In 2008, I discovered a wonderful silent film called The Little Match Seller (Dir. James Williamson, 1902), which can be found in the Creative Archive on the British Film Institute website. This adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the same title is a moving account of a destitute girl whose visions of warmth and happiness are projected onto the wall next to her. Williamson’s innovative approach to film making (alongside special effects, which were groundbreaking at the time) turn this tragic story into a masterpiece of early cinema.
I decided to write a piece of music to accompany the film that would be faithful to the spirit of the story, attempting to convey in some way a sense of longing and despair. The piece employs obvious elements of repetition and pulsation, which I hope highlight the hopelessness and severity of the girl’s situation. This sentiment is also expressed through the harmonic stasis and melodic fragments that try and reach out for something but never really arrive at it. But the music is just as much about the nature of film as frame after frame goes by at a constant speed regardless of what is really happening on screen.