"La Coquille et le Clergyman" (1928) by Germaine Dulac
German Premiere of the Music by Nicolas Tzortzis
Nicolas Tzortzis composes a new music for the silent film "La Coquille et le Clergyman" (1928) by Germaine Dulac (1882-1942)
Germaine Dulac (1882-1942) was one of the most important figures of European silent cinema between 1915 and 1934, contributing an important amount of technical innovations to go along with her ground-breaking films that shook the art world and blazed trails for the filmmakers that came after her. Her work, although often omitted and forgotten after her death, is very much relevant today and is worth today’s audiences attention, as shown by the recent retrospective of the Cinémathèque Française in June 2022.
A pioneering artist, Dulac created a scandal with “The Seashell and the Clergyman” (1928), based on a scenario by Antonin Artaud, a work considered to be the first-ever surrealistic film,. A film so cryptic that the British Board of Film Censors banned it for being “[…] almost meaningless. If there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable”. During the first screening riots broke out, people ended up fighting one another, some supporting Dulac and others reacting violently against the movie.
The composer about his relationship to silent films
Nicolas Tzortzis was born in May 1978 in Athens and has been living in Paris, France since 2002. His music is characterized by great vivacity, a musical and visual polyphony, the organic incorporation of extra-musical elements and the controlled presence of technology. Awarded and played throughout the world, Nicolas Tzortzis has been following an autonomous path for years, constantly experimenting, questioning mainstream ideas and practices, while avoiding belonging to any particular “school”.
About his relationship to silent films:
"In 2013 started my on-going relationship with the silent cinema of the 1920’s, as I was commissioned to write music for the projection of Man Ray’s “L’étoile de mer” (Startfish), based on a scenario by French surrealist poet Robert Desnos. The piece, that has gone on to become one of my most performed pieces, having been played multiple times by six ensembles in as many countries, opened up a huge door for me, as far as music making is concerned. After this first, very encouraging experience,
I actively sought out opportunities to further expand my relationship with this genre, working on two other films by Man Ray. First, his Dadaist “Emak Bakia”, commissioned by the San Francisco-based ensemble Earplay for the San Francisco silent film festival in 2015, and, immediately after, his last film, “Les mystères du château du Dé”, for Das Neue Ensemble Hannover in 2016.
Building off that approach, I took it even further in “Les mystères du château du Dé”, where I applied surrealistic techniques directly onto the music, staying faithful to the spirit of the 1920’s, even allowing chance operations to decide the macro-form of the piece. The music and the images grew even more detached from one another, the on-stage actions were multiplied, the piece ending with three musicians gradually dampening the piano, while the pianist is playing a cadenza-like passage and the conductor cites a passage from “Planetarische Politik nach dem kalten Krieg” by philosopher P. Kondylis."