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Descent : Metropolis, the workers' view, for film projection and orchestra

by Carl Vine (1996)

Standard Australian orchestral repertoire.


This item is not commercially available from the Australian Music Centre. We regret that we cannot offer it for sale.


Standard Australian orchestral repertoire.

Library shelf no. CD 771 [Available for loan]



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Descent : Metropolis: the workers' view, for film projection and orchestra / Carl Vine.

Library shelf no. 784.2/VIN 3 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

To close their 1996 "Metropolis" concert season, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra asked me to create a musical event that incorporated elements of Fritz Lang's classic silent film. The film details a massive city of the future ruled by an elite master-class but fuelled by the down-trodden and mistreated Workers living deep beneath the surface. By eliminating all reference to the 'rulers' and with some ruthless editing, I was able to reduce the two hour original to an 11 minute film that is Metropolis seen solely "from the Workers' viewpoint".

Just as in the original, events in the Workers' lives occur without much logic or consistency, and when they revolt against their tyrannical oppression the result seems even more mindless and destructive for not seeing the brutality which has caused it.

Having devised the film edit "on paper", I then wrote music to accompany the theoretical scenario. A synthesized version of the music was then used to create the final edit, with the film being cut to match the music. A click-track was added to the film so a conductor could coordinate the orchestra to the film projected during a concert performance.

The finished work is called Descent not just because the Workers live deep beneath the city, but also because of the relentless darkness of their lives. Their one ray of light turns out to be a chimera, and the only time in their lives they rise to the surface of the city it is with the sole intention of destroying everything in their path. Although their journey is one of ascension, as they near their goal they are overtaken by the lowest human instincts of anger, hate and retribution. As their bodies rise, their spirits are in hopeless descent.

Work Details

Year: 1996

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling alto flute and piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling cor anglais), 2 clarinets in B flat (2nd doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, contra-bassoon, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, tenor trombone, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players), harp, strings.

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.

Commission note: Commissioned by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

First performance: by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, David Stanhope — 28 Nov 96. Melbourne Town hall


Performances of this work

28 Nov 96: Melbourne Town hall. Featuring Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, David Stanhope.

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