Composer Gene Coleman (Philadelphia) composed new music for the 1926 Japanese silent film A Page of Madness. The concept of the project was to create live music for the film by combining koto and sho (Japanese mouth organ) with flute, clarinet and string ensemble. In keeping with the way silent films were presented in Japan, Coleman incorporates spoken and sung Japanese text into the score. This project develops the relationship between the music and the film into entirely new dimensions, breaking away from the clichés typical of silent film scores. Combining traditional and contemporary sounds, the composer and musicians add layers of texture and timbre that amplify the bold visual language and intense emotional nature of Kinugasa’s film. In this work Coleman explores a new space, in which a language of sound fosters a new understanding of this important historical work of art.
The project was premiered Wiener Konzerthaus on March 20, 2013, with additional performances at the MaerzMusik Festival in Berlin and the Warsaw Autumn Festival.
About the Film
A Page of Madness is a legendary Japanese silent film. Its reputation is widespread and it has been the subject of a number of academic essays, and now even an entire book. A Page of Madness may well be one of the most acclaimed yet least actually seen films in history, another reason for the importance of this project. Teinosuke Kinugasa made A Page of Madness in 1926 in collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning writer Kawabata Yasunari. The print of A Page of Madness itself was believed lost – destroyed during World War II – until Kinugasa himself found a print in his garden shed. Teinosuke Kinugasa made nearly 100 films in his lifetime though only one has ever been released in English – the period drama Jigokumon (1953), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1955. A Page of Madness is truly unlike any other film ever made, using a breathtaking array of avant-garde, expressionist, and surrealist filmmaking techniques to evoke the madness of patients in a mental hospital: their nightmares and hallucinations of course, but also an inner life of serenity and beauty.
Gene COLEMAN is a composer, musician and director. He has created over 50 works for various instrumentations and media, often using complex notation and improvisation in the same score. Innovative use of sound, space and time allows Coleman to create work that expands our understanding of the world. Since 2001 his work has focused on the global transformation of culture and music’s relationship with other media, such as architecture, video and dance. He studied painting, music and filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where his principle teachers included legendary experimental film artists Stan Brakhage and Ernie Gehr, as well as Robert Snyder (music) and Barbara Rossi (painting). His work has been commissioned by top musicians, ensembles and organizations throughout the world and has been composer in residence in Tokyo, Beirut, Taipei, and Berlin, among others.