The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2022

All Issues
JUNE 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

9. November and December, 1955, Paris

A German composer, who was deported from the United States seven years earlier for being, as one right-wing politician put it, “the Karl Marx of music,” is hired by a French director to score a documentary film about the Holocaust. From Paris, he writes home to his wife in East Berlin: “The film is grandiose, horrible, showing monstrous crimes ... regrettably, the film people here are putting me under pressure to finish the whole thing in ten days even though the film is barely finished. I hope I can get it all together.” Amazingly, he does. When it comes time to record the score, the director and the 32 assembled musicians are astonished by the composer’s approach. As they watch one particularly gruesome sequence –the film is projected during the recording process so that image and sound can be perfectly synchronized—everyone expects the composer to call for an all-out effort by the entire orchestra. “No,” he says, “this is a small piece. We’ve got one flute, one clarinet, and that’s all.” An uneasiness pervades the recording studio as the director and musicians realize that the usual rules are no longer valid.


(Hanns Eisler, Alain Resnais)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

close

The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2022

All Issues