Friday, October 9, 2009

Dr Andy Birtwistle Paper Abstract


“It is not a question of a new style or anything like that, but rather of producing a variety of possibilities of expression for all the known arts...” Walter Ruttmann, 1919.

“Since the appearance of the wireless, everyone has predicted... the rise of a truly radiophonic literature and dramatic art.” Paul Deharme, Proposition for a Radiophonic Art, 1928

In 1930, the filmmaker Walter Ruttmann produced a 12 minute sound composition documenting a weekend in the lives of his fellow Berliners. Broadcast by Berlin radio, and created using Triergon optical film sound technology, 'Weekend' has been described both as radiophonic art, and as 'cinema for the ears'. Ruttmann’s first and only piece for radio is celebrated as one of the first electroacoustic compositions, its ‘musical’ organisation of wordly sounds prefiguring the work of Edgard Varese and John Cage. However, what connects these artists together, beyond the electroacoustic dynamic of their praxis, was a shared interest in the potential of film sound technology to create a new art of organised sound.

This paper examines the ways in which Ruttmann’s deployment of filmic techniques within a radiophonic context radically challenges the differentiation of art forms and mediums that has been seen to define modernism - and which continues to inform the work of contemporary artists working in radio art, such as Gregory Whitehead. By situating 'Weekend' within the context of Ruttmann’s work in film, the paper aims to explore the composition’s radical intermediality, examining how the relationship it forges between cinema and radio might be understood within in a history of radical modernism.

Andy Birtwistle is an art historian, sound artist and filmmaker, and is currently Principal Lecturer in the Department of Media at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. He originally trained as a filmmaker, but in recent years his research interest in film sound has resulted in the production of audio compositions that have been broadcast and exhibited internationally. His production work in this area draws on contemporary critical theory to explore art historical issues of modernism through creative production in sound and moving image. Recent work in this area includes sound installations, live performance and radio broadcasts. His video work has been screened in galleries and on television in the UK, and at international and domestic film festivals.