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For some twenty years now, the Orchestre national de Lyon has been programming cine-concerts – from the great classics of silent cinema to the masterpieces of talking pictures. Living this adventure from the inside, from my bassoonist’s chair, I was also keen to experience it from the composer’s point of view. I had the opportunity to share my interest in silent heritage cinema with conductor Timothy Brock, one of the most eminent specialists in the genre, and he encouraged me in this project.
By chance, I came across Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Argent, shot in 1928.
I was immediately captivated by the photographic beauty of the images and the light. L’Argent is one of the few films to have tackled the theme of financial speculation, a premonition of the Wall Street crash (1929) and of our current times.
The slow-moving universe of each shot spoke to me musically, and I imagined writing for a very small, cabaret-style orchestra, which would make the music evolve in a very “chamber” color. I didn’t want the music to overpower the image, but rather to punctuate it lightly, allowing the characters and situations to be quickly identified.