Der müde Tod
Fritz Lang / DEUZE, 1921 / 98 min.
Together with percussionist Modar Salama, the a cappella ensemble Wishful Singing performs live a new composition by Steven Kamperman to accompany the silent film classic Der müde Tod (Destiny). Fritz Lang made the film in reaction to the millions of casualties of the Spanish influenza pandemic and the First World War. The film is amazingly relevant to our time.
Together with percussionist Modar Salama, the a cappella ensemble Wishful Singing performs live a new composition by Steven Kamperman to accompany the silent film classic Der müde Tod (Destiny). Fritz Lang made the film in reaction to the millions of casualties of the Spanish influenza pandemic and the First World War. The film, now a century old, is amazingly relevant to our time.
Der müde Tod is an expressionist-romantic allegory about love and death. The film is acclaimed by connoisseurs as an artistic highlight within the genre of the silent film. Fritz Lang personified death as a compassionate character with a conscience, who has qualms about the meaning of death, the value of human life and the extent to which humans can shape their own destiny.
A century after the film was first released, Steven Kamperman composed new music for this film especially for Wishful Singing. The vocal ensemble also performs on a number of instruments, including the harmonium, an instrument that was very popular in Fritz Lang’s time. The live performance is enhanced by a taped recording of vocal and instrumental sound clips. These will be played during the performance, creating an extra layer of music to symbolise the realm of the dead, which plays an important part in the film. The result is a rich and dynamic soundscape that contributes to the audience’s live experience.
The Amsterdam-based Syrian percussionist Modar Salama creates the rhythmic basis for the piece and brings the Arabic and oriental scenes in the film to life.
Composer Steven Kamperman about his score: “Fritz Lang made Der müde Tod in reaction to World War I and the Spanish influenza pandemic, which both took a heavy toll. The film revolves around the question in how far we can shape our own lives. In the film, Death takes a deterministic position, but towards the end there definitely appears to be more room for moral scope. In the music, too, I wanted to reflect this contrast between fixity and freedom, for example through the use of tonal and rhythmic structures versus free-flowing and harmonic songs, tight composition versus improvised variations, and a pre-recorded and fixed tape part versus a section that is performed live and leaves room for interpretation. In addition, the contrast in the film between life and the realm of the dead also plays a central role in the music: as an acoustic and concrete harmony and melody versus electronically processed abstract sound."
Der müde Tod
Eye on Sound
What would Sergio Leone’s films be without Ennio Morricone’s world-renowned scores? And what remains of Blade Runner without Vangelis’ unworldly synthesizers? Who doesn’t immediately think of Miles Davis’ languid nocturnal jazz in the case of Ascenseur pour l’échafaud? Music and sound are an essential part of the cinematic experience. In fact, they are vital to the experience of film.