NEW SILENT CINEMA: IT’S ALIVE!

Photo on 12-10-2015 at 16.58 #3

I am delighted to announce the publication of New Silent Cinema, a collection I co-edited with my fantastic colleague, Paul Flaig. The book features essays by a group of outstanding screen scholars–including Constance BalidesJames Leo CahillBrianne Cohen, Jonah CorneBrian JacobsonRob KingJennifer PetersonBrian Price, Catherine Russell, Yiman Wang, and Joshua Yumibe–as well as interviews with Paolo Cherchi Usai, Rick Altman, and Guy Maddin. We are especially grateful to Guy Maddin, who not only allowed us to publish several beautiful images from his ongoing Séances project, but also gave us permission to use an image from his most recent film, The Forbidden Room (2015), for our cover.

New Silent Cinema explores the recent wave of interest in silent cinema as it stretches across popular and avant-garde film, contemporary art, literature, and new media. The introduction is available to peruse here. Paul and I will soon post a conversation about the development of the project, the many examples of “New Silent Cinema” that did not make it into the collection, and the diverse directions that our contributors took in examining this contemporary phenomenon. We are very grateful to everyone who supported the project–and look forward to hearing from readers!

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HALF/FILES

The clip could do without the sound, but still:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/20465929 w=575&h=300]

From the creator‘s description:

The video captures an episode of the popular TV show in the act of being shared by thousands of users on bittorent. The video simultaneously acts as a visualisation of bittorrent traffic and the practice of filesharing and is an aesthetically beautiful by product of the bittorrent process as the pieces of the original file are rearranged and reconfigured into a new transitory in-between state.

EARLY FILM REMIX CONT’D

 Silent (CB McWilliams, 2009)

Silent combines frames from five silent films: Nosferatu, Metropolis, Faust, Holy Mountain, and the Dragon Painter; the frames are (re)set to the sounds of Charles Ives’ Hallowe’en From the artist’s description:

The frames are chosen by custom software that compares data from each of the film’s soundtracks with the data from Ives’ music.  The software analyzes each film and records the audio (FFT) data and timecode for each frame. The final video is generated by processing an input soundtrack, in this case Hallowe’en, and finding the frames of film whose audio best fits that of the soundtrack.

Silent films were chosen as the source material because of their tight connection between narrative, visuals, and musical score. By using the soundtrack as the central driver of visual imagery, Silent inverts these relationships. This reversal allows forms typically associated with music-repetition, rhythm, movement-to express themselves visually.

This is a fascinating remix of film history and theory.  McWilliams presents a sharp comparison between silent cinema and new media/music.  In his description, silent cinema operates as a kind of handicraft, made by/for humans, narratively coherent and visually whole.  McWilliams takes new media as the vibrating attraction, the automated response, the work of film art in the age of digital reproduction. Chandler didn’t have a choice or make a decision: the software decided what was best for the sound.

I wonder if there is actually an inversion or reversal at work here.  It seems (more) likely that McWilliams’ film offers a return to silent film, to its visual/sound experiments.  Here, the “original” and its remix seem to exist in necessary, complementary relation.