DVD/CD review: Sounds And Silence

Travels With Manfred Eicher
A film by Peter Guyer & Norbert Wiedmer
DVD ECM 2769887
Blu-ray ECM 2769887
CD ECM 2770080

Near the beginning of this fascinating musical travelogue, Nora Pärt, wife of the composer Arvo Pärt, describes how, in his meticulous attention to the sound and atmosphere of a recording session, ECM boss Manfred Eicher “becomes the composer’s companion in creation…”

There are critics of Eicher who feel he is too invasive in the work of the artists who record for him, though I suspect that those critics have never actually met him, or if they have, have not chosen, or been chosen, to record for the independent German label that has not only made the careers of many jazz, classical and world musicians, but has created a whole new niche for new music in the 20th and 21st centuries.

This film, made over five years, might turn the naysayers, or it might confirm their worst suspicions. For the rest of us, it is simply a delight from beginning to end.

We start and end with Pärt, and if we are compelled by the sight of the great composer at the beginning, we are totally transfixed by the close ups of his face as he listens to the musicians and singers bring his deepest thoughts to life just before the credits roll.

In between we have visited Greece and Eleni Karaindrou, Tunisia and Anouar Brahem, and Argentina with Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner, with Eicher our companion along the way. Other musicians featured are Nik Bartsch, Jan Garbarek, Marilyn Mazur and Gianluigi Trovesi.

There are some exquisite settings for performances, whether the church in Estonia or the amphitheatre in Greece. And then there are the ECM offices in Munich, with a panoramic view of a busy motorway, which we see in daylight and at night, with snow and without. Somehow, this film turns that motorway with its streams of traffic into just as romantic and atmospheric a setting, often emulating, in its smears of headlights, an ECM cover photograph.

As a film about not only making music but, equally as important, listening to it, it will be hard to beat.

The CD contains all the music in the film, at greater length, but I’d urge you to get hold of both. The DVD bears repeated watching and gives fresh insights every time, while the CD provides the full musical feast that has been tasted in the film.

Categories: DVD review

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