8 musicians

Musical counterpoint to Un Chien andalou, the legendary film by the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, Las siete vidas de un gato (‘A Cat’s Seven Lives’) is Martin Matalon’s second ‘cinema counterpoint’.

The absence of any narrative element in Buñuel’s film permitted the composer a very free relationship with the image, and the score follows its own logic. Nonetheless, there are a certain number of conjunctions between it and the film: the adding to the extreme density of this very brief film of equivalent musical density; the overall tone of the work, suggested by crudity, irony and the irrationality of the images; finally, the music’s adoption of the very rapid editing, most of the shots lasting no more than three or four seconds.

The score begins with a sort of cortège that files past, jolting on polyrhythms. Punctuated by the side drum and in the swarming of the percussion, it is led by a violin articulating the march with glissandi, a croaking trumpet and a cello repeating a diminished fifth with the obstinacy of a scratched disc. Isolated in the polyrhythmic frame, the protagonists appear deaf to one another and set in some elementary, obsessive gesture. Only the piano, which crosses the cortège diagonally, is free of all constraint, thereby acquiring a wild, irrational character.

Buñuel’s characters are timeless, beyond psychology and narration. By contrast, Matalon’s seem to be ‘hurried’: violin overturned, histrionic trumpet, verbose clarinet… the scansion and rhythmic hustle and bustle go as far as overheating. After a brief intervention from the resonating instruments, the piece ends, deflating in an abrupt drop in tension. (Pascal Ianco, translated by John Tyler Tuttle)