MOVIE REVIEW: SOUNDS AND SILENCE: TRAVELS WITH MANFRED EICHER

The esteemed ECM label, headquartered in Munich, is sustained not by its roster of renowned musicians (Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd) and a catalog of more than 1,000 jazz and classical recordings, but by the preternatural vision of one man, Manfred Eicher, whose life embodies a relentless quest for perfection. He’s the focus of a carefully crafted documentary, “Sounds And Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher,” that gives us a refracted tour of the producer’s schedule and begins with Eicher in a room alone, deep in contemplation over a solo piano recording, after which he remarks, “for me the luminosity of the sound is always what I’m looking for.”  But as viewers we’re kept at a cool distance from Eicher and never see or learn what’s behind his reputation or his veneer as a producer for one of the world’s greatest jazz and classical labels.

The co-directors, Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedmar, zero in on themes of creation, its process and completion. And then there are the musicians in Eicher’s orbit, characters we meet along the way – pianist Eleni Karaindrou who happily surrenders control to her producer, the austere saxophonist Jan Gabarek who absorbs suggestions and breaths them out on his horn, the vain but gifted bandoneon player, Dino Saluzzi; and the colorful alto player Gianluigi Trovesi, full of stories and a jovial demeanor that Fellini would have loved.

Part travelogue (we see plenty of planes, trains and automobiles) and part backstage musical, the two best moments are purely visual: the cross cutting between young composer Nik Bartsch’s piano tuner performing his own amazing feat of restoration and repair on the felts and hammers with the recording of the pianist’s own unique blending of keyboard and percussion. The other follows anxious composer Arvo Part as he frets over the production of his choral work. When a passage works, he dances with Eicher and when he doubts, he remains hopeful that all the parts -- music, voice and recorded sound -- will “become one organism.” The film concludes with a swell of wide-eyed optimism from the composer Part who hears his work performed as he envisioned, and his elation ultimately exemplifies the master producer’s quest for perfection, which in “Sounds And Silence,” suggests the triumvirate of art, commerce and sonic purity. (87 minutes, Blu-ray, full 1080i HD, 16:9 OAR) 
JAZZ IN SPACE: MOVIE REVIEW: SOUNDS AND SILENCE: TRAVELS WITH MANFRED EICHER

Friday, February 24, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: SOUNDS AND SILENCE: TRAVELS WITH MANFRED EICHER

The esteemed ECM label, headquartered in Munich, is sustained not by its roster of renowned musicians (Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd) and a catalog of more than 1,000 jazz and classical recordings, but by the preternatural vision of one man, Manfred Eicher, whose life embodies a relentless quest for perfection. He’s the focus of a carefully crafted documentary, “Sounds And Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher,” that gives us a refracted tour of the producer’s schedule and begins with Eicher in a room alone, deep in contemplation over a solo piano recording, after which he remarks, “for me the luminosity of the sound is always what I’m looking for.”  But as viewers we’re kept at a cool distance from Eicher and never see or learn what’s behind his reputation or his veneer as a producer for one of the world’s greatest jazz and classical labels.

The co-directors, Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedmar, zero in on themes of creation, its process and completion. And then there are the musicians in Eicher’s orbit, characters we meet along the way – pianist Eleni Karaindrou who happily surrenders control to her producer, the austere saxophonist Jan Gabarek who absorbs suggestions and breaths them out on his horn, the vain but gifted bandoneon player, Dino Saluzzi; and the colorful alto player Gianluigi Trovesi, full of stories and a jovial demeanor that Fellini would have loved.

Part travelogue (we see plenty of planes, trains and automobiles) and part backstage musical, the two best moments are purely visual: the cross cutting between young composer Nik Bartsch’s piano tuner performing his own amazing feat of restoration and repair on the felts and hammers with the recording of the pianist’s own unique blending of keyboard and percussion. The other follows anxious composer Arvo Part as he frets over the production of his choral work. When a passage works, he dances with Eicher and when he doubts, he remains hopeful that all the parts -- music, voice and recorded sound -- will “become one organism.” The film concludes with a swell of wide-eyed optimism from the composer Part who hears his work performed as he envisioned, and his elation ultimately exemplifies the master producer’s quest for perfection, which in “Sounds And Silence,” suggests the triumvirate of art, commerce and sonic purity. (87 minutes, Blu-ray, full 1080i HD, 16:9 OAR) 

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