Some of the Dallas Chamber Symphony's most memorable concerts have featured silent film screenings set to newly composed music. In January, the 2-year-old organization announced it was expanding on that success by launching a film competition called Sight of Sound. Contestants chose from a list of short classical pieces and created silent films to go with the music. Last night at the symphony's season finale concert, films by the three finalists were screened with live accompaniment by the ensemble.
There's a lot of room for creativity with this project and nobody else is doing anything like it in Dallas. For aspiring artists and filmmakers, this is a great opportunity to have their films screened with live musical accompaniment, and, hopefully snag some cash along the way. For the orchestra, it is a chance to collaborate with filmmakers and offer audiences a new take on old music.
Given that this was the competition's first year and that entrants had just a little over two months to submit projects after it was announced, it is hardly surprising that this year's submissions generally underwhelmed. The Best Picture Award went to Andrew Yorke for "Daydreaming at Midnight," an aesthetically appealing short set to an orchestral arrangement of Robert Schumann's tender piano piece, Träumerei. Yorke's film worked really well with the lush sounds of Schumann's melodies, but featuring himself in the movie gave the piece an amateur feel.
At intermission, audience members had five minutes to vote for their favorite film via text. Thirteen-year-old Hockaday student Tosca Langbert won the Audience Favorite Award with 79 audience members casting their vote for her charming stop-motion animation film "Pest Control" (set to the Scherzo from Brahms' Serenade No. 2). Langbert won over her audience because she approached the project with wit and imagination. She also did the best job of visually interpreting the music. Anyone who's watched a Bugs Bunny cartoon knows there's a lot of fun to be had with classical melodies. Langbert's playful movie followed in that tradition and entertained the audience.
Montserrant Martinez's unoriginal "Adagio for Strings" (set to Samuel Barber's piece by the same title) was the weakest finalist. Set to slowly unfolding melodies in the strings, overlapping images of water droplets on leaves and the nap of a woman's neck made for tiresome, obvious and uninspired romanticism. Hopefully, next year more creative and imaginative films will raise the artistic level of this competition to something that is genuinely very cool.
Last night's concert opened with Beethoven's Overture to Creatures of Prometheus. This was a great way to start the concert, and the orchestra, a group that does not get the chance to rehearse together very much, gave it a solid and snappy reading. The concert's second half featured Beethoven's second symphony, another great choice for this venue and audience. The length, tone and structure of this piece make it easily digestible and perfectly pleasant listening. The violins, led by guest concertmaster Szemöke Jobbágy, had great intonation throughout the piece and gave a polish to the group's sound.
If you're an aspiring film-maker, keep an eye out for this competition next year. With a little creativity, you could take home five hundred bucks and participate in an concert that has the potential to grow into a very cool collaborative event.