Folk Electronica Duo Zemzemeh added their musical touches to four classic short films that explore the interaction between the structures of a city and its residents as a part of GOMA’s ongoing series of City Symphony: A Live Music and Film Series.

The Sunday morning screening brought Zemzemeh’s musical mix of technology and tradition into early experimental films, from the poetic dance of New York’s Bridges to the streets of Stockholm and New York through the eyes of childish wonder, cheekiness, and friendship. 

City infrastructure, whether foreboding or friendly, intrinsically and invisibly shapes the lives of its residents. Cold concrete jungles and car-lined bustling streets to expansive green pathways of parks can simultaneously be a daily experience for people who live within its confines, particularly in Brisbane. 

Zemzemeh play a live score to four classic films at GOMA as part of the City Symphony Series. Picture: Jessie Williams

As a city sits on the emotional spectrum of disappointment and inspiration, so sits the sound spectrum of Greta Kelly and Siyavash Doostkhah in Zemzemeh. The duo embraces a wealth of musical experience that spans continents, cultures, and time eras. They both have ongoing contributions to the musical cityscape of Brisbane. 

City of Bridges (1958), directed by Shirley Clarke, a dancer and filmmaker from New York, explores New York’s bridges through a kaleidoscopic perspective of motion. Zemzemeh matched the tones and swing of the bridges with the depth and pitch found in Greta’s violin. The music played with silence between frames and left the audience swinging and suspended between the bridges. 

The musical accompaniment remained string based between the violin and shah kaman, as it played on the humour in the Swedish film Människor i stad, or Symphony of a City (1947) directed by Arne Sucksdorff. The film and music explored a foreboding city through the humour and eyes of a child, cheeky, mischievous, and full of wonder, quick friendships and curiosity. 

In the next two films, an electronica beat kicked in, and it moved seamlessly in Toyko Symphonical Sketch (1937) between still moments of ceremony to the frenzy of crowds. 

Zemzemeh play a live score to four classic films at GOMA as part of the City Symphony Series. Picture: Jessie Williams

Lastly, In The Street directed by Helen Levitt (1948) turned the lens onto the everyday moments of life on the streets of East Harlem.  Watching a full-on flour-in-a-stocking fight juxtaposed by the graceful movements of Greta on the theremin. 

Curated by Rosie Hays, the ten-part, monthly series at GOMA brings live music to film, challenging local musicians to recompose scores for city-centric films. In turn, it challenges the audience to look more closely at the way a city can inspire, defeat, create and shape our individual experiences. 

The next installment of the City Symphony program, City Visions, Cairo to New York, features a live music score by Madeleine Cocolas on Sunday, May 28, 2023. See the full program here.