When asked to “go to the movies,” certain things come to mind—a giant screen, digital surround sound, CGI, popcorn, and the like. Spoleto Festival USA has taken a different approach. This season, the Festival programmed two very different silent films and paired both with the inimitable Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra. This homage to the silent film era is a new programmatic inclusion for the Festival, and one that illuminates both dramatic and musical artistic roots.

Twice on Monday, the orchestra presented City Lights, Charlie Chaplin’s pinnacle work that sought to cling to the tradition and art of silent film. Audiences in the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre were captivated as conductor William Eddins led the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra in perfect tandem with the film.

The second and final film being presented this season is Bill Morrison’s Decasia (2002). Decasia—a word created by blending “decay” and “Fantasia”—is compiled of found footage, much of it sourced from the University of South Carolina’s Fox Movietone News Collection housed in Columbia, SC. While City Lights is a cheerful, poignant, and romantic piece that had audiences roaring with laughter, Decasia is emotional, dreamlike, and haunting. It focuses on the literal and figurative decay of silent films. Decasia is widely acclaimed and is the first 21st-century film to be included in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.

Morrison created Decasia by stringing together clips of silent film damaged by neglect and time. Set to Michael Gordon’s uniquely tuned orchestral score, Decasia features a disjointed cadence. As the film moves along, the viewer is left with a sense of melancholy and wonder.

This event promises to be a wholly immersive and sensory experience—one of those “only at Spoleto Festival USA” moments, bringing together an internationally acclaimed film and its contemporary music score performed by the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.

Prior to the film screening, the orchestra and Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy will present the US premiere of Giacinto Scelsi’s recently-discovered work Kamakala.

College of Charleston Sottile Theatre, 44 George Street

June 1st at 8:00pm

WATCH THE TRAILER:

Why should you see Decasia? Jennifer Scott, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, says, “I recently attended another one of Bill Morrison’s films, The Great Flood, at The Kennedy Center featuring live music performed by Bill Frisell and his quartet. As with Decasia, the score was a collaboration between Morrison and the musicians and it was a wholly engrossing. moving and stimulating experience that the sold-out audience just loved. Having viewed the trailer for Decasia and read more about Morrison’s work which was recently the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I anticipate that this event will be one of my Festival highlights. The combination of a poignant visual fantasia with an atmospheric and experimental score performed by the full orchestra is such an exciting prospect. I expect to walk out of the Sottile Theater changed in some way; my mind expanded, my senses stimulated, and on an art-fueled Festival high!”

Decasia has gone on to become that rarest of birds, an experimental film with crossover appeal.” – The New York Times

Tickets to Decasia and all other Festival performances are available online at spoletousa.org, over the phone at (843) 579-3100, and in person at the Charleston Visitor Center (375 Meeting Street).  

This blog post was written by Media Relations Apprentice Nicole Boudreault.

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