Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sound of Noise: Music for Chaos

Leave it to the anarchist drummers to give avant-garde improvised music a bad name. Of course, to paraphrase Sean Connery in The Russia House, have you ever met an experimental drummer who wasn’t an anarchist? Six radical percussionists hatch plans to perform an ambitious suite for the unsuspecting public, but one counter-terrorism cop really doesn’t want to hear it in Ola Simonsson & Johannes Stj√§rne Nilsson’s Sound of Noise (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Amadeus Warnebring is the tone deaf black sheep in an illustrious musical family. Listening to his conductor brother’s command performances is absolute torture for him—and that is conventional symphonic music. He would prefer to find a time bomb at a crime scene than a metronome, but that is exactly what underground musicians Magnus and Sanna leave behind after a little warm up stunt. The former has bigger plans though: a four movement opus titled Music for One City and Six Drummers. As he explains, it is kind of conceptual, involving found sounds with space for improvisation. Warnebring is going to hate it.

Indeed, freely mixing large scale performance art with a driving beat, Magnus’s piece pushes Warnebring to his breaking point. Yet, he still manages to make a strange connection with Sanna that could ultimately save both of them.

For those who frequently read Signal to Noise magazine, this film was produced with exactly you in mind. Anyone who has sat through their share of avant-garde music performances, enthusiastically or reluctantly, will Horshack laugh all the way through Sound. If you have no idea what all that means, you can still enjoy the movie’s inventiveness anyway. Sure, you betcha.

There might be an inclination to co-opt Sound of Noise on behalf of the Occupy This-or-That thugs, but Sanna and her comrades really are all about the music. Indeed, their ideology is their music. As for Warnebring the copper, he unambiguously serves as the film’s sympathetic protagonist. Indeed, Bengt Nilsson is rather shockingly engaging as the neurotic music hater.

Cleverly scripted by Simonsson and co-director Nilsson (well known online for their slightly creepier forerunner short, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers), Sound of Noise concludes on a note of truer poetic justice than seen in most any film of recent vintage. Getting there is quite a trip too. Highly recommended, it opens this Friday (3/9) in New York at the Cinema Village.