Silent Film “Forty Hearts” Receives Eclectic Soundtrack

NV creates a score for Lev Kuleshov's ode to electrification.

For this feature, Moscow-based producer and singer Kate Shilonosova, known as NV, has created an original soundtrack for “Forty Hearts,” a classic silent film by Lev Kuleshov. A renowned pioneer of Soviet and world cinema, Kuleshov was both a filmmaker and a theorist. His editing technique defined Soviet montage theory, and provides the perfect ground for musical experimentation.

The film “Forty Hearts” (1931) was dedicated to the 10th anniversary of GOELRO – the Soviet plan of economic development through electrification – and, through black-and-white cinematography and animated interludes, tells a story of progress and the forthcoming fusion of cities and villages. But despite being propagandistic, the film was never shown on-screen due to its experimental form.

Kate Shilonosova has always been interested in merging images and sound. “I reflect upon how people tend to consider music secondary to images and how it simplifies their perception,” says Kate. “Some people seem afraid of silence and unable to apprehend larger forms of music without imagery, as if trying to escape a feeling of boredom. The same goes for silent cinema.” Here, she aims to give the music and images equal weight to create a unified narration.

NV’s score starts with mellow synth sounds, sometimes atonal but still appealing, and develops with pulsing drones and free-paced brass melodies on a background of calming soundscapes and images of progress. Rather than using only synthesized sound, she incorporated recordings of friends improvising on different instruments: flute, marimba, brass and guitar. “By combining electronic sounds with live instruments, I wanted to give the score a more humane appeal to reflect the film and its title – 40 hearts means 40 power plants providing energy for the people.”

Soviet montage cinema is all about rhythm and creating new meaning through the interaction of sequential shots. With that in mind, Kate aimed to synthesize yet another level of perception by balancing the visuals with the music and exploring the relationships between them.