Through the Silver Screen : the collaborative creation of works for piano and video

Kanga, Zubin (2017) Through the Silver Screen : the collaborative creation of works for piano and video. Contemporary Music Review, 35 (4-5). pp. 423-449. ISSN 0749-4467


This article examines my collaboration with British composer, Adam de la Cour, on his work for piano, video and electronics, Transplant the Movie! (2016). I use auto-ethnographic techniques to examine our collaborative relationship as the work was conceived, created and prepared for performance. Transplant the Movie! (2016) takes as its inspiration the subgenre of early horror films that focus on pianists receiving hand transplants from the corpses of deceased criminals, including The Hands of Orlac (1924), Mad Love (1935), The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), and Hands of a Stranger (1962). I worked with Adam de la Cour to film re-enactments of selected scenes, imitating the style of the original films which he then intercut to form the film used in this work. The pianist, at first plays the role of a silent movie pianist accompanying the film, before finding himself transported into it, imitating the action on screen in a process that is both horrific and comedic. The score for the pianist is itself a collage of excerpts from across the canonical piano repertoire creating another layer of intertextual complexity that both enhances and resists the narrative of cut-up horror films on screen, before this relationship unravels in a wild climax where the film becomes a hallucinatory graphic score. In a collaboration where the pianist is a co-creator, a character on screen, and the performer of the finished work, the roles of all the creative participants must remain constantly fluid throughout the process, with the cinematic and musical elements improvised, negotiated and discussed in tandem over many stages. The case-study demonstrates how working across art forms both facilitates and necessitates the need for a unique approach to collaboration, where both composer and performer play a variety of creative roles in the composition and filmmaking processes.

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