Today we have Ukrainian musician Anton Baibakov in to say a few words about his involvement in the new digital remaster of Vertov’s classic silent documentary The Eleventh Year. The social documentary will be screening as part of a festival called Documenting Ukraine which will feature nine screenings, Q&A sessions and discussions on modern Ukraine and the country’s cinema. This festival will be the international premiere of Baibakov’s new score. Read on for our interview…
Firstly can I ask you to tell readers a little bit about the project in your own words, and let them know how you became involved in the project?
I received the offer to score this film from my friends from Docudays UA film festival. They were planning a screening of Dziga Vertov’s The Eleventh Year in collaboration with Dovzhenko Film Center for their closing ceremony. I hadn’t had such an experience before. I mean I created music for feature films, but here the challenge was to create not a number of short music themes but a 40 minutes long piece. I didn’t feel like doing it but finally somebody told me that Michael Nyman worked on this film as well and created his version of the soundtrack. That inspired me a lot, I felt like I was in competition.
There was one month before the screening date, which is nothing for such a job. So I switched off all my phones, closed the door at home and started my work. In the end I got ill and the premier happened without me, but it was a huge success. At least all my friends told me so!
Now the film takes a relatively simple political goal and approaches it with complex, experimental editing which perhaps could be said to reflect the bold and innovative nature of the ongoing socialist experiment. How did you choose to represent that radical nature through music?
For me it was not about representing the radical nature of the film’s approach to its subject or of the socialist experiment. On the contrary my goal was to focus on its people and I was trying to humanize them. While working on this film, watching the edit and feeling the rhythm of the film, I had the feeling that Vertov edited it whilst using some music. One of my goals was to bring this hidden music to light.
I made some research on Vertov and his brothers’ biographies. These 3 characters and their tragic fates inspired me a lot and gave me the right sense of the times when they lived, worked and particularly of the time when this film was created.
How do you approach a celebratory film like this which was made nearly ninety years ago? Do you allow the perspective gained by time to filter into your score or try to represent the attitude which Vertov would have expected at the time?
I think that in any case whatever you do you do through the perspective of today. It was not my goal to make a “period style piece”.
And finally Anton, how does the relationship between image and sound change when played live to an audience? Does the live aspect influence the score or bring any additional challenges?
To be honest this score was never completely performed live. To produce it live requires very strong preparation by the performers, they would need to work hard for quite a long time. Moreover this score is made for two grand pianos (one of them prepared), for a big percussion group, and the whole part which now is performed by digital instruments has to be arranged by a chamber string section. And also performing this score requires quite a large acoustic space. So, there has been no financial resources available until now to really play it live.
And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this interview with Anton Baibakov. Do head on over here to the Open City Docs website for more information on the Documenting Ukraine festival and to purchase tickets!