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New Sounds, Old Sights

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on May 23, 2007 7:00PM

In his autobiography My Last Sigh, filmmaker Luis Bunuel describes going to the movies as a child during the silent era: "In addition to the traditional piano player, each theatre in Saragossa was equipped with its explicador, or narrator, who stood next to the screen and ‘explained’ the action to the audience." The movie experience wasn't just what was on the screen, there was also a live component. As we posted last week, in his new film Brand Upon The Brain! Guy Maddin has probably taken this idea as far as it can go (notwithstanding the persistent "Rocky Horror" phenomenon).

2007_5soniccelluloid.jpg On Thursday, May 31, Northwestern's Block Cinema and radio station WNUR 89.3 FM will make their own movie/music mashup at Sonic Celluloid 5. Several musicians were invited to perform an original score live, composed or improvised, with screenings of silent films of their own choosing from the Block's collection. This year's performers are Mount Eerie (formerly the Microphones), Wooden Wand, Carol Genetti, Panicsville and Binges. The films are supposed to remain a mystery until the screenings, but we can tell you that work by Ray & Charles Eames, the Brothers Quay and Chris Welsby will be featured among others.

Each band's set will last around half an hour. The mesh between image and live sound fascinates us. We've played around with the Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz thing, but we're still not convinced that all the "connections" were intentional; as DJ Spooky's provocative remix of The Birth of a Nation demonstrated, you can create a connection between any two things that are juxtaposed. Since the musicians involved in this year's edition of Sonic Celluloid run the gamut from to lo-fi to psychedelic folk and noise, the evening ought to result in some interesting juxtapositions indeed.

Sonic Celluloid 5 begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 31. Block Cinema is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Northwestern University's Evanston campus. Tickets are $10 (or $7 for students) and can be reserved in advance via email.