Dziga Vertov (1896-1954)



Enthusiasm! (1930)
  1. Excerpt 1
  2. Excerpt 2
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Original soundtrack excerpts, recorded in 1929-30, 26'30".

Written and directed (composed) – Dziga Vertov
Sound – P. Shtro
Sound-Recording Station – Timartsev, Chibisov, Khariyonov & Molchanov
Recorded – Shorin System
Additional Music – Donbassa March by Timofeyev
Produced – Ukrainfilm Kiev Film Studio, 1930
Extracts taken from the DVD Entuziazm (Sinfonia Donbassa), Osterreichisches Filmmuseum 2005

Enthusiasm! The Dombass Symphony (1930) is possibly Dziga Vertov's most revolutionary achievement: a symphony of abstract industrial noise for which a specially designed giant mobile recording system was constructed (it weighed over a ton) in order to capture the din of mines, furnaces and factories. For Vertov, the introduction of sound film didn't mean talkies, but the opportunity to collage, montage and splice together constructions of pure environmental noise.

Denis Arkadievitch Kaufman (b. Bialyskov, Poland 1986 - d. Moscow 1954) adopted the name Dziga Vertov as an adolescent; a futurist pseudonym loosely translated as "spinning top". He studied piano, violin and psychoneurology, at the same time writing poetry and recording natural sounds with a phonograph for his Laboratory of Hearing (1916). By 1918, he had begun to work w ith cinema and - with his future wife Elisaveta Svilova - created the group Kinoks [Kino-Eye]. Concentrating on documentary films, they championed "what the eye doesn't see" . Between 1925 and 1929, he developed the idea of Radio-Pravda [Radio-Truth] and Radio-Ear (from "I hear"). With the beginning of sound cinema (1929- 30), he began at once to apply his ideas on the importance of sound, imagining his new film as a "sound and visual documentary" . The first difficulty he encountered was how to record sound in exterior locations since no adequate technology existed at the time. To solve this problem, he turned to the staff in the laboratory run by Dr. Shorin, a scientist and inventor who had created the first "cinematic sound" system in Russia. From them he commissioned the construction of the world's first-ever mobile "sound recording station " (Vertov believed that the m icrophone should be able also to "walk" and "run " ). Once built, Vertov launched what he called an "assault on sounds" in the Ukranian industrial complex of the Dombass coal mines. This was not only "cerebral " but also "muscular" work, since the equipment weighed about 2800 pounds and there were no available means of transport. Vertov said that to capture the sounds they worked "in an environment of din and clanging , amidst fire and iron, through factory workshops vibrating with sound", getting all the equipment onto trains and descending into the mines. Some of the recordings turned out to be defective as a result of the excessive physical vibration experienced during takes, and it became necessary to modify the original plan for the film's final edit. Although there was no sound-editing table and although the sounds were recorded onto the same track as the images, Vertov didn't settle for having the picture synched with the sound. He wanted to create a "complex interaction between sound and image", and worked over "fifty days and fifty nights under maximum tension", to combine and re-arrange the industrial sounds and the shouts and songs of the miners as they struggled to achieve the production challenges of the Five Year Plan - the film's theme. The score, co-written by Vertov and the composer limofeyev, sometimes simultaneously brings together musical writing and the roar of motor noise, in the same way that the composer Alexander Mossolov did when he introduced a 'metal sheet' into the score of his orchestral work Zavod, Symphony of the Machines - Steel Foundry (1926-28, track 11-Pt2). After its premiere, the film was criticized for a number of reasons, above all for its anti-academic approach to the treatment of music. Accordiing to Vertov, "everything which is not 'sharp' or 'flat', in a word, everything which does not 'do-re-mi-fa-so-lize' was unconditionally labelled 'cacophony' by the critics. Indeed, the fi lm was variously called "anti-formalist", "anti-newsreel" or "anti-film"; a "theory of caterwauling" was proposed, the film's soundtrack being described as a "Concert of Caterwauling" . In contrast, the film was considerably better appreciated in the west. After a screening in 1931, Charlie Chaplin said "I would never have believed it possible to assemble mechanical noises to create such beauty. One of the most superb symphonies I have known. Dziga Vertov is a musician".


