Photo by Stephen J Cardinale for Unsound Festival New York
The last half of the program saw an interesting collaboration between the orchestra and Australia’s Ben Frost and Iceland’s Daniel Bjarnason via the piece “We Don’t Need Other Worlds. We Need Mirrors—Music For Solaris
.” The two composers (Frost on a padded chair, guitars and computer at hand; Bjarnason, who was also conducting, at a prepared piano) based this work on their responses to Andrei Tarkovsky’s film adaptation of the novel Solaris
by Krakow novelist Stanislaw Lem. A droning, slow build became the soundscape to film manipulations projected behind the ensemble by Brian Eno (who is currently Frost’s mentor as part of the Rolex Mentor And Protege Arts Initiative) and Nick Robertson.
It began with solid blocks of color, which became recognizable as a pixelated face. As the face of the man moved closer, his eyes opened, and he slowly morphed into various other faces of older men with subtle differences in expression. An older man became the devious face of a young boy, and from there the image folded in on itself into what seemed like three-dimensional shards, reconstructing into various scenes. Eno and Robertson created these film manipulations specifically for the composition, and the ebb and flow of Frost and Bjarnason’s spoke to this abstract story. The display ended in a static yellow screen, and without the image accompaniment the minimal soundtrack dragged, seeming incomplete. Though perhaps an ending with a lack of visuals was meant to test us, the audience, as we sat there with no anchoring point, all feeling a bit, fittingly, unsound.