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[Exclusive Premiere] 'The Clock' Creator Christian Marclay Cuts a New Audiovisual Artwork

Marclay combines music and movie clips into "Fade to Slide" a piece commissioned by Bang on a Can All-Stars—and the result is pure jazz.

by Emerson Rosenthal
Apr 21 2015, 3:00pm

Upon first hearing how Alfred Hitchcock explains the Kuleshov effect, the specialized language that is cinema began making its parts of speech apparent, by way of my eyes, to my ears. There is a peculiar alchemical reaction to the "cut," the production of something new from the placement of two seemingly disparate pieces of footage in succession; a vocabulary of lights and motion that can form full ideas and more—feelings—non-verbally but that can be explained in words, secondhand. Later on, the privilege to attend a 4:30 AM viewing of Christian Marclay's The Clock one New Year's morning provided me the keys to the first gate that guards the translation of film: understanding that forms of communication exist beyond words—like music. 

Of course, it came as little suprise to learn later that Marclay, a master seamster with the fabric that is "found" footage, honed his craft cutting together records to create sonic collages. Today, The Creators Project exclusively premieres a new piece from Marclay that combines his montage techniques with his control over music as its own manner of speaking. "Fade to Slide" is an audiovisual artwork that Marclay was commissioned to create for pioneering music ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars' forthcoming double-disc multimedia project, Field Recordings (out May 12, 2015 on Cantaloupe Music). 

"Field Recordings is a kind of ghost story," explains Bang on a Can Co-Founder David Lang. "We asked composers from different parts of the music world to find a recording of something that already exists—a voice, a sound, a faded scrap of melody—and then write a new piece around it. And so they did." In Marclay's case, the result was "Fade to Slide." 

The front and back of Bang on a Can All-Stars' Field Recordings album, available May 12 from Cantaloupe Music

"'Fade to Slide' continues Christian Marclay’s exploration into the use of video to create a framework in which live music can develop," explains a press release. "Short fragments of films are edited into a rapid succession of events that the musicians use as a structure for their performance," meaning that the work's visuals are composed of clips from films, documentaries, TV shows, and more, cross- and match-cut into a free-form narrative. "The original soundtracks form a backing audio track," it continues. "The musicians are not asked to literally interpret on-screen actions, as in a foley studio, but let the images and audio prompt musical reactions to create a mimetic transposition between image and sound, as if one became the other." The result, steady and unwavering in its progression, but liberated and liberating in its free association of sounds and images, is pure jazz. 

In May, at The Greene Space at WQXR, the Bang on a Can All-Stars will present Field Recordings, which also includes newly commissioned works from Mira Calix, Steve Reich, Tyondai Braxton (formerly of Battles), and The National's Bryce Dessner, among others, for a night of on-stage conversation with performers and composers hosted by Q2 Music's Helga Davis, and a live performance of the full album. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by clicking here

Watch Christian Marclay's "Fade to Slide" above, and visit Bang on a Can's website to learn more. 

Screencap by the author

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