Laboratory Of Hearing (1916)
  1. From the Rumor of a Cascade, 32"
  2. From the Rumor of a Sawmill, 1'16


Technician [Phonograms Reelaboration] – Miguel Molina and Leopoldo Amigo
Voice – Miguel Molina
Production Date – 2003-2007

Recreation of two "phonograms" (now lost) by the filmmaker Dziga Vertov (a futurist pseudonym loosely translated as "spinning top") real name Denis Arkadievitch Kaufman, (b. Biatystok 1896 - d. Moscow 1954). Conceived when he was still a teenager (before he encountered cinema, he studied piano and violin, and began writing poetry at the age of ten). With a Pathephone phonograph (model 1900 or 1910, acquired in St. Petersburg) Vertov recorded the sound of a waterfall and the buzz of a sawmill, transcribing them at the same time in words and letters in an attempt to create documentary compositions and musical-literary verbal assemblies directly to wax cylinders. According to Jonathan Dawson "for his studies of human perception (in 1916 Vertov enrolled in Petrograd Psychoneurological Institute) Vertov recorded and edited natural sounds in his Laboratory of Hearing, trying to create new forms of sound by means of the rhythmic grouping of phonetic units". In an interview in 1935 Vertov recalled: "I had the original idea of the need to enlarge our ability to organ ize sound; to listen not only to sing ing or violins - the usual repertoire of gramophone disks - but also to transcend the limits of ordinary music".




Radio-Ear / Radio-Pravda (1916)

  1. Radio-Ear / Radio-Pravda (1925)

Radio project, 1925, 2'56"
Directed By [Sound Re-creation] – Miguel Molina, 2006
Recording – Soundtrack-film "Enthusiasm!" by Dziga Vertov, 1930
Extracts taken from the DVD Entuziazm (Sinfonia Donbassa), Osterreichisches Filmmuseum 2005

In Dziga Vertov's ambition to "explore life", the latest technical inventions arising from the industrial revolution were employed with the intention both of "discovering and revealing the truth", and placing a revolutionary weapon in the hands of the workers. All this led him to create the Kino-eye [what the eye cannot see], Radio-Pravda [Radio-Truth] and Radio-ear [I hear]. Through radio, he attempted to establish auditory communication across the whole of the world's proletariat by way of recording the sounds of workplaces a nd of Iife itself, captu red without preparation (a kind of 'factory of facts'). These would subsequently be broadcast across a network of radio stations, making possible the mutual" listening" and" understanding" of all workers, regardless of their cultural origins. All these ideas were expressed in his manifesto Radio-Pravda (1925):

We defend agitation by facts, not only concerning sight, but also and in the same measure, concerning hearing. How could we establish an auditory relationship across the whole frontline of the world's proletariat? (...) Once organised and set- up, the presentation of any sound recording may easily be broadcast in the form of Radiopravda. It is therefore possible to establish, in all the radio stations, a proportion of radio-dramas, radio-concerts and news 'taken directly from the life of the peoples of different countries. Something that acquires fundamental importance for radio is the 'radio-journal - free of paper and distance (Lenin) - rather than broadcasting Carmen, Rigoletto, romances, etc., with which our radio-broadcasting began. (...) Against 'artistic cinema', we oppose Kino-Pravda and Kino-eye; against 'artistic broadcasting', we oppose Radio-Pravda and Radio-Ear. (...) And it will not be through opera or theatre representations that we will prepare. We will be intensely ready to offer proletarians from all countries the possibility of seeing and hearing the whole of the world in an organised manner. Of being mutually seen, heard and understood.

Dziga Vertov was not heard in his day and was not able to put these ideas into practice, although in 1925 he did make a silent film: Radio Pravda (no. 23 in the series Kino-Pravda newsreel) of which less that a third has been preserved, showing, in a didactic way, the potential of the new medium, and his interest in using it - or perhaps in moving into it? It would be necessary to wait a few more years for his film Enthusiasm! The Dombass Symphony (1930) when these ideas would finally be realised - in this we see a radio tuning in to the Leningrad RV3 station to hear the sounds produced by the workers and by the mines and machinery of the industrial region of Dombass in the Eastern Ukraine. Vertov also uses sounds generated by radiophonic media itself and includes "the rhythm of a radio-telegraph" in some parts. All these sounds had been recorded on site, using a specially built mobile recording system (the "Shorin system") and subsequently edited - by cutting, on film, since there was no other means of sound editing available (see tracks 01-10-Pt2). For the radiophonic reconstruction of Radio- Ear/Radio-Pravda, included in this recording, the sounds of the film were used and edited as a "factory of facts" to recreate the radiophonic project. Vertov's ultimate aim was to create a "Radio-Cinema Station of Sound Production and Recording" (recording and retransmission of sound images at a distance) in order to equal and surpass the technical and economic power of capitalism.


RELATED RESOURCES:
Dziga Vertov in UbuWeb Film
Russian Futurists from the GLM Collection (1920-1959)
Sound Experiments in The Russian Avant-Garde (1908-1942)