The sounds of a city are as integral to its identity as its architecture and its citizens. Sound is the physical manifestation of the city’s energy. The 1927 film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, directed by Walter Ruttman, is only a visual representation of a city in transition. It’s a silent saga that begs for sound. This week, Missoula’s NextDoorPrisonHotel provides live sound to Ruttman’s legendary work.
The duo is made up of cellist Bethany Joyce and bassist John Sporman, who both perform in a ridonkulous number of projects around town: Joyce plays in Butter and Stellarondo, Sporman holds it down in the rhythm section for Tom Catmull and the Clerics. Knowing them, they are both, as we speak, starting up new projects and reviving old ones.
NDPH is a little handier than most local musicians and they intend to play multiple instruments throughout the live-scoring including saws, guitars, pianos, percussion, glockenspiel and more. The idea to do such a thing came after they randomly chose the film from a list provided to them by the organizers of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival where they performed the score this past April. Once they signed up the challenge became apparent. “Oh my God, we we’re about to score a film that is 70 minutes long and about Social Darwinism,” Sporman says, recalling the moment.
The duo chose different sections to score making the task feel less Herculean. “We scored to the storyline,” says Sporman. In other words, if there is a choo-choo train don’t expect to hear the sound of a train, but rather be prepared to experience an emotion. They also had plenty of practice after having done live-scores for several silent films at the Crystal Theater this past summer. “It’s cool to play live but not have your foot on the monitor,” Sporman says, “that way you can focus on sonic creation.”
University Center Theater. 7 PM. Free.