article : Häxan

research article by instrument inventors initiative

For the opening of the Sound of Silence Festival on February 24th 2017 at De Nieuwe Regentes Theater (DNR), iii debuted a multimedia performance inspired by Benjamin Christensen’s silent film Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, wherein I collaborated. iii Wrote an article discussing our approach and share our methodology and process.

Häxan (1922) is a film by Danish director Benjamin Christensen which remains outside of genre conventions. By today’s standards it can be considered a unique hybrid between a documentary and a horror movie. Presenting historical documents and dramatizations of traditional beliefs, the film takes its viewers through a history of witchcraft from medieval pagan rituals, the treatment of suspected witches, and finally to the treatment of women with hysteria in the 1920s.

Here is an abbreviated version of the film from 1968 accompanied by the narrating voice of William Burroughs and a score by Daniel Humair:


Sounds of Silence Festival invited iii to create and perform a live soundtrack for the screening of Häxan. However, we didn’t find the idea of creating a conventional soundtrack particularly interesting and decided to reinterpret this format. Lars says “I’m always interested in combinations of different media and finding new interpretations. The function of music for silent film is usually to illustrate the mood or actions in the film. I was curious about how the film will be perceived if people don’t experience the normal interpretation.” Mariska adds, “we were interested in showing an experience of the film rather than the film itself.”

Michel Chion in “Audio-Vision” presents his idea of “added value”, which relates to how sound changes the perception of the moving image in cinema. This led us to think about the added value of removing the image, in order to allow a deeper appreciation of sound. The dominance of vision in cinema is manifest in the frontal presentation format, with the spectator focused on the space represented by the segment of the horizon between the two extremes of the film screen.We wanted to break with this form, creating instead an immersive experience for the audience, taking up the entirety of the theatre space. For this purpose we intended to use non-standard light and sound projection techniques that we had developed for previous projects.

… Please continue reading the full article at the iii website, and get to know more about methodology, techniques and tools used in the project!