Ben Frost & Daníel Bjarnason with Sinfonietta Cracovia, film manipulations by Brian Eno & Nick Robertson
The power of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is not in its futuristic sets, or in the hypnotic shots of the alien planet’s fluid surface, but in the way the film juxtaposes his alien, futuristic elements against the intimately familiar. This is a future not just of flashing lights and video screens, but of wood and wool and leather, of dogs and horses, books and photographs. In Frost & Bjarnason’s SÓLARIS we do find the futuristic, gaseous atmospheres and pulses one might expect from a sci-fi soundtrack. Yet here they are carved instead from the warm, fragile sonorities of a string orchestra – Poland’s Sinfonietta Cracovia – a gently prepared piano whose harmonies warp and melt before transforming again— and waves upon waves of guitar.
Created through a unique series of processes, Frost & Bjarnason’s initial sketches —improvised to the film— were fed through software designed to correct music which tried to turn their dense and distorted sonic input into a digital sequence of raw musical data. Working from data riddled with error and misunderstanding, a human score was orchestrated, the whole process deftly mirroring the core of the film’s own narrative of memory and loss, alien doppelgängers and emotional feedback loops. Brian Eno —who consulted closely in the creation of SÓLARIS— also used the same film to create a video accompaniment to this music in another strange loop of computer-generated distortion.
SÓLARIS was commissioned by Unsound in 2010, when it was also recorded as an album an released by Bedroom Community. The project has been presented in New York (at the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center), Berlin, Reykjavik at both Reykyavik Arts Festival and Iceland Airwaves, Budapest, Brussels, The Hague, Krems, in Adelaide at the 2013 Adelaide Arts Festival, at Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica as part of RomaEuropa Festival 2016, in Siena at Teatro dei Rinnovati di Siena, and will be presented at The Barbican in London in 2017.
The long life of the SÓLARIS live concert shows this is a timeless work. It can be presented with Sinfonietta Cracovia, or Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason are open to invitations to present the work with other orchestras.