Composer Michael Nyman settles an old score

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The Independent Culture

It's an irony not lost on Michael Nyman. His score to a film that helped define the communist USSR will ring out in front of Moscow's new capitalist elite. "I'm sure that contemporary Russians will find this film quaint and totally incomprehensible," he half-jokes.

Variously translated from Russian as One Sixth of the World, or sometimes A Sixth Part of the World, the film in question is a barnstorming state-of-the-nation documentary intended to gel the far-flung peoples of the young nation together into one tight revolutionary pack. This September the composer will be performing his soundtrack to the film inside Russia for the first time at the Barvikha Concert Hall in Moscow.

A Sixth Part of the World was made in 1926 by director David Kaufmann – who worked under the pseudonym Dziga Vertov – and depicts everything from steel mills to folk dance.

"I first worked on Vertov with my score for Man With a Movie Camera," explains Nyman. "Then I scored his film The Eleventh Year. The Austrian Film Foundation told me they intended to release a DVD with both The Eleventh Year and A Sixth Part of the World. I pointed out that it would seem odd to have one film with a soundtrack and the other without. So I composed the soundtrack for A Sixth Part of the World."

Meanwhile, Nyman reveals that he has yet another Russian epic in his sights. He is working on "a new score for Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin," he says.