Bill Drummond, the musician, the maverick, the man who burned a million pounds.
Film review “Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared” from Visions du Réel in Nyon 2015
Screenings today Sunday 19th April at 19:00 at the Théâtre de Marens and tomorrow Monday 10:00 at the Salle Communale.
Bill Drummond is no Gareth Malone. Malone, a British TV presenter, natty dresser and populariser of choral singing, travels around the United Kingdom encouraging workplaces to form choirs and inspires them to enter into competitions while filming their progress for a series of very successful TV programmes. The uplifting nature of these programmes have won Malone many awards and accolades.
Whereas Drummond in the film, although he travels around the UK forming a choir of sorts, he does so in very different circumstances in the film, “Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared” . The choir is made up of folk he finds along the way, and although he does occasionally enter into a few workplaces, all he asks if that the workers sing just one note or two. He then records the collective sound to be added to other recordings to make just one choral piece on its own. A sound that will be deleted after it has been played and never to be heard again. Drummond travels from place to place in a scruffy Landrover wearing an even scruffier long leather jacket as he cajoles and persuades members of the public to sing or make a sound for this experiment called The 17. Among the group he finds are nuns, taxi drivers, construction workers, children in a primary school and more, a diverse cross section of society. Although Drummond is a charismatic character – some warm to him and happily go along with his project, other are not so keen and they squirm with embarrassment.
Drummond, a musician was once part of the band The KLF and in 1991 he was in one of the biggest-selling singles act in the world. In this film we see snippets of what his life for him was like then including the famous incident when The K foundation (an art duo consisting of Drummond and Jimmy Cauty), burned one million pounds sterling and filmed it all. The subsequent backlash and publicity surrounding it are shown in the film along with the obvious question being asked to the musician. Do you regret burning all that money?
The premise and title of the film “Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared” is Drummond’s way of questioning our instant access via the Ipod, Iphone etc to music, does this ease of access mean that we don’t stop to listen to the music around us any more? The sound of the street outside, the wind, the music in simple things such as the noise we hear as we change gear in a car or as in Drummond’s case, the gear stick in his trusty Landrover.
Director Stefan Schwietert follows Drummond as he pursues The 17 across the country, through urban and country landscapes and into Drummond’s own personal space and into his home. We see his possessions, his posters, his books and remnants of his past, from his school reports to a print of an “epic video the band made”. The 17 isn’t the only music/ art project Drummond has instigated, he has done others around the world.
This film is a fascinating and interesting insight into an extraordinary character. Whether you think the film fulfils the premise of the title, or whether this film will be just another self promoting publicity stunt for Drummond, you can judge for yourself. At the end of the film Drummond asks those who have watched the film to contribute to his world choir by singing something there and then in the cinema itself. Whether a usually reserved Swiss audience will take up his challenge, will remain to be seen.