Tuesday, February 19, 2013


"The City" was made for the New York World Fair in 1939, this is the first set of performances of the Film with full live accompanying musical orchestra anywhere in Europe.As this article relates the music may not have been performed even in the US after the exhibition closed.

Performing the Copland score alongside a showing of the film, Auricle Ensemble are letting modern audiences hear the music live for the first time outside the USA. ‘You expect all of his music to be done by everyone,’ says music director Chris Swaffer. ‘The publishers have really helped us to be certain that it hasn’t been performed elsewhere before us.’ The downside of finding a rarely performed gem like this is that the instrumental parts are not exactly in pristine condition. ‘It was quite hard to access the parts,’ says Swaffer, ‘which were in the state they were left in when the film was first made, and we needed special permission to get hold of them. They took some reassembling.’ Now, however, the parts are restored and ready for other groups to perform.

As the above quote suggests the Auricle not only accessed the work of Copland so that we can enjoy it in its full glory , they also had to piece together the scraps they found like unravelling an ancient script , recoding it together to produce the original.The re-discovery of the piece is of great art historical benefit as it introduces the geneses of the process which at the time Copland was looking to make music accessible for the common masses , a journey that would lead to his most appreciated popular work "theme for the common man".Key elements of the leitmotiv that would be present in the "common man" are already making their first appearances in subtle nuances in this restored score.The musical score was one of the first made for a film , in that the score had to follow the documentary narrative , by Copland who went to to make scores for films such as "Of Mice and Men" , the adaptation of Steinbecks book for screen.The LA Times has rightly described the score as ‘an astonishing missing link not only in the genesis of Copland’s Americana style but in American music and cinema’.

The accompanying commentary was by the legendary multi-disciplined Lewis Mumford , who later wrote the extraordinary encyclopedic "City in History".

Mumford was a polymath , bringing his extensive absorption of many fields into a vision for the role of the city ,which at the time of this film was a hotly debated topic during the New Deal debate on what investments should be made in which direction for the future development of America , which are slowly being learned after a long winding, sometimes catastrophically reckless , journey.he was a disciple of Scottish Philosopher Patrick Geddes., who advocated that cities should be holistic environments that looks after the peace and well-being of the citizens , not just a path of least distance between citizen and factory , with no sense of community development in between.

A combination of market capitalism , allied with a one-size-fits-all classless communism crystallised at the time this view of Mumford was being articulated as an alternative vision for "community" cities , leading to the building of what are universally accepted as soulless mass housing blocks with the adequate provision of parks,recreation, leisure and community centres which were easy to make , cheap to build.Glasgow is a prime example of such urban disasters such as Sighthill and the infamous peripheral  housing "schemes" that had to be torn down within a calamitous generation , to be replaced by a more delicate , thought-out, urban renewal of mixed housing with a variety of social facilities more in keeping with Mumfords original vision.

You can see the whole Film in the link below.

Though a better vision than the ones that were inflicted post-war.Mumfords vision does have some fundamental flaws.One is the very accommodating attitude to cars and their benefit in the system , one reason why Ford would have been more than happy to finance the film project, and all the politics of environment and oil procurement that this policy entails.The other is an attitude to Woman that came be said to be somewhat patronising to say the least.And the sinister absence of any blacks in this grand new vision , which , sadly , says a lot about Roosevelt and the New Deal.

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