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November 3rd, 2004 WW MUSIC STAFF | Music Stories
 

Seen and Heard

Music and film have been locked in a dance for years. Now Adelaide helps the two get it on.

     
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Adelaide
Before Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer introduced the world to the talkie in 1927, filmmakers relied on the musical score to communicate the mood. But even after onscreen characters were able to express their feelings with their own voices, music still played an integral part in marrying mood to story.

Sometimes the relationship between the two art forms can feel unhealthy and forced, whether it's the adrenaline rush that a summer blockbuster milks out of a Kenny Loggins song or the exposure that a band milks out of placing a cut on a film soundtrack. The players in Portland quintet Adelaide don't like to see their favorite art forms so abused, and they're set on doing something about it.

The five friends, who migrated to town from all corners of the country in the past few years, painstakingly create a live show that pairs music with film and attempts to make the two inseparable. Other artists in the music world--from stadium packers like U2 to club favorites like Godspeed You! Black Emperor--visually track their live shows with films, reversing the practice of filmmakers by using projections to heighten the musical experience.

Adelaide, though, claims it's doing something different. "It feels like filmmakers kind of step in after the fact," says Ryan Jeffrey, the band's projectionist. "We thought it would be more interesting to turn [the show] into a more collaborative process where the music and the film are created together and create a whole piece."

That might sound like a new way to talk about the same old thing, but the productions Adelaide has staged at clubs and gallery spaces in the past year prove that Jeffrey's projector is just as important as Bob Muscarella's bass, Mike Bauch's drums or Ethan Rose's keyboard. As the band lopes its way through a series of beautiful instrumentals drenched in gentle tension and relaxed release, Jeffrey projects a series of carefully selected 16 mm film loops. Manipulating the film speed at specific points, Jeffrey syncs the movements of the footage to what the band is playing, or counters the action on stage, creating tension where there would otherwise be only a moving image or a quiet song.

Most of the footage the band has used in live shows is what Jeffrey has fished out of garage sales or inherited from friends. In a single song, concertgoers can expect to see a collage of different images--a hummingbird, turn-of-the-century San Francisco street scenes, the 1968 Democratic convention riots--all of which add up to something that is difficult to define but easy for concertgoers to appreciate.

"The goal is to create a narrative where the music creates links between the images and some sort of story emerges," says guitarist Adam Porterfield. "I don't know exactly what that story is. I guess it's different for each person, but it's our goal to make it so that it makes sense to that person."


Adelaide plays Thursday, Nov. 4, with Invisible and Orso at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639. 9 pm. Cover. 21+.
 
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