The passing of film director Michelangelo Antonioni this week brought many things to mind, many of them sound-related. This is in part due to Antonioni’s pop instinct, as exemplified by the rollicking soundtrack to his film Blow Up (1966); in part due to Brian De Palma’s remake of Blow Up, the film Blow Out (1981), which ingeniously transfered the theme from photography to sound; and in large part due to 52 Spaces, an audio-visual adaption of Antonioni’s L’Eclipse (1962) that Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) has released on CD and performed live (I caught it at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art several years back).
Like Antonioni, Scanner is a student of the urban — a realm of aesthetic scholarship that is exemplified by his nightjam.org.uk project. Back in 1996, Scanner got some young British men and women together to talk about, as the Nightjam website puts it, “how the city at night looks and sounds to their ears and eyes.” Among the results of this project was “Sleepless City,” a maudlin track opening with dolorous piano that, characteristic for Scanner, places spoken word, by his young subjects, amid a soundscape that lends drama and emotional context (MP3). Keeping the project alive, he subsequently invited various musicians to remix the work he created at Nightjam, and one highlight among many is a “Sleepless City” remix by Stephen Vitiello (MP3) that adds percussion and ups the ratio of music/noise to voice, but without jeopardizing Scanner’s initial narrative intent.