COMPOSING PROTOTYPICAL SOUTH AFRICANS AND RE-SOUNDING BURIED HISTORIES: MARKED AND UNMARKED INSTRUMENTS, AND MUSICAL HIERARCHIES IN PROTEUS (2003)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

This paper addresses two still fairly marginal aspects of screen music studies: consideration of non-Western musical traditions in cinema, and ways in which an investigation of a film’s musical production processes might aid interpretation. I take the 2003 film Proteus (dir. John Greyson & Jack Lewis), a Canadian-South African coproduction set on Robben Island in the eighteenth century, and explore the ways the film, by setting up a confrontation between ‘indigenous’ and ‘European’ musical styles and instruments on its soundtrack, constructs identities and identification positions. I examine how the film’s unique hybrid score performs a symbolic enactment of the issues the film raises: Western appropriation of indigenous knowledge, the uncovering of buried histories of interracial same-sex relationships, and the construction of new national myths. From my vantage point as a film composer and scholar I look at the ethical implications of the film score’s transnational cross-cultural music production processes; using interviews I conducted with the film’s Canadian composers I consider the ways ‘raw’ musical material from South Africa was configured in the representation of the film’s proto-South Africans. I then examine how evidence of a neo-colonial approach in the production of the score is undercut by the music itself and the active part it plays in telling the story. I argue indigenous music is sounded in the film with the capacity to narrate affectively rather than merely to supply ‘local color’ or to patrol ‘racial’ categories, and ultimately provides a powerful sonic metaphor for the rewriting of a more inclusive national biography.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2015

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