Michael Nyman

Vertov Sounds

Vertov Sounds

Vertov Sounds

MN Records Ltd (MNRCD118)
Length: 77 minutes

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“The Michael Nyman Band has never played better than they do here, and the sound quality is excellent.  If you only buy one Nyman disc, this is the one to get.”
Haskins (American Records Guide)

the composer’s cut series vol. IV
Michael Nyman has now completed scores for the three major films that the pioneering Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov made in the late 1920s.
To ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ he has added ‘The Eleventh Year’ and ‘A Sixth Part of the World’ and as a unique experiment for MN Records he has created a new Michael Nyman Band work - by making a montage of material from both of the soundtracks into a single, continuous piece which runs for 77 minutes.
VERTOV SOUNDS is the fourth release on MN Records as part of the composer’s cut series

Track Listing
1.    A Sixth Part of the World 1
2.    The Eleventh Year 1
3.    A Sixth Part of the World 2
4.    The Eleventh Year 2
5.    A Sixth Part of the World 3
6.    The Eleventh Year 3
7.    A Sixth Part of the World 4
8.    The Eleventh Year 4
9.    A Sixth Part of the World 5
10.  The Eleventh Year 5

I wrote the score for Man with a Movie Camera in 2002 and now, with A Sixth Part of the World and The Eleventh Year, I am in the privileged position of having written soundtracks for the three major films that Dziga Vertov made at the end of the 1920s and on which his reputation is based in the west. In the same way as I avoided reading Vertov’s background notes to the music he designated for Man with a Movie Camera when I wrote my score, so with A Sixth Part and The Eleventh Year research was deliberately limited and most of my interest seemed to focus on the similarities and differences between those two films and Man with a Movie Camera (and had me musing on an interesting trio of self-borrowers -Handel, Laurence Sterne and Vertov, with whom I have a strong affinity!) My reaction was to Vertov’s images and the process of their organisation - to the two interrelated, but dissimilar worlds that he presented and promoted in these two films.

Subsequent research, with the help of Barbara Wurm and other archivists from the Austrian Film Institute (which has released a DVD of the two films with the new soundtracks), has allowed me to appreciate differently the content and the context (both cinematic and political) of these two films. And my discovery of the book ʻLines of Resistance: Dziga Vertov and the Twenties, edited by Yuri Tsivian (2004) has thrown up some wonderful supplementary texts like the critic Izmail Urazovʼs appraisal of A Sixth Part of the World. He writes very powerfully about the musicality of Vertov’s film, which instinctively had influenced my score:

‘Vertov edits sequences like a composer’

That is the cause of the emotion which the film arouses. You cannot relate it; there is no plot, no intensification of the action, but there is an intensification of emotion. Like in music. That is where the emotion comes from. Vertov leads the ʻmelodyʼ, returning to it, playing with dissonances, using the exoticism of the polar snows and the burning hot sands, almost like something beyond sense, almost like a composer using the texture of the sounds.

And within Vertov’s sequences there is a rhythm, with which he infects the viewer: ʻa Negress with a child on her back, hammering into your consciousness the tempo and rhythm of the montage of dancing legs, linked to the rhythm of a dance, of the movement of machines…ʼ (Tsivian, p 187)

VERTOV SOUNDS represents a very different approach to the way of processing a soundtrack album: since the music for both films is sectional but continuous and, like Vertov, constantly refers back on itself, there are no ʻnamed tracksʼ that can be separated out in the way that, say, ʻChasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherdsʼ from The Draughtsmanʼs Contract has become an independent concert work. So the music for the films is presented as a non-stop montage of alternating sequences (sometimes quite complex in themselves) from each film.

Michael Nyman
August 2010

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