2015年3月15日 星期日

Mikhail Rudy's Kafka's Metamorphosis and Chagall's The Sound of Colors (米凱.路迪與卡夫卡的"變形" 和夏卡爾的"音樂的色彩")

The City Hall was packed last night. The reason? Mikhail Rudy would be playing various compositions by Leos Janácek as accompaniment to an animation film of Kafka's short story "Metamorphosis" by Stephen and Timothy Quay commissioned by Rudy and in addition various works by Gluck, Mozart, Wagner, Debussy and Ravel as accompaniment to the images of various frescos called "The Sound of Colors" painted by Marc Chagall on the ceiling of the Paris Opera Garnier in 1964.
Kafka's Metamorphosis
is a short story about the fate of Gregor Samsa,(an ordinary but otherwise hardworking travelling salesman who is one of the breadwinners in the family and who is always punctual at work) finds in morning that he has transformed into an insect ( conventionally thought of as a cockroach/bug), unable to get up from his bed. First, his mother tells him that he is late for work, then his favourite sister Grete begs him to. He wants to but can't. Then they find through looking at the keyhole of his bedroom that he has been turned into the insect. A little later, his supervisor comes to warn him of the consequences of missing work. But when he discovers Gregor's new shape, he flees. His mother gives Gregor the bread and and milk he likes but in his new condition, he doesn't like them any more, so she gives him instead various rotting food scraps which he happily consumes. Gradually, both they and he himself got used to his new condition. To make room for Gregor to crawl around, they remove some furniture in his room. Because he cannot work, his family  takes in 3 lodgers for whom his father asks Grete to play the violin, something they don't enjoy but Gregor loves. When one of the lodgers discovers Gregor listening to her playing at their side, they all got alarmed and refuse to pay to rent on account of his unseemly presence. One day, Gregor got out of the room in response to her sister's call and goes into the kitchen to see her but when his father returns from work, he drives him out by throwing an apple at him. The apple got lodged on Gregor's back and soon begins to rot. Often, Gregor overhears through the door the family discussing their financial condition. After a while, Grete has grown tired of taking care of Gregor and suggests removing him. The family agrees. Gregor is deeply hurt and dies in his room, all alone. His body is removed by the cleaning lady as garbage. Greatly relieved, the family drive out the 3 lodgers and move out from their house and takes a smaller apartment and to celebrate, takes a trolley ride. Mikhail Rudy loved this story so much that he commissioned

To provide music for the film, Rudy uses various compositions by Leos Janácek: Piano Sonata 1 X 1905 JW VIII/19 Foreboding, Death and three excerpts from On an Overgrown Path: Ununtterable Anguish, In Tears, The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away and finally In the Mists in Andante, Molto adagio, Andantino and Presto.

Piano Sonata 1.X 1905 was a work the composer wrote against the suppression of a student and worker protest rally in the city of Brno to demand for the establishment of a new Czech university in which he saw a young carpenter bayoneted to death and the two movements Foreboding and Death are what's left of the composition as he was never quite happy with the work. I suppose Rudy chose it because he thought its mood fitted in with the mood of the earlier part of the film.

On an overgrown path is a piano suite of 15 short pieces written as a form of diary about illness and death of the composer's 21-year-old daughter Olga, strongly influenced by  Moravian folk song and dance music. Unutterable Anguish is supposed to portray his daughter gasping for breath and In Tears, he tries to console himself to her death "with a smile" and The Barn Owl Has not Flown Away is a reference to the Moravian folklore that barn owls will linger about the houses when someone is about to die.

In the Mists portrays various moods, a sense of impatience in the Andante (Gregor's initial frustration), rhapsodic in Molto Adagio (Gregor's fantasy about sending Grete to a conservatory while he's out of work ), grace in the Andantino (Grete playing her violin) and mixture of joy and sadness in Presto, perhaps to complement Gregor's family mood upon his death.

