Nearly a century has passed since the release of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Russian: Бронено́сец «Потёмкин», Bronenosets Potyomkin).
We must speak out, now. Time has come. When the meat is rotten and maggots run across your plate, what’s left to do? Remnant memories of times almost forgotten, or of traditions from back home, linger in the body military depleted. Our daily bread served as a timely reminder of shared humanity: a first step in an uprising of overwhelming vehemence. Those in power done away with, the representative of organized religion fed to the worms below the waves. The leader, fallen in battle, on land displayed, exemplified for all to see. His death instrumentalized “for a spoonful of borscht”. The people now, frenzied, rise too. Siding with the Potemkin, the citizens of Odessa sail out to the ship. On the city steps a great many of people gather to support the rebels and their cause. But the steps turn into the grounds of a gruesome massacre when Cossacks fire into the unarmed crowds. People fall and tumble from the steps. The infamous image: a baby carriage rolling and bouncing down. A showdown then? The red flag drawn in solidarity, when Potemkin is allowed to pass unscathed, through battle lines.
100 Years on and here we find ourselves with a new imagination of a possible soundtrack in fusion with this drama of revolutionary mutiny, a rebellion of a sailor crew against the oppression of its officer ranks. A wonder of Eisenstein’s propagandist narrative and of cinematographic skill with brilliantly effective hyper-dynamic editing and montage, eliciting hitherto unseen and unheard of emotional response.
This new score internalizes the frantic, restless nature of the story-lines, breathes the jump cuts and fast action switches in reflections, mirror images, pan-shots, broad horizons and intense close-ups, pulled focus (and loss thereof) and forced perspectives.
We hear the granulated nature of the film itself, almost see the razor slicing through the edit frame. While we miss the rattle of the projector, the music calls to mind the flicker of its light beam through the dusty din of time and space immemorial, materialized and contained for generations to follow in the celluloid.
A disintegration reconstituted too, revitalized in the new performance by Modelo62.
Motifs, elements, personalities, textures, characters and materials appear to disappear to reappear. But relations are changed, time has moved on – times have evolved. Materials altered by accumulation or changed perspective, perhaps an increase of density, take on altogether new intrinsic qualities. Maybe even a rebellion against preconceived notions of fixed identities or ingrained politics.
Gradually interrupting the previous material, asking the musicians to play as loud as they can, using a narrow musical interval… With the pitch range being derived from a metaphorical transposition of the color scale into the audible range. With that rare moment of color in a black and white world, treated with utmost care, with pin-point precision. A wall of sound, invading all, like the impact of color: loud and continuous, without fluctuations.
In the layering and juxtaposing of musical styles, genres, eras, virtually spanning the globe, while – at the same time – remaining (or therewith: becoming) timeless, a sort of retrofitted avant-garde, an en-garde in and of itself, so to speak, out of time, placeless yet anchored in humanist tragedy, the work detaches itself from being a soundtrack to a silent film and transforms the music into an eventual, possible, aural proposition of an indivisible meta-version of the film, with the film; a speculative renewed lease on a previously unforeseen and unheard of afterlife for Battleship Potemkin for which Eisenstein himself wished a new soundtrack to be created every twenty years.
released May 26, 2023
Recorded 13th of March 2020 at the Modelo62 rehearsal studio, The Hague, The Netherlands
Recorded and mixed by Joel Thurman.
Mastered by Jos Smolders at EARlabs
Sleeve by Rutger Zuydervelt
Liner notes by Sven Schlijper-Karssenberg
Jorge López García – clarinets
Enric Sans i Morera – clarinets
Reinier van Houdt – piano, synthesizer
Santiago Lascurain – electric guitar, effects
Rubén Castillo del Pozo – percussion, objects, cassette players
Roberto Rutkauskas – violin
Jan Willem Troost – violoncello
Vasilis Stefanopoulos – double bass, effects
Ezequiel Menalled – composition, electronics