At first, it was the machine and its effect, or as the structuralists would often say later: the device. The cinematograph’s exhibition, between 1896 and 1905, was not a spectacle regulated by the protocols of respectability inherited from the bourgeois theatre or the concert halls, with their stall and forum. Nor with a projection booth or large screen. The atmosphere used to be informal and diverse – a café, a variety hall, a fair booth; although very soon special immersive settings were constructed. Anyway, to watch cinema was not only to watch what was projected, but the projection as a whole: the projector, the operator turning the crank, the beam of light that, makes something clearly visible on the screen.
Music was implemented very soon in the device, a logical thing if we consider the nature of recreation of these settings (the cliché of the lounge pianist in the western would be a leftover fossil from those ambiances). But most likely music had to play a very important role in the twist that turns the audience into an ensemble of spectators. This means, people who stare at what is projected, creating a bubble of isolation from the rest of the world. It is speculated that, in addition, the projector’s noise needed music to be attenuated (overlooked as part of the spectacle) and to definitively produce the bubble. At least since 1910, the cinematographic spectacle was already consolidated as this enormous camera obscura for the immersive illusion that we know so well now. And for it, the masterpieces of an art of bygone times, in the 20s.
It is still curious that this external aspect that used to contribute to erase everything external to give power to the image, invites us to go the other way around when we enjoy the pleasure of projecting silent movies with live music. There is a feeling of beautiful strangeness in the spectacle’s splitting into two natures, so to speak. What kind of new space, of mutual interaction, is generated in that duality? It would be said that, in the presence of music that is produced right there, in the pure present moment of the stage, what is shown on the screen returns us to a background in time. Apologizing for the cheesiness and redundancy: the image can be imagined as dreamt by the musicians; or summoned in an exercise in spiritualism in which they perform as mediums. But it is also possible to conjure up the idea of how an energy emanates from the screen and they channel and transform this.
This year’s mediums will be the lute player and guitarist Jozef Van Wissem, Jim Jarmusch’s collaborator, and his invoked spirit, that of Nosferatu, that turns 100 years old. The International Bach Festival Ensemble – IBF, directed by Humberto Armas, will once again invoke the vampire of Murano. Carlos Oramas (theorbo and Renaissance lute) accompanied by Adrián Linares (baroque violin) and Diego Pérez (baroque cello), will accompany the agonies of Joan and Carl Theodor Dreyer. And Jonay Armas, with Carolina Hernández and Juan Carlos Trujillo, will produce who knows what strange audible landscapes to appease, in one same session, the poor Nanook of the North and the patron saint of a real-cinema that is all the more beautiful and revolutionary the less truthful it is.