WHILE THE BAND PLAYED ON

Wednesday 14 November 2012, 15:22

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis

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I have always been fascinated by the way music can completely change the way you watch film - and how you feel as you watch the images.

For the last year or so I have been collecting all sorts of footage of people dancing that I found in the BBC archives. In all I gathered over two thousand shots culled from all kinds of programmes. I then cut some of them together to music by the wonderful 70s German band Neu.

I think it gives a sense that we are all together in the dance.

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I then took exactly the same sequence of images - I haven't altered even a frame - and put them to a montage of some very different music. There are all sorts of songs and pieces in there - but it owes a great deal to the great romantic musical genius of our age - Burial.

I think that this other version nbsp;you tolook at the people dancingin a very different way. The feeling it evokes ishow separate we are - and how isolated we sometimes are from one another.

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    Comment number 1.

    I love editing to "Hallo Gallo", it's one I always come back to. It has a quality of perpetuity which offers a feeling of hope, of endlessness. The beat in Neu gives a sense of togetherness, of a mechanical happening of forces interacting. Burial in contrast is very isolating. Great stuff here Adam, as always.

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    Comment number 2.

    Thanks, watching people dance is great, reminds you people are amazing

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    Comment number 3.

    Marker's 'Letter from Siberia' comes to mind - great stuff.

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    Comment number 4.

    For me the Neu track pushes the narrative, in such a combination we are used to, and in doing so it does not allow room for any introspection or pause. The Burial track seems to disrupt this narrative and in doing so delivers a different emotional response, one that we are not used so perhaps and don't swallow so easily.
    In the first edit I was drawn to the movement of the dancers and in the second edit I was drawn to their faces, to see who was in there.
    Excellent, as always.
    (PS Any chance of putting whole of the AC Serpentine Memory Marathon presentation up at some point?)

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    Comment number 5.

    Is there a tracklist for the second video? if not, could OP post it? thanks

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    Comment number 6.

    Ahhh... Human Robots and the loss of innocence

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    Comment number 7.

    I like the Neu one more. I think people are usually transported and/or happy when they are dancing. Unless they are being forced to dance, like I sometimes am and my dance-a-like at 3.36 is.

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    Comment number 8.

    Hi Adam, there are songs on soundcloud you used in the videos?
    Nice work

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    Comment number 9.

    Isn't this a simple matter of rhythm:
    The Neu music is more 'in tune' with the dancing - the rhythms of the dancing and music are closer, which makes them feel more integrated and draws the viewer into the experience.
    The Second sequence is in general a lot slower than the tempo of the dancing - there's no way the people are listening to it whilst dancing, its a layer of sound on top of the video which in turn isolates us from the experience.

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    Comment number 10.

    Interesting. Perhaps it's the rhythm of things (of life, stories, conversations – and dance) that draw us together. While the lack of rhythm in the second piece does the opposite; there it's just you, the solitary viewer, silently observing.

    Acceptance –vs– Questioning
    Truth –vs– Searching for meaning
    Single layered –vs– Multi layered
    Happiness/Fun –vs– Sadness/Melancholia
    Hot –vs– Cool
    Broad –vs– Narrow
    Collectivism –vs– Individualism
    Shared social ties –vs– Individual(s') characteristics

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    Comment number 11.

    Thanks. It reminded me of Mark Leckey's 'Fiorucci Made me Hardcore', 'an extended paean to the unadulterated bliss of nocturnal abandon' which is an equally enjoyable view:
    http://www.ubu.com/film/leckey_hardcore.html
    also phil collins' (artists - no the singer)....they shoot horses: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtQrWNA8aRE

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    Comment number 12.

    It also matters which one you watch first. Love the song. Love the footage. Thank you for this.

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    Comment number 13.

    At first I read this as an almost obvious comment about how music affects how we see things: that's Hollywood spends so much money on music for films -- making almost exclusively melodramas in the original sense. A nice demonstration of something that didn't we already know. Then, watching the second film, I started thinking that isn't this also how our personalities affect how we see the world around us. About how our personalities create our own reality distortion fields. Not just our basic temperement affecting whether we see life as happy or sad, connected or isolated, but also our political worldview. Especially those bits of it that we've internalised so strongly that we no longer think of them as views, just as the way the world is.

    That we constantly have music of one sort or another playing inside us affecting the sense of how we see the world.

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    Comment number 14.

    Fantastic.

    Elegant, unequivocal demonstration of the power of music – and some great footage.

    This is probably all bread and potatoes to you film-making johnnies, but I remember the guy who scored The Simpsons talking about how you should always score the *emotion*, never the action.

    Music seems to feed directly into emotion – certainly strongly enough to set the tone of otherwise ambiguous material, but perhaps strongly enough to override emotionally non-ambiguous material as well, in the way that some of the more obviously happy and exuberant dancers in the first version of your film end up seeming like pitiful deranged-automata in the second. Smoke, mirrors and CGI create optical illusions; I guess music can create emotional illusions.

    It can backfire horribly though: I remember watching a TV news programme just after the attacks on the World Trade Centre, and towards the end they just played some extended footage of the smoking rouble, without commentary – but they put Adagio For Strings over the top of it. I remember feeling absolutely furious – as if I was being bludgeoned into someone else's idea of an appropriate emotional response. Something real was being treated more like a movie. More like entertainment than news.

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    Comment number 15.

    with all due respect
    i fail to see the point here...the emotion is in the music
    you feel empathy with the people in the film because we see them, we are human

    try the same thing with footage of fields of flowers or trees,
    or without any film...

    just saying

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    Comment number 16.

    Adam Curtis...I love all your work....nothing you do is boring.Your a big influence on my own film documentaries. I just wish I had all those archives to work with.

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    Comment number 17.

    Have you noticed that going from montage to montage, you see shots in one that you don't see in the other? How great is the influence of the music on what you see (or don't see)?

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    Comment number 18.

    Dear Adam,
    I wonder if I might ask you for some advice on a research project about the UK civil nuclear state? I'm working alongside colleagues from the Science Museum and University of Manchester. We're interested in the sociotechnical imaginaries involved, the imaginary futures and how they played out in real places. Would be very pleased if you could contact...
    I recently made "Atom Town; life after technology" about Dounreay, may give some idea of the intended approach.
    regards Gair Dunlop.

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    Comment number 19.

    This is great. One minor quibble (and this is for the BBC web people) - it would be great if we could watch these videos were available to view on mobile devices. Thanks Adam - been a big fan of your work since forever.

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    Comment number 20.

    I had a similar response to Andy, but more extreme. Whilst watching the second version, I could still hear (or feel) the first one. The music just seemed disconnected and I couldn't relate it to the images, though I did look more at the people and things in the background and was less drawn to the dancers. I will try watching it again on another day in the other order. I think if I'd seen the second one first I'd have been more able to make an interpretation/acquire an understanding from it.

 

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