Blackrune and Sulfur Studios Present: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and live soundtrack
Friday, June 5
9 p.m. Free and all-ages
PAUL GOERNER has been creating droning, shadowy post-rock under the moniker Blackrune for years now; with a loose cast of musicians, Goerner has pushed the very definition of performance, sound making and being a "band."
From packing a stage with musicians and taking on the role composer/leader for the captivating Blackrune Circle Esoteric Orchestra to experiments in live-scoring classic films, Savannah’s sound alchemist and his collective may have solidified themselves as the city’s most innovative group.
Goerner’s first soundtrack undertaking was a freeform accompaniment to the experimental film of Stan Brakhage; next, Blackrune took over The Sentient Bean for a live scoring of 1962 French science fiction featurette La Jetée.
Now a cult classic, the 1970 Czech new wave film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders has been a source of surrealist inspiration for many writers, artists and musicians since its debut.
In the Jaromil Jireš-directed film, audiences meet Valerie, 13 years old and on the brink of adulthood. As she encounters vampires, priests, and seductive strangers, she navigates the world like a lucid dream as identities transform and logic goes hazy.
Goerner found the film through a love of English band Broadcast, who were deeply influenced by the film and its soundtrack.
“It’s weird but it’s really fun,” says Goerner of Valerie. “The really cool thing about this movie that I’ve been using this as a selling point is it’s really a pure fantasy. The moods are really, really wide, and shift. It seems sometimes like a really happy fantasy dream narrative, and it almost turns into a horror movie at some points, but the young girl, Valerie—she’s always in charge. No matter what happens, no matter how much of a sense of danger or uncertainty there is, you always get the sense that she’s in charge.”
Valerie acts as a kind of apex, a goal reached, for Blackrune’s film nights.
“This has been the goal from the beginning,” Goerner says. “When we decided to start doing soundtrack stuff, everything else has admittedly been a build-up to this. The movie’s a little more than an hour long, so we’re pushing people past the lengths of our normal set.”
Goerner notes that many bands perform with film, using it as an “atmospheric backdrop,” a mood-setter for a show. With Blackrune’s film nights, he strives to create a space where both the music and the film are in equal focus.
“The idea is to create a more totally immersive space for people to escape into, to submerge into, to sort of create what I’d think more of as a metaphorical space,” he explains. “It’s not necessarily just about watching a band play with a movie there. It’s about going to see the movie with some extra sensory additions to it to make it an ultimately immersive experience. It’s sort of combines the film and some live music to make something a little bit bigger than both of those in their live settings.”
He also likes the idea of having the focus drawn away from the performers and allow the music to speak for itself.
“I have this need to take my image out of play,” he says. “I’m not interested in people looking at me when they see the music. There are plenty of good bands out there that put on really good, traditional-style rock ‘n’ roll shows, and I still really love to go see those bands, too. But at the same time, I don’t really see myself as a very rock ‘n’ roll image-oriented person.”
Goerner, along with Matt McCullough, Kastella, and Copalt, will employ a variety of instruments and tools (mostly electronics and programming) to create a soundtrack that’s rooted in the film’s original score but allows the quartet to create a new experience.
“So Broadcast as a band has already adapted a lot of the [original score’s] melodies for their songs,” Goerner explains. “The idea is to add ourselves into the legacy, become a part of this chain of influence. We’re going to do an interpretation of one of the Broadcast songs.”
The notion reminds Goerner of the philosophy in Taoism that he and McCullough recently studied in a World Literature class.
“The idea is that everything, as it moves into the future and evolves, is essentially a second-rate copy of the thing that came before it and everything is sort of getting worse, in a way,” he says. “But it sort of presents this challenge to look more deeply; to get at the original heart of something. It sort of creates this more meditative state in a more considerate sense—people who are more aware of history and where they stand in things are a little better equipped to understand where they are.
“That’s kind of how I feel,” he says. “We’re just admitting that we’re in this lineage of something, but contributing the best we can, and trying to make something new for people in our immediate vicinity to relate to, take that, and investigate it more deeply.”
As a part of First Friday Art March, Goerner looks forward to welcoming art lovers, show-goers, and film buffs alike, advising that Valerie is an excellent introduction to surrealist film.
“Through her, you get this sense of power,” he explains. “I really like that about it. Just when you feel that intense feeling of ‘Valerie’s in danger,’ or there’s something weird or intense happening, she always comes out on top. It gives it a triumphant feel. Anybody who likes weird stuff will enjoy it.”