Genesis P-Orridge & Dave Ball - Imagining October (OST)
Dave Ball and Marc Almond were fans of Throbbing Gristle and if they hadn't met Genesis P-Orridge before it's probable their paths crossed at the offices of Some Bizarre, when both Soft Cell and Psychic TV were signed to Stevo's then burgeoning label. Dave would invite Genesis to sing on his solo album In Strict Tempo, and Dave would eventually be sucked up into the world of Psychic TV, performing live, most notably as part of the extended line-up at Thee Fabulous Feast Ov Flowering Light event, and recording with Psychic TV on some singles and the Allegory and Self album during this period, with more to come later. Before that and only months before they worked on Imagining October Genesis P-Orridge and Dave Ball collaborated on the soundtrack of Muscha's Decoder, an underground German film written by Klaus Maeck based on the theories and ideas of William S. Burroughs. The ageing beat writer and his younger acolyte P-Orridge would take cameo roles in the film, amongst a cast featuring Christiane F. and FM Einheit of Einstürzende Neubauten. Parts of Decoder were filmed in London, and a scene featuring Burroughs in an electrical store on Tottenham Court Road, not far from Jarman's home, would have Jarman poised outside on the pavement filming on his Super 8 camera capturing footage which would form the basis of Pirate Tape, a short film scored by Psychic TV, with Peter Christopherson who was assisting on the set for Decoder easily visible amidst the fans and passers-by. The filming coincided with The Final Academy, a multi day event of readings, performances, films and an exhibition centred around both Burroughs and Brion Gysin. According to Jarman biographer Tony Peake, the filmmaker had submitted a funding proposal to construct a film around the event and the dream machine but decided otherwise. In Jack Sargeant's Naked Lens: Beat Cinema, Genesis claimed he had "literally hired Jarman as my camera person for the whole period of The Final Academy". All the footage captured by Jarman at events, dinners and on Tottenham Court Road was according to P-Orridge on the "strict understanding" that it belonged to P-Orridge for a film he would construct. As a thank you for his help, P-Orridge granted Jarman permission to use the footage which would become Pirate Tape as a bonus fee for Derek.
Jarman's Imagining October has had a troubling history and remains rarely shown. Jarman was one of several British filmmakers invited to Russia, during the period of glasnost, as part of a delegation on behalf of the BFI. It was here Imagining October would begin as a Super 8 film debuting as part of a programme for the London Film Festival in November. Initial filming took place in Moscow featuring Super 8 footage of the Novodevichy Cemetery, Eisenstein's book filled flat, Red Square and Lenin's tomb together with images of Stalinist buildings and of the Russian people. Further filming occurred on a trip to Baku in Azerbaijan.
Super 8 movies offered an insight into Jarman and his own personal world. Movies such as Studio Bankside, Journey To Avebury, Jordan's Dance have since become important pieces of his legacy. Genesis P-Orridge would review Jarman archivist James Mackay's Super 8 book for Bomb Magazine asking: "Where is Imagining October, including copious Super 8 from Jarman's trip to Russia in 1984?" The answer is simple; the film was extended with additional scenes filmed in London on 16mm placing it outside the scope of Mackay's study which focussed solely on Jarman's Super 8 films.
Merging art, sexuality, politics and history, Imagining October would include what ArtReview described as "a droning soundtrack by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and David Ball". It is, however, more than just that. Imagining October was filmed in a period just before the completion of The Angelic Conversation, Jarman's first film for the British Film Institute. The Angelic Conversation featured an original score from those other ex-Psychic TV boys, Coil, interspersed with the 'Sea Interludes' of Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes. Benjamin Britten compositions would also surface on Imagining October, with a setting of William Blake's 'The Sick Rose', a poem which Coil would also reference amongst others in the lyrics of the wonderful title track of their Love's Secret Domain album. There's a further connection too: Coil's Stephen Thrower appears in Imagining October as a soldier, alongside others including artist Peter Doig, as they embrace, eat and discard uniforms for civilian clothes.
