A Pragmatically Lavish Recreation: Notes on The Epic of Everest as DVD Film Performance

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Captain John B. Noel’s 1924 film The Epic of Everest was recently subject to a lavish restoration by the British Film Institute. For the film’s theatrical release and streamed access a new score was commissioned; for the DVD/BluRay release a recreation of the musical elements of the presentation run (London, 9 December 1924 to 31 January 1925) was also made. The arguments for this undertaking are outlined here. They include the profile of the conductor involved and the wider significance of his film-related activities in London in the early 1920s; the unusual, quasi-concert-like aspect to the accompaniment; and the fact that the film affords a unique opportunity for geographers, as well as film, film music and cultural historians to have access to the materials of a full theatrical presentation of a 1920s travelogue film: framing orchestral ‘prelude’ music, an original recording of the seven Tibetan ‘lamas’ who had been brought to London to perform an atmospheric live prologue involving indigenous music and dance in full costume, plus other musical ephemera. The overall theatrical presentation of this film also had wider political and cultural significance, given that the live lama presentation caused cultural offence to Tibet.

Recreating the part-compiled score itself presented many challenges. Where footage was missing or had been relocated in the print compared to the film order to which the surviving score relates, it was necessary to arbitrate between the desire to associate each musical excerpt with the sequence to which it was originally destined, or to create a musically coherent whole; in doing so it was also necessary to weigh up the musical and historical merits of favouring the ‘fitted’ dimension of the score as opposed to its equal ‘concert’ dimension.
Provided by kind permission of FIAF and the Journal of Film Preservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-87
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Film Preservation
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

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