THE SPELL. Music film. 2020

The Spell’: Beethoven in the mixer
Without the coronavirus crisis, our culture industry would have celebrated the Year of Beethoven in its usual way. But ‘The Spell’ won’t submit to Classic Radio. ‘The Spell’ is a music video project from two artists in Frankfurt, the electronic musician Jan Peter Schwalm and the filmmaker and graphic artist Daniel Hartlaub. Schwalm chased the adagio from Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony through an electric mixer. A complex landscape of sound took shape, in which a menacing underground beats time while bursting electric salvos through the tender skips of the violins. The grainy images from Hartlaub’s hand-held camera stagger above all of this. Made in the New York of the late 1990s, his film narrates a woman’s nightmare. Something undefined and indefinable chases her through a city – itself transformed into a space that universally lacks both fixed time and fixed place. In a free interpretation, ‘The Spell’ transports Beethoven’s own personal situation to our crisis-ridden present. The decline of Vienna’s nobility forced the young composer to invent radically new marketing strategies. Later, Beethoven turned away from such commerce entirely in order to create a musical avant-garde. ‘The Spell’ pays tribute to his life in this manner: like him, we now must learn to dance on the heaving ground of seismic, epochal change.

Roland Wengenmayr (Translation: Nicholas Morris)

J. Peter Schwalm’s version of the Fourth Symphony from Ludwig
van Beethoven premiered on 15.12.19 in the Frankfurt Mousonturm as part of the
event ‘The LOKAL Listener – Gregor Praml meets Ludwig van Beethoven’.  

At the turn of the last century, the short film was shown under the title ‘Chickenbitch’ at prominent international festivals. For ‘The Spell’, Hartlaub re-edited the footage and incorporated unpublished scenes from his original shooting.

Roland Wengenmayr works as an independent journalist who contributes to the Science section of the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung as well as to other publications.

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The Spell (inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven)
USA/Germany 1999/2020
Length: 9 Min.
With: Holly Twining, Kelly AuCoin,Toby Billowitz, Aitor Azua, Catey Ott, Jake, Al Turner II, Jeff Morey, Jacqueline Macario, Carolyn Hall, Sebastian Striegel Director/Camera/Editing Daniel Hartlaub Music J. Peter Schwalm.