Directed by Muir Mathieson, Harry Watt, Basil Wright, Alberto Cavalcanti
These poetic images and sounds at least touch on the dangers of mining, but they refuse to acknowledge any efforts by workers to improve their situation through union activity or political action. If miners, and the postal workers in Night Mail, are heroicized, they are also shown to be mere cogs in massive, effiecient systems of production that ensured British supremacy.
Instruments Of The Orchestra and Steps Of The Ballet examine artistic, rather than industrial, practices, but ultimately treat them in similar ways. Whether orchestra or mail train, each process is broken down into its component parts, briefly analyzed and then put together again. Britten hoped to lay bare creative processes and make his audience more conscious of music as a construction.
*Note: the music in the final documentary (Steps Of The Ballet) is by Arthur Benjamin, not Benjamin Britten (as erroneously listed on the videocassette box).
- Coal Face (1935) Dir. Alberto Cavalcanti. Music: Benjamin Britten. 12 mins.
- Night Mail (1936) Dir. Basil Wright, Harry Watt. Music: Britten. 24 mins.
- Instruments Of The Orchestra (1947) Dir. Muir Mathieson. Music: Britten (variation on a theme by Purcell). 20 mins.
- Steps Of The Ballet (1948) dir. Muir Mathieson. Music: Arthur Benjamin. 24 mins.
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- Color: B&W