Le retour à la raison

Le retour à la raison. Musique pour trois films de Man Ray. 

LP, cd, download

Villa Manin, the exhibition centre in Friuli, Italy, commissioned the music for three movies of the avant-garde photographer and director, so Teho created his music inspired from “La Retour à la Raison” (1923), “Emak Bakia” (1926), “L'etoile de Mer” (1928).

This album is about a unique meeting with Man Ray. Unique because silent films directors are all dead!
They disappeared ages ago and a possible way to get in touch with them again is looking for their bequest in the universe, their work shines like stars.
Music is a constellation above a mysterious and seductive world and this album documents the meeting with Man Ray.
This record it's not a soundtrack, you can't make a soundtrack for those movies, Man Ray hates soundtracks to the point he could easily kill you with his famous nailed flatiron.
If there aren't chances to consider a soundtrack then another approach might be possible to establish a real dialog between images and sound and what happened here was an obscure rendezvous in the sky with the members of the anonymous society that inhabit Man Ray movies, ghosts, departed ladies, totemic figures, his friend in drag Rrose Sélavy... All of them were inspirational to find a sound that could establish a connection with a world which is no longer there, a world that probably never really existed even when those movies have been shot but we can still admire it on those incredible outstanding movies, so full of life, still true today.
And music's unwritten law is truth.
Joachim Arbeit (Einsturzende Neubauten), Joe Lally (Fugazi), David Coulter were involved during the recordings of this album
Premiere took place at Villa Manin, the further shows at the Galway Arts Festival, Maxxi contemporary art museum in Rome and Museo del cinema in Torino.

Dear Man Ray,

I’m writing this to you because when I was asked to write music for your films what came to my mind was the day I read my first art history book. I was very young then and you, with a name that sounded like some character straight out of mythology, fit right in with that period’s gallery of post-punk and experimental music myths. You were another queen in my personal heavenly court of transgressions and, at that time, if you wanted to catch my attention, that would have been fundamental.

Eventually one grows up and everything changes, as the various strata sediment and accumulate as the years speed on by. I figured you absolutely would not have liked a soundtrack for your films. I was afraid you would return to strike me down with that spiked iron, at night, while I slept. A soundtrack does not fit with the idea that the Ray-Man had of the cinema and, honestly, it doesn’t fit with mine either. We probably do agree on this.

So, I immediately gave up on the soundtrack idea. It would have been like trying to subdue the savage frenzy of all that which went down during those years of furious avant-garde explosion and turn the whole thing into mere entertainment. And neither one of us likes entertainment. I thought it would have been better to find a different route to get close to your films, maybe through some more emotional byways, finding conducts that ran parallel to that world, without commenting, without imitating, always trying to avoid all of that which was already being said in the work. After all this is what I’ve always been after throughout the years in. my relationship with the cinema.

I thought about you in the darkroom as you placed objects on the film strip until the emulsion revealed their shape. I decided I would begin this project by primarily using the objects that were lying around on the desk of my studio at the end of a recording session: coiled springs, nails, copper wire, deoxidizing spray, slivers of metal. I used the legs of the table and the entire chair as rhythm sources; then the pavement, the metal frame of the skylight windows. Casually I recorded the sounds and noises of those objects for days. It was all very tangible, incongruous, call it caustic if you wish.

I started from sound as that’s how music investigates reality. Through the evocative capacity of sound and harmony music looks for truth in what we are. Music answers to just one law: truth. To do that it needs comparisons, of merciless struggles between events happening in one place and in another, of establishing where we are when we are thinking of the same thing; it’s a question of feeling which requires one to trace lines from dot to dot on the map of our intentions. That’s the moment that I finally see something appear before me, something that can grow and bring me, finally, to be moved.

Through sound I tried to step into your films and I tried to figure out how the refractions could cluster themselves up so as to give a meaning to my being in front of images that for long decades have become like free floating signifiers untied to any referent. It’s that question of uniqueness that constantly manifests itself in your work.

As I repeatedly watched your films, which are always marked by their constant looking for something, I also felt a sense of restlessness, as if something was looming. Not so much in the images themselves; rather in my gaze. Indeed, just about ten years later, the second world war took it everything away, eradicating the Europe which you, together with the Dadaists and the surrealists, had just begun to trace. You were the first narration of a Twentieth Century Europe. A narrative that was at one and the same time affirming of an identity while also dripping with a restless desire for transformation and change. A story told by testing the limits of the most recent tools available at the time --the cinema and photography. A powerful projection towards the future. Shame that future never arrived. While I watched the films I kept hearing something that resembled a death knell in remembrance of all that was definitively destroyed by war. The avant-garde thrusts that have rendered those first three decades of the past century unparalleled in defining a European aesthetics have been dampened and silenced.

There’s a final thing I would like to tell you: after my mother died I had a hard time listening to any music that had an overt emotional component. During that period I listened to a lot of fluff. It took a year for me to be able to dive back into my quest; the emptiness left by that loss was such that I couldn’t have done it differently. I feel something very similar confronting your work: it reaches me as loss, as lack. Love can also be measured in an absence.

Teho Teardo

L'etoile de mer. Video by Francesca Mazzoleni


Teho Teardo: voice, electric guitar, baritone guitar, synths, electric piano, bass, piano, springs, pruning hooks, ocarina, percussions, bells, taisho koto.
Livia De Romanis: cello
Stefano Azzolina: viola
Vanessa Cremaschi ed Elena De Stabile: violin
David Coulter: saw on Synonyme de Joie, Jouer and Jouir.
Joe Lally: bass on Emak-Bakia, L’Etoile de Mer.
Marco Machera, Mirco Muner: bass on L’Etoile de Mer.
Joachem Arbeit, Susanna Buffa, Roberto Maria Clemente, Daniele della Vedova, G.no, Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo, Andrea Molaioli, Steve Nardini, Umberto Palazzo, Jacopo Scapigliati, Mario Sesti, Giacomo Teardo, Miss Xox: guitar on L’Etoile de Mer.
Roberto Iandolo: Tech assistant