Petter Frost Fadnes

Improvising the Deluge: Live film scoring and improvisational practices

Keywords: improvisation, live scoring, film music, audiovisual perception.

During Leonardo da Vinci’s last years he obsessed with capturing the surging forces of a deluge through sketches upon sketches of maelstroms; waves and rocks. His vivid sketches are captivating renditions of violence in perpetual motion, captured on canvas with chalk and pen, sufficiently nature-like to bring even sound to life; the roar of the water, the smashing of the rocks. By focusing closely, the deluge materializes in front of us (sound and movement), aided by the interaction between clever composition and our perceptual imagination. About four hundred years later, pioneering filmmakers conjured up similar illusions of imaginary sound. This is sound made up of perceptual effects (illusions), where filmmakers set intense spectacles in motion; spectacles which task it was to construct elements of sounding dialogue and foley through the individual imagination. Our brains, in other words, utilize the sum of lived sound-experiences to add drama, cultural and social narrative, context, and ultimately, sufficient lifelike entertainment to the screen in front of us.

The following paper looks at live film scoring as creative practice – including its potential uses – in which the discourse of the two audiovisual stimuli, film and live music, are scrutinized as an improvisational aid to develop new artistic directions for musicians. In that context, the film functions as a score, providing musical cues, inspiration and narrative to an improvised performance. Although unscripted acting is a well-established method within the world of film production, a broad use of improvisation as score-making technique is on the other hand quite uncommon. The same goes towards the use of film as moving score within improvisational practices; questioning whether musicians are reluctant to engage in audiovisual ambiguity based on the same arguments as the film industry.

I draw on the fields of improvisation research, composition and film studies in order to convey my argumentation, and see the project as an experimental- and transdisciplinary approach to both film scoring and improvised music within artistic research/practice-based fields.


University of Stavanger, Norway

Is a Norwegian saxophone player, lecturer and researcher based at the University of Stavanger. With a PhD in performance from University of Leeds, Frost Fadnes was for many years part of the highly creative Leeds- music scene, and now performs regularly with The Geordie Approach, Mole, Brink and Kitchen Orchestra. Frost Fadnes has published on a wide range of performance related topics, such as jazz collectives, cultural factories, film scoring, jazz for young people and improvisational pedagogy. He is Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Research at the Faculty of Performing Arts, and former principal investigator for the HERA- funded research project Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities.