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P Jørgensen: Soundtrack_Remix

img  Tobias Fischer

Breaking the supremacy of image over sound has been an ongoing topic of the arts over the past few decades. It is an intriguing paradox, meanwhile, that the case hasn't exclusively been made by musicians – but also, and with equal fervor, by their colleagues from the realms of cinematography. When director Samy Pavel worked on the soundtrack to Le Moulin de Daudet with German Syntheziser pioneer Klaus Schulze, even the latter was shocked about the volume of his own music in the picture, which Pavel would, at times, crank up to almost deafening levels. Schulze, of course, was no stranger to unusual collaborations – 1984's thriller Angst, a horrifying tale of abused childhood resulting in serial killer ambitions, was cut to the rhythm of the compositions, rather than the other way round. It proved to be a harbinger of the golden years of music video, which brought the symbiosis between the senses to a temporary acme. Unfortunately, it wasn't to last for long. As clips turned from  artistic statements into mere marketing tools, the dominance of the visual was re-instated - regardless of whether the piece at hand was a sexually charged-up pop clip or supposedly more „artful“ constructions.

On Soundtrack_Remix, director/architect Morten Meldgaard and sound artist/composer Peter Jørgensen are picking up the pieces of this fruitful debate where they'd been left in the early 90s. Again, the original impetus for the work originated with Meldgaard rather than his sonic counterpart. In an extensive and enlightning essay included in the booklet of this double-album, Meldgaard summarises his points of departure as an effort of avoiding pictorial content, avoiding explicit narrative structures and, most strikingly of all, shunning an overly interpretational input by himself: For Atlantik, an early  collaboration with Jørgensen, he had collected Super8-reels shot „in in an offhand manner“, sometimes not even looking through the objective in order to let the camera, as it were, find the images by itself. Contrary to what one might expect, the idea was not one by a deconstructionist or anarchist. In fact, every single sentence of the essay breathes a deep love for classic cinema, for the masters of the trade and the art of storytelling through pictures. Meldgaard's „avantgardism“ is very much an effort of returning to these qualities, not of rescinding them. While his reels were the raw material for the project, Meldgaard required creative glue to arrive at more than just random sequences. It was Jørgensen's music, poignant fields of ultra-deep sub-bass humming and micro-tonal crackle on the one hand and loops of tender electronic melodies on the other, which provided it, creating a dream-like state between reality and fiction.

Importantly, however, the music was neither the cause nor the effect of the images. Jørgensen had simply contributed three already finished compositions to Atlantik, which not only made for a perfect conceptual match, but also provided for the desired a-rational confluences. Which led Meldgaard, when shooting a documentary on the life of Danish resistance fighter and poet Kim Malthe-Bruun, to take two important decisions: First of all, he would implant the otherwise entirely unconnected Atlantik-footage into his new project. And secondly, he would make Jørgensen an integral part of the team right from the start. It was here that the complete suffusion of different media and sensory levels reached its peak: An experimental movie became part of a historical documentary. Music and moving image went hand in hand. Poetry and history were treated as equal. Sound and film both led and followed each other. For Jørgensen, working on the score to Kim turned out to be a massive challenge, leading him to not merely to refine his technique of drone building, but to also extend into the realms of surgically precise micro-noise as well as neoclassical piano pieces, sombre string arrangements and chambermusical settings. He was to uncover entirely new layers of meaning to his compositional process, putting him in touch with a more obviously affective side of his personality, as pieces like „Palmpsest (For Strings)“ or the movie's opening titles asked for far more clear-cut statements than usual.

As a natural consequence of the process, the project has turned from a familiar discussion about the relationship between the visual and the acoustic to a meta-debate about the nature of inspiration and the borders of art. Within the two hours of its duration and including the accompanying digipack, Soundtrack_Remix embodies a wide array of different approaches and tendencies: It features painstakingly refined electronic works and poignantly pure acoustic pieces. It features solo tracks as well as cuts on which pianist Jacob Anderskov or multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick add their interpretation to his scores; and then there's a full disc of remixes – not a limited bonus-feature here, but an integral part of the package – on which friends and colleagues like Will Long of Celer, Machinefabriek, Jasper TX and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma rework the material. It contains material from three different projects, with last track „Outro“, an almost still-life-like dirge, representing, against its title, the first track to be composed. Some of the music was created with a clearly defined mood or scene in mind, while others were mounted on top of already existing footage. And yet, there's a clearly defined common denominator: Every single detail of this album pledges allegiance to the philosophy of providing the listener with „more“ and of a seemingly regular work of music serving as a conduit into philosophy, arts criticism, history, politics and literature. In the early years of the new millennium, the decaying and knocked-out record industry offered customers the chance of buying stripped-down versions of releases, which contained nothing but the plain CD – an idea which seemed bad at the time, but downright absurd when faced with the creative abundance of this treasure chest.

There is no hierarchy in the connections between all of the different areas Soundtrack_Remix touches upon, as they're not only all treated as equal, but all influence each other to a degree which puts the old dictum of one discipline leading the other, ad absurdum. The album, containing music to three different movies, is not strictly speaking a soundtrack to any of them.  And yet, the question of what represents an „original“ and what a „re-make“ is entirely beside the point here. Even the remix-portion of the material is treated both as a natural complement and a new „montage“, with some of the pieces - especially Chris Herbert's deep and spacious „Fissures“ or Greg Davis's closing „Light Breath“, essentially new compositions in their own right - matching Jørgensen's ambitions. Christopher Edwards from the Under the Spire label, too, played his part in the completion of the project,  adding a much-needed haptic and visual layer to the release and encouraging its epic scope and ambitions. The fact that Jørgensen is the only name mentioned on the cover, then, must be interpreted as a parallel to the 60s and 70s jazz-scene, where the position of band leader did not necessarily imply exclusive authorship of the musical material, but rather the duty of creative catalyst, who would carefully conduct and fuse of an ensemble of artists with pronounced individual personalities.

Effectively, Jørgensen has re-invented the album as a creative sun around which a galaxy of ideas and implications rhizomatically revolve. It is a return to the essence of what music by its very nature has always been: A stimulation of all senses, of emotion and intellect alike. It is not a conceptual error, if the movie to which these sounds were scripted, should not be part of the package as well: If the music is as suggestive as in this case, the images are always already implied.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: P Jørgensen
Homepage: Under the Spire Recordings

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