Lichtspiel Opus I

is a rescoring of Walter Ruttmann’s 1921 visual music work of the same – the first of his light plays, experiments with visualising music through moving images.

As a way of exploring the history of experimental sound-image art, I composed a contemporary score far removed from Max Butting’s original serialist one for Ruttmann’s Lichtspeil Opus I. The Goethe Institute provided me with a copy of the string quintet score onto which Ruttman had hand drawn markings of synchrony to better understand how and where Ruttman intended the music to synchronise with the visual. I used this to inform the timings of the new soundtrack, though I resisted imitating the form of Butting’s work, instead approaching the soundtrack through alternative textures afforded to me through contemporary recording techniques.

The work is written for a modern quartet, with each instrument representing a different moment of the history in visual music. The iPhone, in particular the Tenori-on, Bloom and modAxis apps that were used to be indicative of the post-millennial understanding of visual music, whereby form is created through direct visual engagement with the instrument. The digitally modeled ARP Odyssey Mk II synth is analogous with the mid 1970s-80s explorations into digital audiovisual synchrony. The guitar makes reference to the Visual Music movement a la the Joshua Light Show, whilst the cello is a nod to that of the original butting score, which Ruttman himself played at it’s premier.

It was first performed live with Calum Scott playing drums as part of Square Legs, Round Bowls - a programme of moving image and sound works I curated for the Glasgow Film Festival 2015, alongside works by Torsten Lauschmann, Rob Churm, Joe Howe, Beatrice Gibson and Anneke Kampman.

First performed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2015, with the support from the Goethe Institut. BAFTA Scotland New Talent 2015, Winner - Composition. Image one is courtesy of the artist.