INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Guardian MARCH 16, 2013 - by Caspar Llewellyn Smith
Town Hall, Adelaide
The 1972 film Solaris, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky after the novel of a decade earlier by Stanislaw Lem, is a psychologically demanding meditation on man's place in the universe that is routinely acclaimed as one of sci-fi's masterpieces. It featured an electronic score by Eduard Artemyev but the Melbourne-born Ben Frost has said "it never achieves musically the effect I think Tarkovsky was going for, which was to make a film about an inner space as opposed to an outer one".
Commissioned by the Unsound festival in 2010, Frost and his musical partner in his adopted Iceland, Daniel Bjarnason, created an alternative interpretation of the themes of the film. Previously performed with the Sinfonietta Cracovia in Reykjavik and New York and throughout northern Europe, it involved the services of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for this performance as part of the Adelaide festival, with Frost hunched over a guitar and Bjarnason conducting and playing a prepared piano.
Rather than the film itself, images from it that had been subsequently manipulated by Brian Eno and Nick Robertson played out behind the musicians on a huge screen. The faces of characters slowly swam into view and morphed from one to another; shots of Pieter Bruegel's painting The Hunters In The Snow melted away.
For anyone whose tastes run more to Star Wars, they might have served as a distraction to the score, however beautifully rendered. It isn't as if the music alone demanded the images. Taughtly ethereal, with the strings hovering in the vicinity of the same views notes, it created an unsettling sense of mood and place. As in the film, it was almost as little was happening, but sudden crescendos and squalls of noise proved satisfyingly unsettling.