When Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune premiered in Paris in 1902, it was to an enraptured audience—one that had very little experience watching films, much less ones now considered science fiction.
Le Voyage follows a group of astronomers as they travel to the moon and return to earth with a captive lunar inhabitant. It utilizes stop-motion photography to crystalize its illusions: The montage-like passage of time, the capsule landing on a lumpy lunar surface.
For its first viewers, the landmark film, only 12 minutes in duration, likely felt more like an extension of the illusionist-turned-filmmaker’s stage magic than it did an intricate working of machinery and technological trickery. Perhaps it’s a testament to the fact that the mechanical and the scientific cannot be performed without the magical; that is, the imagination that must come ahead of the process and the end result itself.
That notion is what Andres “Dapper Dre” Adauto (Deep Space Dre for the purpose of this article) and a group of artists and musicians are channeling this Friday at Lunatique Symphonique. The event will be a glittery, sonic homage to the creativity required to conceive of the moon landing in the first place--a celebration of that glowing orb, so long central to the artistic and cultural life of humans.
“It’s kind of riding the coattails of the Lunar Legacy celebration happening in Flag for the last year,” Deep Space Dre says. “We’re exploring the scientific, USGS and all that, and that’s a good thing, but I want to show the artist expenditure of imagination that it took. Our collective thought as a species looking up the stars and communicating with celestial bodies and celebrate that it not only takes science and thought, but imagination and art to get to these places and have these cultural milestones.”
Science fiction psychologist Ali Mattu argues: “A Trip to the Moon wasn't just an enjoyable experience; it made audiences reflect on the possibilities of spaceflight and dream of what would happen if we met an alien life form. You can connect the dots between this film and the Apollo 11 moon landing."
Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy marks 50 years since the moon landing, centralizing the role of Flagstaff’s scientists, astronomers and landscapes through lectures, presentations and documentaries taking place around town for the past year. “…One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was not possible without the astronauts training in the nearby cinder fields, without Lowell Observatory’s expertise and Gore-manufactured copper wires.
“It’s so significant to Flagstaff. The whole world watched the lunar landing, and as a culture we were like, ‘Damn we sent one person to an entire other planet.’ But it starts with the crazy idea that it can happen at all, and that starts in stories and that starts in art,” Dre says.
Sonnets, songs, paintings, origin stories, celebrations—each have taken turns imagining the moon. From the Navajo creation story, in which the first man and the first woman create moon and sun, to romantic and renaissance poets musing over it; Lunar New Year and winter solstice—need we say more.
Lunatique Symphonique will feature symphonic, poppy, celestial pieces played quartett-style by Slugs from Space and music by Eric Dovigi as inspired by the moon. Going back to early lunar inspiration, Méliès’ phenom Le Voyage dans le Lune, will also be shown on the big screen, ornamented by the live music of Larry Holloway.
Filmmaker, composer and photographer, Holloway has more than 50 years of making films under his belt, using his Super 8 camera and scoring each one of them himself. His footage has been used by the BBC, his photographs displayed across the country. Most recently, Holloway has dedicated six weeks to making music to accompany Le Voyage, which he’ll play live Friday, moving between five keyboards and a kick drum.
For Le Voyage, Holloway dug deep into his genre grab bag, incorporating musical references to music he played as a young drummer and timpanist in the 1960s to his fascination with early 20th century music to rock ‘n’ roll.
“It’s me talking to the persons I see on the screen and the spirit of [Méliès] who made [the movie]. And there’s a certain honor in that, that I can maybe tap into its playfulness with contemporary music while also keeping with the era,” Holloway says.
A string of notes, alternately synth-heavy, sporadic, calculated, classical, energetic, build the anticipation as Méliès’ scientists construct the rocket ship that will take them to the moon.
“I try to avoid thought because thought is not action,” Holloway says of the process. “The magic to me is all of the sudden I’m playing the keys over here and I have no idea what this hand is gonna do, but it does it. That’s the beautiful thing about [the music] coming from the inside, it’s not about playing exact same thing each time, but adding what I have in the context of whatever I’m seeing on screen at that moment.”
For Holloway, cinema goes back to the idea of magic, both that of Méliès and that of the process of creating movies. The latent magic of the photographic process itself, first analog then digital, how a particular moment lends itself to documentation, or the way his dog is barking in his backyard and all the mechanisms that allow these to be captured.
“Magic and science and imagination play into the beginnings of cinema,” Dre says. “I think Larry being the musical genius that he is, seeing the way he’s going to manipulate the sounds and the vision of [A Trip to the Moon] will be incredible.”
Lunatique Symphonique will launch at Firecreek Coffee Company on Friday, June 28 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/firecreek-coffee-company-flagstaff/lunatique-symphonique/2044966812291894