Published: 30/09/2015 17:25 - Updated: 30/09/2015 18:32

Moishe's Bagel soundtracks movie classic

The 1930 documentary Salt For Svanetia.
The 1930 documentary Salt For Svanetia.

by Margaret Chrystall

YOU can see why 1930 film Salt For Svanetia appealed to Scottish klezmer band Moishe’s Bagel when they were invited to write the music for a silent movie of their choice.

The band’s Phil Alexander said: "Visually Salt For Svanetia’s a really striking film and had the imagery to inspire us to write."

And with "wobbly donkeys on rickety bridges", an avalanche, a pitched battle and salt-hungry animals licking the sweat off men’s necks, you can understand the challenge.

But they rose to it and their first-ever score for a film – now also a Creative Scotland-funded album – will now be heard alongside the film at Eden Court Cinema on Saturday.

Moishe’s Bagel began in 2003 when a shared love of klezmer, jazz and latin music brought the five musicians together.

Phil – who plays piano in the line-up – has just spent a year in Berlin with his family, finishing a PhD on the subject of current klezmer music in in the city.

He enjoyed the chance to try his hand at writing for film which Moishe’s Bagel approached as a aband, each coming up with idas for the filmmusic which they thdn slotted in place as they worked.

He outlined the initial invitation to tackle the challenge: "Ali Strauss who is the director of the Hippodrome Festival Of Silent Film at Bo’ness, was interested in commissioning us to write a score for a silent film.

"At that point she didn’t particularly have a film in mind, so we looked at a few until we came to Salt For Svanetia.

"It wasn’t a film we knews of – either collectively or individually – but we were all intrigued by it."

The 1930 Soviet film documents the life of the isolated Svan people of an isolated mountain village in the northwestern part of the Georgian Soviet Republic who are eventually connected to "civilisation" by a new Soviet road.

The propaganda message is possibly enhanced with some scenes that the Svan people claimed later were partially staged.

Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky later called it an "amazing film" and it has also been called a masterpiece of the art of documentary, but it paints a grim picutre of a harsh life in a beautiful landscape.

Phil said: "It was made in 1930 in the Soviet Union so there had to be a bit of propaganda in there. But in a way it’s much more sympathetic to the Svan people than the Soviets and that appealed to us, having a more ambiguous viewpoint. It was a great film to write music for, it wasn’t something I’ve ever done before, so it was a good one to start with."

Moishe's Bagel
Moishe's Bagel

They recorded the music at Castlesound in Edinburgh and it will be released as an album, available to buy on Saturday.

"We’ll be playing a 40-minute set first and then the second half will be the film.

"It’s just 52 minutes long, so if you were just to have that people might feel a bit short-changed!

"We’re playing the score to the film live and we thought it would be nice to do a bit of what we do before as it might be quite nerve-wracking performing to a film!

"Playing first we thought would sort of set the scene for us and put us at our ease!"

Music from Moishe’s Bagel also playing their score to 1930 silent documentary Salt For Svanetia film at Eden Court on Thursday, October 1 at 8pm.

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