Jarman described Imagining October to Rapid Eye's Simon Dwyer as being "an agitprop film in an odd sort of way". Its title referenced the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and Sergei Eisenstein's propaganda film October: Ten Days That Shook the World 1928. Jarman's film opened with the caption: Sitting in Eisenstein's chair - Moscow 1984 - October with an image of Jarman doing just that, followed by a scene of Peter Wollen leafing through the pages, with blackened out text, of John Reed's book of his account of the October Revolution. Eisenstein Censored! Trotsky Erased! was the first of the many intercuts to follow. The film highlighted parallels between pre-Perestroika Russia and Thatcherite Britain which at the time was actively repressing the gay community and clamping down on worker's rights most fiercely in their battle with the striking miners. Quotations from William Blake would be followed by others, extending into a critique of advertising, the film industry and ultimately capitalism. Politics of Regression, Through Economic Idolatry, stated another intercut. "It was a film to do with profit, and the influence of profit on communication. That was part and parcel of the quotations that came up", Jarman told Rapid Eye.
We're getting far away from the music, so what is the soundtrack like? 'Imagining October I' is steeped in brooding electronic drone, a chilly atmospheric piece enlightened by lighter synth tones, and scrolling sounds maybe highlighting the blackened out words of Reed's book on the October Revolution which Wollen leafs through, before ebbing out into glistening dreamlike realms. Opening and underpinned with a series of hollow knocks 'Imagining October II' soon creeps with muted synths into the layered ringing phones of Psychic TV's 'Eden 1' as previously featured on their Dreams Less Sweet album, slipping seamlessly into the operatic orchestral composition of Benjamin Britten's 'Elegy - O Rose, Thou Art Sick', featuring a musical setting of William Blake's symbolic poem 'The Sick Rose', taken from the illuminated book Songs of Experience, and into an elongated buzzing tone. Droning synths appear on 'Imagining October III' but it is set against an unidentifiable piece (at least to me, anyway) of what sounds like Russian choral music. It could be the Red Army Choir but it is certainly one filled with a revolutionary spirit captured with the powerful voices of the massed male choir. Somewhere amidst this is the sound of the paintbrush on canvas something Jarman asked Ball and P-Orridge to incorporate into the soundtrack of a scene of a soldier being painted. The final piece, 'Imagining October IV', opens with a sparse interplay of plinked and plucked strings leading into pounding drums and the ominous tolls of a church bell before it swells with sombre synths into languid orchestral styled music, leaving a distinct sense of sadness and of hopes dashed, ideals crushed.
Both Ball and P-Orridge received a gift of a small, black and gold diamante painting of Jarman's artwork in lieu of payment for their music to Imagining October where they created an effective soundtrack as bleak and austere as the chilly electronics of Bowie's Low. What's most surprising is the notable inclusion of the music of Benjamin Britten and Psychic TV which slips seamlessly into the score but remains uncredited. Recorded quickly over a short period, this is a worthwhile, inspired recording that sits nicely beside the later soundtrack work created by Coil and Simon Fisher Turner. As Psychic TV, Ball and P-Orridge would continue to work on Allegory and Self and the later acid influenced recordings of Jack The Tab and Towards Thee Infinite Beat. Jarman's opposition to Thatcherite Britain would continue in the brutal unflinching scenes of The Last of England while War Requiem would set the first world war poems of Wilfred Owen to the music of Benjamin Britten. Cold Spring should be congratulated for rescuing this soundtrack from obscurity. Featuring liner notes from Jarman producer, collaborator and archivist James Mackay, Imagining October, The Original Soundtrack to the Derek Jarman Film is available as a limited 12-inch vinyl with a beautiful etched b-side from Cold Spring and digitally from Cold Spring bandcamp
Derek Jarman Super8 - James Mackay
Derek Jarman - Tony Peake
Naked Lens: Beat Cinema - Jack Sargeant
Rapid Eye 1 - Simon Dwyer
Electronic Boy, My Life In and Out of Soft Cell - Dave Ball
Official Cold Spring promo video for Imagining October (OST)
Derek Jarman - Pirate Tape