(UNTITLED), an original film satire of New York’s avant-garde art scene, will appear in theaters across the nation this fall. By poking fun at the idiosyncrasies of 21st century Bohemia, (UNTITLED) introduces American audiences to some of the best that contemporary art has to offer, notably a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, who merges the artistic expressions of the composer protagonist with his own musical voice.

(UNTITLED) revolves around melancholy composer Adrian (Adam Goldberg) and his whirlwind affair with a Chelsea gallerist (Marley Shelton), who unbeknownst to Adrian sells vacuous commercial works to high-paying corporate clients. The film explores the idea of true art and the question of integrity lost through commercialism – all with tongue in cheek. At the beginning, Adrian’s music comprises cliché contemporary classical music elements, such as crinkling paper and breaking glass. Once his perspective and emotions achieve depth and insight through his blossoming romance, his music becomes more profound.

John Clare had a chance to send questions to both David Lang and Adam Goldberg. In the first post, here are Lang’s answers about (UNTITLED):

1. Often with a joke, there is some seriousness or truth behind it. Is there some truth to this movie even though there is some fun being poked?

There is a lot of truth in this movie, mostly about how people in the arts become passionately committed to something they believe in that may look unbelievable from the outside. I think that creative commitment is captured very well, as is the distance between the committed people and the people watching the committed people.

2. How cool is it for the composer to “get the girl” in this movie? Did it influence your music for the film?

Getting the girl didn’t influence my thinking in the movie, although it didn’t hurt. The progression of the character musically is that he begins by making music only for himself, because that is how large his world view is; when he meets the girl his senses and optimism and maybe even his idea of audience expand, and his music changes accordingly. I definitely tried to make that shift happen in the music.

3. There are new pieces and some of your older works like “Anvil Chorus” and “Cheating, Lying, Stealing” on the soundtrack – how did you decide to use older works, and can you see some of the cues/soundtrack in your concert music as a suite or other piece?

The original idea of the director was that he only wanted to license one piece of mine – he thought the composer, upon falling in love, would be seen ‘composing’ my piano solo WED. I talked the director into letting me use more of my music in other places, and write music where it was needed, but the whole connection began with the idea of using my real concert music. that said, I don’t think I would make a concert version of these cues – Lawson White, who produced the soundtrack, and I worked very hard to make it sound like real film music – having worked that hard to get it out of the new music world it would be silly to try to force it back in.

4. This looks like an ideal movie for a composer – can you see yourself in other movie projects, or is there an “ideal” for creating music with images/stories? Obviously multimedia is already a wonderful aspect of Bang on a Can…

I really identified with this composer and I felt very flattered that the filmmaker, Jonathan Parker, ennobled composers everywhere by wanting to make a movie about one of us. I’d like to do more such things – I love the idea of working with visuals and with film, and I have done a fair amount of that in my real life – working with Doug Aitken or Bill Morrison or Matt Mullican, etc. the thing I don’t think I would like to do too often is help other people make their projects – when you are composing for film or dance or theater a lot of what you are doing is helping someone else out artistically. You are helping someone else realize his or her vision. Most of the composers I know became composers because they have their own visions they want to realize. I can definitely see doing more film music but it has to be offset by other things that I get to control….

5. There have been quite a few composers in pop culture these days, from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (Jason Segal) to “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (Natalie Portman’s piano/composer) and the likes of Paul McCartney & Billy Joel writing new classical music. Is composition a new cool as nerds (think Big Bang Theory) are?

But everyone knows that composers are cool. The nice thing is seeing that fact acknowledged publicly.

(UNTITLED) will be screened at the following times and places:
Wednesday, October 14 at 7:30pm at Wilshire (8670 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills)
Thursday, October 15th at 3pm at Dolby 24 (1350 Avenue of the Americas at 55th St)

2 thoughts on “David Lang on (UNTITLED)”
  1. This film exceeded my expectations. It’s funny, it’s smart, and you don’t have to be a new music or avant-garde art gallery maven to enjoy it. HOWEVER, if that description fits you, you’ll probably LOVE this film. I saw it w/ Laurie Anderson in San Francisco and we both laughed uproariously. So congrats to Jonathan Parker for doing the seemingly impossible–treading the line between entertainment and reality on a subject rarely handled til now.

  2. Sounds like a fascinating premise for a film. As someone who is more focused on ‘classical’ training, by seeing this film I expect I’ll learn a lot about new music and an artistic movement I know little about.

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