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Over a period of five years, Swiss filmmakers Norbert Wiedmer and Peter Guyer followed producer Manfred Eicher and the artists of ECM around the world. In footage from Estonia, Tunisia, Germany, France, Denmark, Greece, Argentina and elsewhere, their documentary movie “Sounds and Silence” captures aspects of the music-making process at ECM, and provides glimpses of unique players and composers at work. Amongst the artists included: Arvo Pärt, Eleni Karaindrou, Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner, Anouar Brahem, Gianluigi Trovesi and Gianni Coscia, Marilyn Mazur, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, Kim Kashkashian, Jan Garbarek and others.

The film has already notched up a number of notable successes. It received its world premiere at Locarno’s Piazza Grande in front of an audience of 7,000 spectators in August 2009 and has since gone on to tour the world’s festivals, including the Melbourne International Film Festival, Vienna’s Viennale, San Francisco’s SFJazz series, Estonia’s Pimedate Ööde Filmifestival , the Hofer Filmtage and more. “Sounds and Silence” won the Berner Film Prize 2009, was nominated for the Schweizer Film Prize, and has collected very positive reviews:

“An immensely fascinating, colorful film about passion, patience and sympathetic listening”
Wolfram Schütte, Hof Film Festival

“The film fascinates most when it makes the process of creating music visible and audible... There can hardly be a better choice for those who regard film as a school of listening.”
Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“It does not take long until the viewer realizes what the camera is meant to capture here: not the protagonists but the music.”
Thomas Steinfeld, Süddeutche Zeitung

“‘Sounds and Silence’ is an unusual experiment, an ambitious attempt to decode the language of music. The result is a highly original fusion of concert feature, artist’s portrait, episodic film and road movie.”
Kai Löffler, WDR 3

Now the film is released to the public for home viewing as DVD and Blu-Ray. The German editions are manufactured by Arsenal Filmverleih, the company who brought the movie to Germany’s cinemas in autumn 2010. The international edition is issued by ECM, and distributed through the ECM Export network.

ECM has been quietly building an outstanding catalogue of DVDs – ranging from short films of Jean-Luc Godard to concert footage of Keith Jarrett – but “Sounds and Silence” is the first of its film releases to be issued also in Blu-Ray format.

Liner notes are by filmmakers Guyer and Wiedmer. An excerpt: The Edition of Contemporary Music is in the realm of sound what Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s “Andere Bibliothek”, published by Eichborn, is in the realm of words: a sponsor of the intelligent and the extraordinary. Manfred Eicher represents music that refuses to be merely consumed and musicians with colourful lives, convictions and outstanding abilities. This is the world we want our audience to see and hear. In the era of casting shows and drawing-board stars, videoclip inflation, audio pollution and commercial omnipresence, we want to present music in different pictures and images in different sounds, create visual worlds, not string together snapshots, explore single notes, not reproduce instant sounds – and provide space for silence, too. Not showcase a finished product but accompany the birth of music, study its conditions and figure out its meaning: discovering people, following moods, finding explanations, capturing sounds – and summarizing the details in a larger whole, a concerted journey through landscapes of sound.”

The film is multi-lingual, with German, English and French subtitles. Bonus material on the DVD and Blu-Ray includes scenes from the recording of Manu Katché’s “Playground” in New York City, filmed by Gildas Boclé.

Since the film was first screened, ECM has had many requests for a soundtrack album. Where the film shows the process of music-making in Manfred Eicher’s productions, “Sounds and Silence: Music for a Film” includes the music in its completed form. There are two striking exceptions – tracks from Eleni Karaindrou and orchestra live in concert in Frankfurt, one with Jan Garbarek and Kim Kashkashian as guests. These performances have not previously been available on CD.

© Studio Svengali, June 2024
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