  itself.  having one camera - how this sequence will be edited will be tricky but, I think, challenging in an interesting way.  

Ute Kanngeisser in the Bell Tower

Monday, 21 May 2012

Rough shoot

A day (yesterday) attempting to map out certain shots.  Became interested in the enclosed nature of the space - its very different atmosphere to the outside space - which is 'glimpsed' through the windows and apertures of the old stone walls.

These are particularly striking on the ancient stone stairs.  Also thinking about the structure of the film - should it be a continuous exploration of the building and then a 'performance' from the musicians or should it be more fragmented??? One thought is to form the video out of shorter 'episodes' each almost autonomous in themselves - building up a picture out of contrasting fragments.  One of the things that also strikes me is the richness of detail in these spaces - and this might be one approach for some of those fragments: building a logic of detail....This approach might also be useful for exploring the relationship of the audio to the images (both location sound and music) in a more 'dialogical' sense...

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Currently preparing the approach to filming, a shot list and taking some rough mini DV footage (the still images in this Blog).  I will be uploading some very short extracts from this very rough material, which will form working studies for when I come to shoot on the 29th May. The procedure will take into account the approach of the musicians, the ambience of the location, and the challenge of documenting the interaction of the sounds and the space.

The team will include:
Tim Sidell (DOP) has been involved with a number of experimental films and dramas as director of photography.  His practice has developed from his beginnings in fine art drawing and painting and developing into his recent work with digital cinema cameras, high definition formats alongside Super 16mm and 35mm film.  He has worked with various artists including Shezad Dawood’s Feature which was shown at the last Tate Triennial, Christine Webster’s Blindfield, and work by Leon Chambers and Vaughan Pilkian.  He is also featured at the experimental gallery Beaconsfield.  He has also recently been involved with films by Bethan Huws and the Jarman Award winner Emily Wardill.
Emanuele Costantini (Sound) worked in one of the most important Italian recording studios in Florence (Italy) his own native city, enjoying great experiences with international artists both in studio and live. Emanuele then moved to Rome (Italy) and into the Television and Film industry having the opportunity to work with small independent productions and large international crews. Productions include: "Cliffhanger" (sound assistant) RCS production, "Rome" (Sound Recordist) HBO production, "The Passion of Christ" (sound assistant and boom operator) 20th Century fox, "Journey Into the American Film Industry" (Sound Recordist) 20th century Fox.  At the same time he worked in post-production as Nuendo tutor for Cinecittà Studios, edited and mixed several documentaries, Television series' and films. Those productions include: "Fellini" (Piccini Productions - USA), "Excellent Cadavers" (digital camera assistant) HBO production, "The Last Kiss" (Assistant Editor) Fandango production, "Life is Beautiful" (Assistant Sound Editor) Cecchi Gori Production. Emanuele then moved to London to work as a Sound Designer for the new internet TV's documentaries; as test engineer for the Russian microphone company Oktava and developer of the innovative surround recording technique Bluround®.


Joseph Matrangelo:  Focus Puller

Chris Rusby: Grip

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Project Background

My work has been evolving as a site for engaging both visual and audio elements. How something is seen and heard; how a space might engage sound; and how a time-frame might evolve a particular narrative of actions, sounds being made and in turn acted upon. This particular project Tower [a composition for architecture and two musicians] explores the relationship between architectural space and the realisation of a performed improvisation by two musicians, Jennifer Allum and Ute Kanngiesser. It follows on from a film I directed in Rome (Via di San Teodoro 2010) which has been shown in Rome, Berlin, Seoul and will be screened in New York and Brussels later this year. It explored the spaces of the house of composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88). As in this latter film, Tower will explore the specifics of a location in relation to a performance ‘housed’ with the filmic exploration of the architecture from both a visual and aural perspective. I am particularly interested in an unfolding interrogation of the relationship between sound and image beyond the confines of a ‘soundtrack.’ How sonic actions and gestures unfold in the particularities of a space (in this sense a challenge to the expectations of filmed performance or the ‘music video.’)

The setting is the medieval Bell Tower of St Augustine in the centre of Hackney, London. The bell tower would have functioned, as part of the St Augustine church (no longer existant) as the prime sonic territorialization of rural Hackney. Today it sits in close proximity to the busy hub of social traffic and transport networks around Mare street, with an atmosphere in sharp contrast to contemporary urban flow. It has four main spaces stacked on top of each other: a small meeting room with a wooden platform and pendulum; a room with an elaborate ancient clock (dating from the 1580s); the bell tower itself, and a roof terrace where the skyline of Hackney and beyond can be taken in within a 360 degree rotation (although this will not be used in the filming).

The film is envisioned to be in two parts in total lasting 25-30 minutes: firstly an exploration of the spaces of the tower, and then the exploration of those spaces by the musicians. Jennifer Allum and Ute Kanngiesser have developed an extraordinary rapport as an improvising duo and both are extremely sensitive to context and environment. One of the key aspects of the film will be the relationship of their playing and movement through the spaces. Each of those spaces also have a very particular relationship to the exterior urban noises (most prominent in the bell tower space itself). Also the synchronous relationships of time or its measurement – present in the spaces with the pendulum and the clock; each of these facets will have an in influence in the playing of the two improvising musicians, and the film-making itself. A feature of the film will be the navigation of the proximity and distance of both image and sound slowly revealed by the processes of filming itself. A key to the piece is also the relationship between composing and improvisation: how each might situate themselves within the specifics of location and place, in the sense of both looking and listening, the act of filming, and the act of performing.  This film project has been supported by the Arts Council England and Anglia Ruskin University.

Jennifer Allum is a London based violinist who grew-up in the Middle East. She focuses on experimental and improvised music, having previously studied at York University and Goldsmiths, University of London. She has been a regular attendee at Eddie Prevost's weekly improvisation workshop since 2005, with whom she has recently released the duo CD Penumbrae. She is the founding member of the Post Quartet, with whom she has worked with composers like Christian Wolff, Tom Johnson, Michael Pisaro and Michael Parsons. In and around London Jennifer has performed at Freedom of the City, Cafe Oto, the ICA, Servant Jazz Quarters, the As Alike As Trees festival, Serpentine Gallery, Music We'd Like to Hear, Rational Rec, Non-classical and more.

Ute Kanngiesser is a London based cellist. Classically trained as a child and not playing at all for a few years (studying economics and media culture) she came back to music and specifically improvisation while training in physical theatre and dance in Berlin. Since then she has played internationally with a wide range of improvising and experimenting musicians and collaborated with dancers, visual artists and filmmakers. She has a particularly strong playing relationship with some musicians around Eddie Prevost's workshop including Jennifer Allum, Sebastian Lexer, Paul Abbott, Guillaume Viltard, Jamie Coleman, Seymour Wright, and Grundik Kasyansky. Ute has CD releases on Matchless Recordings (with AMM) and on Another Timbre.