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Filmic 17: Music for the film in your head

Posted on Mon 27 Mar 2017
Mica Levi composed the music for Jackie

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Filmic is our annual look at the creative connections across film and music, hosted in partnership with Colston Hall and St George's Bristol.

Throughout April we present a season of films scored by female composers, including Mica Levi's latest score for Jackie. We’re delighted that Levi (whose previous score for Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin stands out as unsettling and distinctive) will be performing Under the Skin live at Colston Hall on Fri 14 April alongside the London Sinfonietta.

Colston Hall is also the venue to witness piano trio GoGo Penguin's very particular stamp on Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 cult classic, Koyaanisqatsi, one of the most successful documentary films ever made. And don't miss two intimate shows at St George's - Mark Springer & The Lochrian String Quartet premiere a live performance for Filmic incorporating films by directors John Maybury and Sarah Killery; and Three Cane Whale will play live alongside films specially commissioned in response to their music.

We asked co-curator Philip Johnson at St George's about how the ideas behind Filmic developed, here’s his brief history:

“Bristol’s Filmic festival began in 2012 and developed between myself and Mark Cosgrove, Cinema Curator at Watershed. He’s a film person mad about music, and I’m a music person mad about films, and we shared a feeling that there was an increasing amount of common ground that we ought to be covering, picking up emerging projects that fell between the cracks of conventional, genre-specific programming. For the debut festival we came up with the slogan of Film + Music = Filmic and that became our primary proposition. 

Our founding vision contained a recognition that music could be ‘filmic’ without an actual film being involved - film is so embedded in contemporary culture that music could not help reflecting and referencing it. And that’s another Filmic idea: that it can reflect the imaginary film in your head, so the range of things we cover is very broad. This also related to Bristol’s music scene - producing artists such as Massive Attack and Portishead - who created work characterised as moody, atmospheric, and, well, filmic. 

For me, it also went way back to the mid-1980s when as a lecturer at a local college I - following the fashion of the times - made a cassette mixtape of film-related themes from my LP collection for one of my students, Robert Del Naja (later of Massive Attack) that I titled ‘Music For The Film In Your Head’.

My copy is sadly lost but I remember it included tracks from Bernard Herrmann’s music for 'Taxi Driver': Alongside the title theme by Miles Davis for ‘Lift to the Scaffold’ and a version of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’, arranged by Joe Jackson:

This tape got copied and passed around - as happened in those pre-internet days - when discovering new things depended on the actual exchange of physical artefacts. When I interviewed Goldie years later, he told me that he also had a copy. Del Naja also referred to his interests in film for a story I wrote about Massive Attack’s curation of Meltdown at London’s Southbank.

The opening season in 2012 mixed shows by Spaghetti Western Orchestra and legendary film composer Michel Legrand with The Greatness of the Magnificence; later a commission by John Parish and Will Gregory’s Moog Ensemble followed. Watershed has assembled an impressive digital archive of Filmic interviews with Legrand, Philip Glass and many more. 

For the first year we approached the legendary Legrand, who just happened to be planning an 80th birthday tour. He arrived from Paris in a terrible mood, and his limo turned out to be an old Mondeo that smelled of cigarettes! Luckily, the maestro relaxed at his talk at Watershed - where he was shown much love by the audience - but then nearly collapsed at his hotel. As soon as he saw the great Steinway at St George’s he recovered, giving us an absolutely mind-blowing concert, one of the best I’ve even seen. And it turns out we were ahead of the game: Michel’s scores for musicals such as ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg' are an acknowledged inspiration for this year’s Oscar® winner 'La La Land'.

I love putting things together for each season - we see what’s out there or what we can commission specially. This year we also welcome the full involvement of Colston Hall, who are presenting the fantastic ’There Will Be Blood’ and ‘Under The Skin’ live music screenings. Now Filmic has the exciting possibility of hosting events on a larger stage, we can maybe look at bigger things for the future - but it’s not really size that matters, it's imagination.”

Explore our Filmic 17 programme - a season of films scored by female composers.