Analysis of resources
Edweard Muybridge (1830-1904) left England to undertake the study of photography and soon became one of the pioneers in the new field His studies of the human figure and animals in motion, begun in 1872, are the works by which he is mainly known today. This project, which occupied almost the entire remainder of his life, was undertaken to prove a betthat at one during its stride a trotting horse has all four feet off the ground. His many inventions during this period of his life not only contributed to the development of photography but anticipated and laid the ground for the development of motion pictures.
Almost forgotten now are the other events of his life. Muybridge, having married in has early forties, discovered through letters sent to his wife Flora that she had a lover, Colonel Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, Muybridge sought out Colonel Larkyns He greeted Larkyns with the words, "Good evening Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife". Muybridge then shot Larkyns, killing him on the spot In the end Muybridge was acquitted [at the trial], Larkyns child borne by his wife was subsequently raised by Muybridge after his wifes death a few years later.
The photographer, a music/theater piece was planned as a three-part worka play, a concert and a dance.
Act 1 recounts the events in the life of Edweard Muybridge relating to the murder of Colonel Larkyns and the subsequent trial. The music in act 1 consists of three incidental pieces [c 3½ mins each] which fit into the play. For the first song, A gentlemans honor, words were taken from the trial transcript, comments of spectators at the trial and letters of Muybridge to his wife Flora.
Act 2 is presented as a concert with violin solo during which the photographs taken by Muybridge of the play in act 1 are developed and projected onto a screen at the rear of the stage.
Act 3 brings back all the characters from act 1 (Muybridge, Flora, Colonel Larkyns, et al) in a final dance.
The photographer was conceived by the Dutch director/designer Rob Malasch in association with Philip Glass [Its] first public performance [was] at the Carré Theater in Amsterdam in June 1982. Philip Glass
Philip Glass wrote The photographer and Koyaanisqatsi whilst he was writing Akhnaten, and certainly there are fascinating - and strangely dislocating - similarities as well as the differences. These being Philips ability at this time to create and fix a precise, detailed and unique soundworld for each work despite (a) using minuscule resources and sometimes (b) the same resources.
The song in act 1 is a strophic song somewhere between Koyaanisqatsi and Songs from liquid days, and the other intermezzi are instrumental versions of this.
Act 2 is a fine piece of 80s Glass, characterised by the flute/organ combination so prevalent in earlier works, plus the solo violin from Einstein on the beach, but modulated by the far greater rate and range of musical incidents typical of the contemporary works.
Act 3 is absolutely wonderful! It is one of Philip Glasss composed crescendi - like The grid in Koyaanisaqatsi - it just happens to the very best. Best in the sense that it is the most exciting, and it deploys its musical elements with the greatest skill.
The total effect of the music is of a strong, compulsive, exciting work - rising at the end to almost unbearable exhilaration! More of a piece than Koyaanisqatsi (at least in its CD version).
If the recordings of other Glass pieces are anything to go by, the timings given here - taken from the commercial recording - probably represent a cut version. (Cut in the sense that not all repeats are taken and, where sections are repeated, these may not be played at all.) Unlike a full scale opera, I feel that the patience and stamina of both chorus and audience should cope with the music as written. I know that The grid was considerably shortened for the film soundtrack and CD and I know that the full length version (or at least as far as I got in setting it in Sibelius) vindicates Philips repetitiveness. Thus, were act 3 to be similarly foreshortened, I would be keen to see it restored to its full glory.
The orchestration as given on the CD and reproduced here is odd - though I am sure that there are overdubs which mean that the doublings given here are not possible in live performance. On the CD this oddity is compensated for by a number of synthesiser effects and stops of dubious quality or just downright nastiness.
I propose, therefore, an acoustic Photographer - in which the instrumental parts are relaid for a chamber orchestra much as I did for the instrumental parts in Songs from liquid days - be created. This would be even less interventionist than my version of Songs since I dont propose to touch the vocal parts.
The music could then be performed as a concert suite, as on the CD but with cuts opened out.
Or, better, the original concept of play+concert+dance, the whole thing staged, could be repeated. I am sure this has never been done in the UK, though I believe that the Ensemble performed The photographer in their May 1997 RFH concert (not at all the same thing).