Luminato 2009: Owen Pallett and Tales of the Uncanny
Owen Pallett, indie rock oracle and man about town, is playing a free concert for Luminato / North by Northeast tonight at 9:30pm.
Along with Robert Lippok (Berlin electronica artist) and the irrepressible 'Do Make Say Think', Owen will be musically accompanying a 90-year-old German film, 'Tales of the Uncanny', live at Dundas Square. It's the film's first time playing in Canada, and I can't think of a more bizarre setting than the ultra sleek intersection of Dundas and Yonge to catch a silent horror picture from 1919.
This isn't Owens first crack at the accompaniment game. I interviewed him last year when he contributed to a live soundtrack of "Crusin' 57" (a classic gay porn film) for Pop Montreal.
I caught up with Owen this week to ask a couple questions about tonight's show in Toronto.
blogTO: You seem to be starting an old fashioned film accompaniment career, about a 100 years too late. What attracted you to this particular lost art?
Owen: It's not a lost art at all... I feel like what we're doing is unique to our current time. When these movies came out, the music that was used to accompany them was "old-fashioned"... ragtime and stride and waltzes used to compliment the mood of the film. The film itself was progressive, new, young and exciting.
If we were to be working with a lost art, we'd be playing rags. (Or, in this German film's case, likely Brahms' waltzes.)
But now that this movie is 90-years-old, accompanying it with live music has a dis-associative effect. The images on screen are of people long dead, locations long changed, a culture that doesn't exist anymore. Accompanying the film with violin looping (in my case), space rock (DMST) and electronic music (Robert Lippok) is not an act of revival, but an interesting clash of mediums. You'll see... the disparity between old imagery and new music is very strange... the film takes on a strangely alien presence in the performance.
You contributed to a live soundtrack of a 1970's gay porn film last fall for Pop Montreal. Do you think you could ever get away with accompanying a film like that in Dundas Square?
Never in a million years. Even in a porn theatre it was awkward.
What are some of your personal favourite film soundtracks?
I like pop music in movies... anytime there's a The Fall song in a movie, I'm into it. And I like big string chords. Ives' "Unanswered Question" and Elgar's "Nimrod" are so cliched in a movie, but only because they're perfect for it.
Massive, massive Nino Rota fan, I have all his soundtracks on vinyl. Michael Small's soundtrack to "Klute". Antoine Duhamel's soundtrack to "Pierrot Le Fou" and "Week End". Philip Glass' last few scores have been better than the movies they're in. And Nico Muhly's soundtrack to "Joshua", totally ace.
Do you think you'd have an interest down the line in writing original music for a feature film, as 'Broken Social Scene' has done over the past couple years?
I've already done one, with Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, for the forthcoming Richard Kelly movie, "The Box". I was asked by Gus Van Sant to score his last film, but the Money People wanted him to work with somebody more established (Danny Elfman). I've got two or three film scores in progress. I love doing it.
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