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Role Reversal: Filmmakers “Composing” for Music and a Look Into Sigur Rós’ ‘Valtari Film Experiment’

By  · Published on December 6th, 2012

You may have watched, or even just heard of, the slightly strange video featuring Shia LaBeouf and dancer Denna Thomsen that hit the web a few months back. The video features the pair dancing, fighting, and losing themselves to the almost sad sounding piano refrains of Sigur Rós’ “Fjögur Píanó” from the band’s latest album, Valtari. But even though the duo may have been performing to the music, the production was clearly more than a simple music video. Clocking in at a little over eight minutes, the video was directed by Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach) and is one of seventeen videos commissioned by Sigur Rós to be a part of their Valtari Film Experiment.

Rather than simply going on tour to bring their latest album to the public, Sigur Rós had various filmmakers and artists take each of Valtari’s tracks and create their own visions inspired by them. Music and images have long gone hand-in-hand, with music used to score a film or images are used to depict the meaning behind a song, but when paired together, their impact becomes even greater. Sigur Rós, a band that has never shied away from experimentation, has taken the first step by creating the music and then released it to be re-imagined by others. Bands usually create music videos to accompany their songs and give fans a greater look at the song’s meaning, but this experiment allows those outside of the band have complete creative control to see what that freedom yields.

The Valtari Film Experience was not conducted simply for the band or the Internet; Sigur Rós is taking the experiment on the road. Screening in about a hundred different locations, this upcoming Sunday, December 9th, the program will come to Los Angeles and be screened at the Downtown Independent. The idea of a band going on tour to support a new album release is nothing new, but the Valtari Film Experience allows the music to go on tour as it is seen through the eyes of different filmmakers rather than a singular vision from the band.

Production companies like hitRECord are taking this idea of user generated content and making it more and more prevalent with hitRECord’s compilations being shown at festivals such as Sundance and even going on tour themselves. Efforts like HitRECord and the Valtari Film Experience are proving that entertainment is becoming less and less a passive experience. We have seen how the Internet has helped break down walls and pave the way for previously unknown artists to get their work out to the public, but companies and efforts like these are interesting because they show how even established artists like Sigur Rós and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (one of hitRECord’s founders) are using their influence to get in on the act.

Sigur Rós – Rembihnútur & Ekki múkk
Sigur Rós ‘Valtari’ Mystery Film Experiment: Seraph
Directed by: Dash Shaw
Written by: John Cameron Mitchell & Dash Shaw
Taken from the “valtari mystery film experiment” – more details: sigur-ros.co.uk/valtari/videos/
Valtari is available to purchase now: sigur-ros.co.uk/valtari/buy/

In the past, when you have needed music for a film, you would turn to a composer, but in the last few years bands (see: Daft Punk with Tron: Legacy and The Chemical Brothers with Hanna) have started taking on that role, creating music specifically for the big screen. The Valtari Film Experiment is interesting because it takes that idea and completely reverses it with filmmakers “composing” for bands.

Music can be interpreted in any number of ways and pairing songs with different images can give them a whole new meaning, a fact Clint Mansell proved during his live show earlier this year wherein he took his famous works and gave them new life through newly imagined images and stage performance.

The music industry has been in a state of constant change for the past few years, but this landscape has also allowed for new ideas and renewed creativity. But it also leaves the question – what do you think about where music is going? Do you like this idea of more people getting involved in contributing to a single artist’s work? Do you like the idea that you yourself may have the opportunity to get involved? Most importantly, does it dilute or increase the power of a band and their music when more sonic cooks get in the kitchen?

It will be fascinating to see the response to the Valtari Film Experiment and see if other bands take on this idea of allowing others to contribute to their creative process. You barely need a record label or a studio to get an album or a film released these days and this may be yet another sign that entertainment is becoming an increasingly collaborative process.

Are you planning on checking out the Valtari Film Experiment? What song would you like the opportunity to create a short film for?

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