SECRETS OF NATURE - SOUNDS UNSEEN

SILENT FILMS WITH ORIGINAL MUSIC PERFORMED LIVE BY

With the help of the National Media Museum, the BFI and the British Council we are developing a touring show of live music as accompaniment to Secrets of Nature, a series of wonderful and ground-breaking silent films dating from 1903 to 1927. By placing these characteristically British films in a new context with specially composed music, we intend to reignite in the audience the sense of wonder in Nature that these films first produced.

Most of the films are part of this collection
http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk/acatalog/info_16864.html


with some even earlier material produced by Charles Urban with the same team
http://charlesurban.com/films.html

The films made use of new techniques at the very edges of technology of the day - time lapse, micro cinematography etc. to reveal aspects of nature never seen or even imagined before. Flowers open before your eyes, fungus grows from a fly’s footprints, a cuckoo pushes its siblings from the nest, the surface of Stilton cheese becomes akin to a zoo…

Percy Smith, probably filming an animated sequence, at his home in Southgate, London


Beautiful, sensational, entertaining even comic at times, but also of great scientific, technical and educational value; these British Instructional Films were great hits in their time. At a showing of Birth of a Flower in Lewisham in 1911 the audience forcefully demanded the projectionist re-wind and re-show the footage of opening flowers. Cinematographer Percy Smith’s time lapse work had changed the way we understand movement in plants forever and the techniques he developed are still in use today. Mary Field began her film career with British Instructional Films and went on to be one of the most important voices in largely male dominated British cinema, setting up the Children’s Film Foundation. The influence and importance of the legacy of the films and the people who made them deserves to be demonstrated to a new audience.

These films gave British cinema goers of the time a deeper understanding and sense of wonder for the natural world. Over the generations since this pioneering work, Britain has maintained its position as a world leader in nature cinematography, having a far-reaching impact on our respect and understanding of our environment.

As Metamono our music and approach is derived in many ways from the same thinking. Performing on exclusively recycled and handmade equipment we restrict ourselves to analogue electronic technology. Drawing on styles and techniques from the cutting edge of contemporary popular and art music, back to the days of silent cinema itself, we avoid digital audio entirely, so our music has both an ethos and patina in keeping with the films - not to mention an unmistakably British sense of fun, wonder and resourcefulness. Individually we have a handsome international track record in music for film, including major TV dramas and feature films, and as Metamono we have worked with film-makers to develop a visual style in keeping with this project.

The BFI have the rights to all the films and have given us copies to work with already. The premiere will be on 5th April 2014 as part of the Bradford International Film festival, which is run by the National Media Museum, who have been already extremely supportive of the project.

Trailer

 

We are beginning the compositional process now and we will build support for the project by presenting the creative process online over the coming months, with clips and snippets of music. This will culminate with live streaming of at least one of the shows and will eventually lead to release of the music on our own record label: Instrumentarium Records. This process will increase the reach of the project to cover online, performance and physical platforms over an extended period. We are now looking for venues for further performances in U.K for Summer 2014. Not necessarily cinemas but any space where we can set up our equipment and screen the films. We are aiming at spaces related to the content - botanical gardens, zoos, museums, and educational establishments.

As this project is essentially using hybrid platforms our audience will cover a wide of interests, which we will consciously develop in promotion. We already have a strong following in the music world (see links above), but this project will bring in film specialists, both as cinema goers and those interested in the technical aspects of the films. Fine arts specialists will find strong resonances in these films and our approach to them with the art movements of the silent era: Surrealism, Dada, Futurism, Vorticism alongside gentler pastoral motifs of a less technological age. Further to this, people with a science background in botany, entomology, ornithology etc. and students of all these disciplines will be surprised by imagery and demonstrations of natural processes that have been overlooked in the last century. Lovers of the very Britishness of the project will be drawn in: being eccentric, inventive, resourceful and entertaining the films and music capture essential aspects of our culture. We are currently connecting with established scientists, artists, film experts and environmentalists in UK and Germany who would be happy to show their support for the project thereby helping us connect with these audiences.

metamono - secrets of nature will premiere at the National Media Museum in Bradford on 5th April 2013. BUY TICKETS NOW

More information about us and our music here:
http://metamono.co.uk
- and from the following links
facebook - Live review - Album review - Biography - Videos

 

DATES

April 5th National Media Museum, Bradford PREMIERE
June 6th Horniman Museum, London
June 27th St. John Evangelist Church, Crystal Palace Overgound Festival

Responses to Secrets of Nature – Sounds Unseen

 

Sibylle Mansour: Environmental Writer and Film-maker

The Secret Sounds of Nature

The soundtracks that METAMONO create to accompany Percy Smith’s early 20th century silent films ‘Secrets of Nature’ offer an unknown potential in developing yet undefined perceptions of the environment. Just as the moving images widened the understanding of natural processes for people at the time, the soundtrack may be able to assist in broadening our sensual experience. We are living in a world of rapid technological and environmental change, yet our minds seem to be fixed on ideas, concepts and systems that are unable to support this flux and we seem to find ourselves in a trap of repetition supported through intransigently constructed thought models that do not support inevitable change.
What is interesting is to explore ways in bringing the disciplines closer together.
In the past 20 years academics like the geographer Noel Castree have developed pioneering theories to define the relationship between the natural world, technology and humans. Socially constructed nature, that is the concept that nature is defined by human knowledge and processes, requires an element of experience to reach a truly complex understanding of the sublime.

In making the unheard heard METAMONO will offer exactly that experience. The sounds are one of the many missing connections between the scientific, social and artistic disciplines. The listening experience alongside the pioneering imagery from a century ago will create neurological pathways and memories of the SECRET SOUNDS OF NATURE.

Sibylle's lifework in progress took her from the Swabian Alb karst landscape to West Berlin, San Francisco, Dublin and finally London.
She found her greatest passion in connecting: people, ideas, thoughts and concepts; the visual with the audio; the present with the past and the future; the ugly with the beautiful. Juxtaposing beliefs and questioning the existing paradigm is her main subject area as environmental writer and filmmaker.