Wind Ensemble will explore silent film in Friday’s concert

by Kaina Chen | 2/18/15 7:10pm

The Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble will perform “An Evening in Metropolis” on Friday featuring four contemporary selections that are tied together by the inspiration of a particular place, either true or imagined.

The ensemble’s conductor Matthew Marsit said that the first piece on the program, “Metropolis” (1992) by Adam Gorb, is written to represent the energy of city living studded with moments of chaos, beauty, busyness and grandeur.

“It’s a stunning work, one that is probably in my top 10 list of favorite pieces,” Marsit said.

The program’s second piece, “Metropolis Concerto for Violin and Wind Ensemble” (2015) by Richard Marriott was commissioned by the Hop and is being premiered Friday. It was originally composed as a score to the 1927 German expressionist silent film, “Metropolis” (1927).

The piece will feature violin soloist Alisa Rose, who is a member of the Real Vocal String Quartet and has worked with the Kronos Quartet and the singer Feist.

Marriot said that the music had to closely match the film’s scenes.

“When writing for a movie, the music has to change when the scene changes to match the mood of the film,” he said. “We have a love scene that goes over a minute of film, but in my concerto it might go over four minutes, and comes back three times. It develops each time.”

Marriot, who has spent over three decades in the music industry composing, performing and producing music and building instruments, said that when he was writing “Metropolis,” he had to be aware of the film’s differences from reality.

“Silent film, in some ways, is akin to opera,” he said. “It’s a fantasy. It doesn’t try to depict reality in quite the same way.”

Marriot visited the Wind Ensemble several times during rehearsals, offering critiques and the opportunity to collaborate with him when interpreting the score. Traditionally, the Wind Ensemble chooses to showcase pieces that were composed during or after the 1950s, which allows most of the composers of the pieces the Ensemble chooses to showcase to visit campus and sit in on rehearsals.

Marriot said that he was excited to introduce the audience to “Metropolis.”

“I wanted the audience to have a better understanding of the film,” he said. “The 1920 German expressionist era was a fascinating time in cinematography, and this is one of the greatest silent films in history. The opportunity to share that with the audience is incredibly exciting.”

Marsit said that the imagery of the film has been a source inspiration for many artists and inspired the third score that will be showcased in tomorrow night’s concert, Thomas Miller’s “Suite from Metropolis” (2005).

“[The film “Metropolis”] shows the plight of the working man in the industrial era,” he said. “There’s a lot of imagery that involves machinery and factories, and that lends itself to have a musical score. It’s inspired a huge number of scores, probably more than any silent film in history.”

Marsit said that the organization needed for performing a piece alongside a visual posed a unique challenge. Typically, the conductor and the musicians collaborate when settling on the speed or mood of a particular passage, and the eyes of the musicians follow the conductor’s baton when navigating through tempo changes and changes in style.

With the film running in the background, however, many of the musicians’ parts serve as sound effects to particular moments in the visual, requiring Marsit to don a “click track,” an earpiece that serves as an electronic metronome, which is adjusted remotely throughout the duration of the performance.

“[The click-track] will guide me on very exact tempo markings,” he said. “There are points in the music that have to line up perfectly with the score. It’s not simply haphazard — moments of actions have large strikes in the ensemble.”

The final piece on the program is “Lost Vegas” (2011) which was composed by Michael Daugherty. The title emphasizes how the casinos, skyscrapers and commercialization have detracted from the intimacy of Las Vegas in the 1960s and 1970s, Marsit said.

“The piece is designed to be his reflection on the good old days of Las Vegas and incorporates sounds we associate with Vegas,” Marsit said. “It’s another magnificently large city, a great metropolis.”

Robert Wright ’18, a trumpet player who joined the Wind Ensemble last term, said that while the program was challenging, he thinks the concert will be a success.

The concert will take place at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium on Friday. Tickets for students will be five dollars to $10, while tickets for the general audience will be nine dollars to $10.