After the intermission, Rudy presents us with a completely different animation: it's the Sound of Colors, the title of the series of frescos Marc Chagal did for the Opera Garnier in Paris as his homage to musical masters which Rudy has set to music. He has chosen the the following works to accompany the relevant images in various parts of the animation: :
1. Gluck/Sgambai's Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice
2. Mozart's Fantasia in D Minor
3. Wagner's/Liszt's Isolde Liebestod S 447
4. Claude Debussy's Etude pour les guartes and Etude pour les huit
5. Ravel's La Valse

Whilst these pieces are being played, images of Chagall's paintings, are converted by computer technique set in motion, the two being joined by the rhythm of the music, thus creating a very rich experience of both sight and sound. Thus the effect of the painting is enhanced by the music whilst the music itself is enriched by the sight of the color and form of moving images.

I can do no better in explaining how the music and the images are joined together than by reproducing what Rudy said when asked how he decided on the selection of the sketches and compositions: "It took one year of preparation...the pairing finally came to me as a revelation. Chagall was an artist who drew inspiration from different cultures, eras and art forms. To me, his dancing angels are reminiscent of those in the great Italian Renaissance paintings. I began to focus less on the images but set my mind on hearing the music that accompanied the angel's movement...Timing was essential in setting the images of Dance of the Blessed Spirits....I spent a lot of time synchronizing the music and the angel's movement from the centre to the edge of the screen, since I wished to highlight the musical imagery in Gluck's work... I paired Mozart's Fantasie in D minor with Dance of the Spirits since I saw the two compositions as vairations on similar musical and dramatic motifs....I created a scenery script for this section of the film. The angels and the trumpets were my own inventions, which i rendered in high definition drawings. With Liszt's transcription of Isolde's Libestod, S 447 from Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, I wanted to present the classic story of mystical love in a new light. Chagall was an avid lover of Abstract Exprssionism; it was a subject in which I had many in-depth discussions with Meret Meyer,whose father was a specialist not only of Chagall's work but also of the art movement. Finally I arrived at a completely abstract scenery. The combination of visuals and music is an explosion of the joy of the lovers, in all its purity, without any connotations of the decorative backdrop that often features in the productions of the opera. Chagall's passion for Abstract Expression also underlies my visual presentation of Claude Debussy's Etude pour les quartes and Etude pour les huit doigts. In my mind, the moving mosacis recall the work of Jackson Pollock and other experimental painters of his time. Debussy was nother one of Chagall's favorite composers and his music has a profound influence on the painter's work. When the Marc Chagall Museum in Nice was under construction, Chagall showed the artisans the paintings that were to be made into mosaics and told them to 'make the mosaics look like Debussy's music. The animation of for Maurice Ravel's La Valse is a culmination of the motifs that run through the film. The operatic characters and mystical creatures dance alongside Paris's monuments, in a whirlwind of color and black and white images. One gets a glimpse of Chagall at work on a painting, which marks a creative dialogue between the master painters and my rendition of his art. Conceived as a musical, visual and thematic unfolding, The Sound of Colors echoes Chagall's experimentation with the harmony of color, abstract expression and black and white impressions"

It was a really eye-opening experience to see how music, paintings can be so seamlessly joined through the magic of rhythm and motion in a spectacle which presents both images and music at the same time and in the process, giving additional life to both. Like last year, when I first saw him perform at the Shatin Town Hall, Mihkail Rudy gave an excellent performance.(See http://elzorro927.blogspot.hk/2013/03/from-russia-with-dreams.html). One can see that he has done lots and lots of work on how to interpret the work of each of the composers whose works he played for us, each note, each phrase, each paragraph. His play is never flambuoyant, always measured, always meticulous, always with clarity of outlines but never mechanical. He played with both his mind and his heart. Perhaps for that reason, they are so moving. He was obviously quite pleased with his reception. He gave us not one, not two but three encores including works by Prokofiev and Chopin.