French Festival goes to the moon and back

The works of silent film pioneer Georges Méliés will be wired with modern sound thanks to three composers whose scores will be performed live as part of the Adelaide French Festival event A Trip to the Moon.

With his 13-minute surrealist silent masterpiece A Trip to the Moon, Georges Méliés pioneered special effects and the science fiction genre for a film that was much imitated and remains a remarkable and influential work some 116 years after it was filmed. Along with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, A Trip to the Moon is a favourite for modern composers to soundtrack even though an original score was apparently written for it while English composer Ezra Read scored it a year after it was filmed in 1903. More recently, scores by electronic artists such as Air and Jeff Mills have been performed.

Three composers will tackle 12 Meiles films for the French Festival event A Trip to the Moon including jazz violinist Julian Ferraretto whose compositions for Méliés’s films The Melomaniac, The Living Playing Cards, The Mermaid and The Cook’s Revenge will be performed. The composer and musician, who is leading a ‘saw orchestra’ as part of the upcoming Adelaide Festival performance by The Lost and Found Orchestra, says the fantastical nature of Méliés’ films appeals to him.

“Méliés explores the idea of using the camera to be a magician,” Ferraretto says. “His background is in theatre and magic tricks and pushing illusion even further. He has a sort of fearlessness and freedom about him that I really like.”


A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliés

Ferraretto and his fellow composers will approach the scoring methodology differently as drummer and composer Jarrad Payne will have everything pre-composed and tightly synchronised while saxophonist and free music exponent Derek Pascoe will take the improvised road.

“I don’t think he’s [Pascoe] going to write down a note,” Ferraretto says. “He’ll just give some instructions and some colours. That’s going to be pretty amazing.”

Ferraretto’s methodology will fall somewhere in the middle of the approaches taken by Payne and Pascoe by utilising one-page scores.

“They are a bit of a trend in the moment in the UK, where you write the backbone of the composition, it’s not quite like a jazz chart, it’s not quite like an orchestral score, but it’s some sort of compositional idea — melodic phrases or tonal colours — and then with an ensemble you devise the composition around that. It’s a little bit improvised, it’s a little bit composed but it gives you that freedom to move with the picture.

“These are three different approaches and it will be interesting to see how that will all work against the same filmmaker’s vision.”

A Trip to the Moon
Nexus Arts, Lion Arts Centre
Sunday, January 14, 5pm
adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au