Director: Oliver Rauch & Ingo Rudloff
Time: 82 mins
Max Eastley & Thomas Koner
Eye of Sound: There is a key moment in this documentary that sums up its general tone and drive. During a live performance with Eastley and Koner in Berlin, Oskar Sala's megalithic electronic instrument, the 1930s Mixtur-Trautonium, fails due to transportation issues. It's not clear whether the other musicians continue, but after this event Sala decides never to perform live with his Trautonium again. Interviewed, Thomas Koner expresses some ambiguity toward Sala's music: respectful but also labeling it as a dated product, in what seems to be a somewhat cruel attempt to demystify the director's fetish. Sala is later blamed for having monopolized the instrument and not leaving any disciples to continue the art of the Trautonium: an unique case in which a composer is so closely connected to his instrument that one's death implies the other's as well. Rauch & Rudloff accept these later turns in the plot, and they may even be narratively welcome after a long detour through Sala's early career, his collaborations with filmmakers like Durniok and Hitchcock, his apprenticeship with Hindemith, his rather quick dismissal of his group's connections with Goebbels and the Third Reich, a very strange section about the connection between homosexuality and electronic music, etc. Oskar Sala would expire 2 years later, at the age of 91. But the film offers the composer a dignified, almost glorious exit: in the last scene we see an energetic, lucid and critical musician making it clear that he's not impressed with a fan's ridiculous tricks with samples and dance beats at a bar; the young man's uninspired music slowly fades out as Sala's Trautonium emerges in all its glory, complexity, exuberant technique and harmonic richness, thus successfully making the point that modern technology need not imply better music and that indeed the world has lost an unique musician of the 20th century. Dated? Certainly; that's a paradox that all forms of futurism risk. But only a few succeed, like Sala's music, in surpassing their own temporality.