Hugo Dijkstal and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) spent a lot of time on the sound design and music for Joke Olthaar’s BERG film, but they then decided to rearrange the music, turning it into a longform, thirty-minute composition.
Cinematographer André Scheuder’s black and white footage of the Slovenian Triglav mountain range sits well with Zuydervelt’s cold, minimal drones. Differing from an original soundtrack (and freeing itself from the label of an official soundtrack), the music is allowed to have more of a say, with more freedom over its direction of travel. Because of this, the music isn’t inhibited by a specific scene from the film. However, the essence of the slow-burning film is kept alive and well-preserved.
Although it’s as cold as ice, the drone flows without end. Never at risk of becoming frozen or stuttering in any way due to a drop in temperature, the drone is somehow immune to the frosty degrees of the upper atmosphere as it keeps a steady pace, touching the tips of the mountain and passing over the range smoothly, the slim vapours of a cloud in motion. The dynamics pick up and transform the stable drone into a breathing element, alive and in the process of changing, adapting to its surroundings, going with the flow. This makes for an active rather than a passive sound. Its field recordings are 100% natural, and they’re made to feel unpredictable and susceptible to change, which only adds to the general flow. The elements are always in and influencing the piece, and overcast, bass-heavy harmonies come and go. It recalls something like Deep Frieze by Sleep Research Facility in its cold exploration of its environment, its expedition centred around the mountain range.
Coming at a much earlier stage in the film’s development, the second piece is a very different approach. Further into the film’s creation, it was decided that another direction, and a more minimal approach, was required, with an emphasis on texture and subtlety. With Peter Hollo on cello, who recorded some improvisations from his home in Australia, the piece went through a reedit. Placed beside Zuydervelt’s oscillating electronics, there’s more of a structure on display, and perhaps more of a human touch. It’s just as vital, though, and it shows the evolution of the work. The final version is much more minimal, containing nothing but the elements and a bitter, sub-zero wind. However, both are able to capture the atmosphere of the range.
BERG (Music for a film by Joke Olthaar) releases on May 17, and the film premieres at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in June.