Metropolis (new score)
Symphony of Fear
One could make a banal observation that the Metropolis, which Lang built in his film, is our contemporary world. From the point of view of the interwar Europe, the vision was certainly attractive and tempting. From today’s perspective, with the idealist fascination of living in the tower of Babel already behind us, we are surprised to notice that the walls we built, with the intention of separating us from the foreign, the different, the poor and the immigrants, grew into our minds unnoticed and formed a labyrinth we cannot escape from. We cannot recognize the paths we already traveled, our memory stopped serving us the information we need. The world degenerated into a series of images the meaning of which we cannot understand, and which we cannot put together in one comprehensible whole. We lost the key to our mind. Metropolis is a trip into the mind of a contemporary man — deep down, there is only fear.
The direct impulse for making Metropolis — a 1927 black pearl of German silent cinema — came from Fritz Lang’s trip to New York. He created the epitome of the city of the future, breath taking in its modernity and scope, while at the same time showing the pathologies of the society trapped in the labyrinth of technical progress. After nearly 80 years, when New York turned into the grievous icon of the new century, suddenly Metropolis became more realistic than ever before. Today its message is: “We live in fear, our minds, houses and cities became our prisons. Evil done to others turns against us”. The reason for composing new music for Metropolis was the intention of showing the demons of the world transforming before our very eyes. The monumental, 147-minute composition for a symphony orchestra, choir and soloists is a masterful embodiment of the vision. Its author is an outstanding young Polish composer, Abel Korzeniowski.
The location for the concert and the projection is an important part of the project. The place should be associated with Lang’s images, either externally — through industrial character, making the viewer feel separated in a huge area cut off from the external world — or through the social subtext of the event. The venue should hold at least 2000 people, so that it would be possible to develop the atmosphere of a major gathering or near-religious reverence. Open-air performances are possible, provided that the area will be enclosed in some way, giving the impression of space separated from the surroundings. A classic concert hall is not appropriate for the project, as it separates the scene from the audience too directly, which results in the viewer watching only, instead of participating in the event.
The music is played live by a 90-piece orchestra, a choir of 60 voices and two soloists. Some sections are additionally enhanced with sound layers provided by loudspeakers. Due to the size of the area where the concert takes place, the soloists and the choir require sound reinforcement. Both soloists participate in a symbolic duel between two different cultures, contrasted aesthetically and morally. The first one reflects the cultural roots — unprocessed, unspoiled by commercialism. The other one stems from pop culture, urban atmosphere of large cities and is written for a female singer of “star” status, recognizable for the audience. Should the venue allow, the choir is located in the back, behind the audience. In such case the second conductor is necessary, with live video monitor feeding the image of the main conductor, who remains in the front, with the orchestra.
Everything is composed precisely to the picture, therefore besides the score, the main conductor needs also two monitors – one with the movie, the other with the time code, enabling the synchronization with the image shown to the audience on the large screen above the orchestra. The projected version of the film is the 2001 restored German copy, 3341 meters and 147 minutes long when played back at 20 frames per second. This is the original speed in which Metropolis was made, required to avoid the accelerated movement resulting from playback at the modern standard of 24 f/sec. As a result, the dynamic scenes lose the unintended comical effect, and the dramatic ones regain their weight and meaning. Installations and scenery design can accompany the project, provided that they will not distract the audience during the projection.
Metropolis is an evolving project. The first performance took place at the Era Nowe Horyzonty Film Festival in Poland. The concert in July 2004 was a great success, praised by the public, professionals and the press alike.
7 Responses to Metropolis (new score)