Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) Eisler-Studien – Vol. 3
Contributions to a Critical Musicology edited on behalf of the Internationale Hanns Eisler Gesellschaft
Zur Theorie und Praxis von Hanns Eislers Filmmusik
280 pages | 17 x 24 cm | 580 g | ISBN: 978-3-7651-0383-4 | Softbound
Hanns Eisler's film music has been a subject of increasing interest in recent years, in the context of significant new source materials and DVD editions as well as innovative scholarly approaches to music and film. Whereas Eisler's reputation as a film composer was previously defined by the book "Composing for the Films", written in collaboration with Theodor W. Adorno, it is now his 40-odd film scores themselves which are the object of detailed investigation. The present collection of essays covers a wide range of films, from "Niemandsland" (1931) to "Esther" (1962). The twelve authors from Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Spain, and the USA employ wide-ranging approaches to film music analysis in their treatment of the subject, while also considering the question of the extent to which Eisler actually fulfilled his own theoretical demands. It is not surprising that the authors of the third "Eisler Studien" have come up with refreshingly diverse and highly rewarding results.
|Ahrend, Thomas||‚Wir werden ihnen unser Gesicht nicht zeigen …’. Eislers Musik zum Fernsehfilm Esther|
|Dahin, Oliver||An Embedded Narrative: Hanns Eisler’s Score for Council of the Gods|
|Faßhauer, Tobias||Film – Musik – Montage. Beobachtungen in Niemandsland|
|Gall, Johannes C.||A Rediscovered Way to Describe Rain: New Paths to an Elusive Sound Version|
|Heldt, Guido||Grenzgänge: Filmisches Erzählen und Hanns Eislers Musik|
|Kolb, Roberto||Four Ways of Describing Death: Painting, Filming, Narrating and Scoring Mexican Funeral Scenes|
|Neumeyer, David & Buhler, James||Composing for the Films, Modern Soundtrack Theory, and the Difficult Case of A Scandal in Paris|
|Salmon, Barry||[RE]Composing for the Films: The Problem of Praxis|
|Schweinhardt, Peter||Ein guter Filmkomponist? Überlegungen zur Spielfilmmusik Hanns Eislers|
|Viejo, Breixo||Neue Musik für einen befreiten Film. Giovanni Fuscos Filmmusik zu Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour|
|Wlodarski, Amy Lynn||Excavating Eisler: Relocating the Memorial Voice in Nuit et Brouillard|
While discussing his Ernste Gesänge and the question of the objective “essence” of his “poetic explanation” of the Hölderlin setting Komm ins Offene, Freund! with Hans Bunge, Eisler remarks, as if in passing, that “poetry can only be described poetically”. It would be pedantic to claim that this is untrue – poetry can of course be described unpoetically – as the essential point of this aperçu is that Eisler finds approaches to poetry which do not proceed from the poetic uninteresting or irrelevant. Perhaps deliberately, the statement nevertheless remains ambiguous: should the poetic in poetry be descriptively fixed, or must the description itself proceed in a poetical way?
The simple question underlying Eisler’s remark, namely which words and to which limits artistic objects can be described, determines – consciously or not – all analytical endeavours, and the problems associated with these increase with every additional medial level. In film music analysis the problem is intensified: what is really achieved if the various different visual aspects and components of the soundtrack (music, sound, language) are described in themselves comprehensively and analysed using analytical methods specific to each? What would be achieved if a satisfactory method were available of representing all levels of the filmic Gesamtkunstwerk in a polished graphic manner in such a way that the structural representation of both the individual arts as well as their respective interactions could be meticulously comprehended? Would one then learn more about the film than through a specialist musicologically and filmically informed description heavily reliant on verbal language? Or can film only be described poetically or even just: filmically?
Beyond this general complex of questions, the essays in the present volume – however varied they are in thought and methodology – lay testament again to the enduring charm of Eisler’s experimental work on the film music project, and above all the resulting dualauthored theoretical work Composing for the Films, as discourse defining. Initial impulses by the editor to divert attention away from the film project and book were ultimately cautiously and politely ignored by many of the authors, with good reason and to good effect in their texts. For however much the fruits of the Rockefeller Project may be understood as an exceptional case in Eisler’s work on film, as a transitory stage following and prior to fifteen years on either side of distinctly differently conceived film compositions, it is still the case that it forms the centre of gravity and key to important aspects of Eisler’s work for film.
Composing for the Films appears in different contexts in the various contributions here (abstracts are collected at the back of the volume): as part of a debate stretching over into the Frankfurt School (Barry Salmon); in connection with a further discussion on alienation, autonomy, dramaturgical counterpoint and synchronisation, initially in connection with the theory of Michel Chion (David Neumeyer and James Buhler); against the background of narrative theory implicit in Composing for the Films (Guido Heldt); or – an aspect which has barely been pursued in the literature – in its embedding within a reception history beyond Eisler’s own filmic work (Roberto Kolb, Breixo Viejo). The book acts more or less as a wellthumbed theoretical reference point for phenomena such as film-music memory processes (Amy Woldarski), montage (Tobias Faßhauer), film-music dramaturgy (Peter Schweinhardt), and the reflection of degrees of connection between musical form and filmic narrative (Thomas Ahrend, Oliver Dahin, Johannes C. Gall).
With regard to the loose, non-schematic order of the essays, the degree and manner of the relationship to Adorno and Eisler’s book was a determining factor in one case only: Barry Salmons problematisation of compositional praxis, focussing on the book theory, is placed last. The volume opens with two essays which, examining several works, aim at more generalised statements on Eisler’s disposition as a film composer. Analytical discussions of individual films follow in chronological order from Niemandsland (1931) to Esther (1962), followed by the texts by Roberto Kolb and Breixo Viejo that point beyond Eisler’s film music.
Even if all the texts therefore inescapably deal with the reception of Composing for the Films, the focus is primarily on wide-ranging examinations of compositions for the films in the context of advancing knowledge of Eisler’s film music. At the same time, the fact that Adorno and Eisler’s theories and Eisler’s screen practice are in no way always in accord increasingly earns the well-earned character of a triviality. That Eisler, on the other hand, very frequently and at partly surprising points honours the standards formulated in the book appears therefore all the more remarkable. It is in any case clear that the book and the films exert more influence individually than they could ever do in combination.
For the realisation of this volume I would like to thank the publishers Breitkopf & Härtel, Peter Deeg for his critical proofreading, and finally all the authors for their co-operation in shaping the content of this volume, in particular however Oliver Dahin and Johannes C. Gall, who from this volume on will together with me be responsible as series editors of the Eisler-Studien.
Potsdam, August 2008