Seats Two [ 2015 ]

for solo piano & fixed electronics

 

Spare Bedroom [ 2014 ]

for horn in F with Live & fixed electronics

(opt. Disklavier)

 

Spectator [ 2015 ] 

for flute, bass clarinet, horn in F, trombone,

violin, & double bass

 

Visual Training [ 2012 ]

for flute, clarinet, horn in F, trumpet,

viola, 'cello, piano, & percussion 

 

WORKS FOR FILM |

PORTFOLIO

Seats Two (1970) [ 2015 ]

          for solo piano

          & fixed electronics

ABOUT

In the film Seats Two (1970) two women, Zwartjes' regular actresses Moniek Toebosch and Trix Zwartjes, are sitting side by side on a couch, looking at a photo of a mountain landscape. The physical attraction between the two is clearly perceptible, but the two conceal their mutual craving. Sexuality is suggested through the odd cuts and splices of the film's editing and the tactile quality of the images.

 

All is suggested, but nothing happens. Fascinated by the highly rhythmic nature of the films, and the obscured narratives, Seats Two is George's 5th re-scoring of a silent film by Frans Zwartjes. Her other compositions include scores to Spare Bedroom, Spectator, Sorbet III, and A Fan which have been performed both by Ensemble Mise-en and The Curiosity Cabinet.

 

Tell Tale Heart [ 2010 ]

for flute, clarinet, oboe/english horn,

violin, 'cello, double bass,

piano, mallet percussion & aux. percussion

 

The Fall of the House of Usher [ 2008 ]

for flute, clarinet, violin, 'cello, double bass,

piano, mallet percussion & aux. percussion

Spectator (1970) [ 2015 ]

          for flute, bass clarinet, horn in F, trombone,

          violin & double bass

 

ABOUT

Zwartjes was amongst the first Dutch artists to embrace the medium of film. Initially using it in 1968 to simply document his performances, he elected to subvert the tedious speechifying that accompanied gallery openings by instead showing films. The following year he was to complete nine films, including Visual Training, Anamnesis and Spare Bedroom. Though not conventionally explicit, Zwartjes’ work is highly sexually charged.

 

In Spectator (1970) he appears as a voyeur observing the minutiae of his wife’s body, through a pair of binoculars. Simultaneously objectifying and being objectified he seemingly shifts between object and subject in an intense erotic reverie which speaks more of complicity than exploitation, the camera lingering on caked eye shadow, devouring in its intimacy.

 

-DAVID SELDEN

 
Spare Bedroom (1970) [ 2014 ]

          for solo horn, 

          live & fixed electronics (opt. disklavier)

ABOUT

The original score to Spare Bedroom (1970) seems to assume an attitude of distance towards the film's viscerally disturbing imagery. While not necessarily cheerful, its meandering jazz piano riffs are blissfully disinterested, amplifying the horror of what is depicted with such cavalier irony that, by the end, the work as a whole seems to require moral justification.

 

George's re-scoring embraces an opposing tradition of horror film music, matching the brutal tone of the visuals with cold sincerity. The piano remains prominent, but is now frozen within a single, stark musical idea. Here, a sense of horror is generated not from grotesque discord between sound and image, but rather from the sense of an inescapable environment. The events depicted are no less perplexing in terms of their narrative relation to each other, but George's music leaves no room for us to doubt that we are in the presence of something evil.

Visual Training (1969) [ 2012 ]

          for flute, clarinet in Bb, trumpet in Bb, horn in F,

          viola, 'cello, piano, & percussion

 

ABOUT

The film for which this music was written, Frans Zwartjes’s 1969 silent film Visual Training, is likely to remind many viewers of David Lynch at his most expressionist, with its highly sexualized images of appetite and bodily anxiety. The dominant presence in Zwartjes’s film, however, is the camera itself; the characters, stone-faced and wordless as they partake in a surreal, erotic feast, repeatedly stare into the camera as though fending off a judgmental but perversely interested gaze. Ms. George’s score dwells on the claustrophobia of this standoff between decadence and shame.

 

The layering of instrumental activity functions to convey a general sense of alienation within a finite and inescapable space, and each instrument seems endlessly frustrated by an inability to derive an extended melodic idea from its sporadic utterances. The piano, in particular, wrestles grudgingly with the stifling effect of its percussive role, its driving rhythmic pulse, isolated trills, and chordal interjections all suggesting a kind of passive-aggressive restraint. It is perhaps helpful to imagine such anxiety as a byproduct of the imposition of sound on images so pointedly silent. The music shares with the voyeuristic camera a quality of intrusiveness, unapologetic for its interest.

 
The Tell-Tale Heart (1929) [ 2010 ]

for flute, clarinet in Bb, oboe/english horn

electric guitar, violin, 'cello, piano, & percussion

ABOUT

The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1928 American silent film directed by Charles F. Klein, based on the short story by E.A. Poe. This experimental, avant-garde film used many new techniques and influenced a series of cinematic Poe renditions in both the United States and France, including The Fall of the House of Usher by M. Webber, made in the same year. The two films have many aesthetic similarities, although the narrative in The Tell-Tale Heart is significantly less abstract.

 

The music underscoring the work creates a parallel drama to the events unfolding on the screen. After the title sequence, some of the text from the original short story is projected to foreshadow the gruesome events to follow. A still of the Old Man's eye is layered on the top of this scrolling text, accompanied by the first statement of the “Vulture Eye Chord”, which continues to come back as a leitmotif throughout the score. Also prominent is the leitmotif for our narrator, which takes the shape of a disturbingly quick and easily unhinged "Death Waltz". Upon strangling the Old Man for his vulture eye, the waltz quickly dissolves into a quick 5/8 section, dignifying the beating of a heart, which gradually slows.

 

After two detectives come to investigate the scene, the narrator having initially been successful in covering up his deceit, the underscoring reveals to us that he's been tortured by his deeds as the two leitmotifs emerge from an otherwise calm texture. After hearing the beating of the Old Man's heart beneath the floorboards, the narrator admits to his sin and reveals the body at the end of the film.

ABOUT

The Fall of the House of Usher, directed by Melville Webber and J.S. Watson Jr., is a surrealist interpretation of Poe's famous short story of a brother and sister under a family curse. Released in 1928, this unsettling work was heavily inspired by Charles F. Klein's film version of The Tell-Tale Heart, released the same year. With no dialogue, the film's emphasis is entirely on image, employing stark color contrasting, layering, and optical distortion.  

 

Much of the footage is shot through prisms to create these lush, dreamlike visual effects. This score, while engaging with the gruesome sense of foreboding that is Poe's hallmark, is equally sensitive to the strangeness of the visual environment presented to us on the screen.  The richly varied timbre, registral extremes, and percussive effects all coalesce into a soundscape whose madness is both wildly dramatic and inescapably alluring.



The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) [ 2008 ]

          for flute, clarinet in Bb, violin, 'cello,

          double bass, piano, & percussion

 

copyright

Whitney E. George

2020