Friday 6 December 2019

The New Australian Cinema - Mike Retter draws attention to the work of composer Luke Altmann

Editor's Note: Adelaide-based film-maker Mike Retter produces podcasts on indie Australian films and film-makers and his latest is devoted to the work of composer Luke Altman. You can access it on Youtube if you click here  As an introduction Mike has written these following notes.

Luke Altmann (left) is the composer for feature films Fell (2014) and The Leunig Fragments (2019). But before this success within the establishment, his artistic journey was deep in the underground, immersed in Netherlands Kraak, basically a thriving underground scene of squatters performing avant garde music in Holland. 

Michael Leunig, The Leunig Fragments
Altmann came back to Adelaide with great energy and started his own experimental music venue called De La Catessen, which served the city for three years with regular live gigs, later becoming the ballast of knowledge and experience he would move forward with as a film composer.

But apart from composing music for live chamber orchestras and the movies, his intimacy with sound, working in an Adelaide musical instrument shop has lead him to be an importer of fine Italian-made violins and close collaborator with master craftsman Roberto Cavagnoli, featured in the Scott Hicks documentary Highly Strung (2015). So it's an appreciation of music on many fronts which makes up this complex figure.

Altmann's past, running the underground music speakeasy would live on a little further with his involvement in Film Buff Central, the alternative video rental shop that ran for three years in Port Adelaide. His 4 year old son often rented the Australian auteurist and music-driven slapstick comedy Young Einstein (1988) directed by Yahoo Serious. 

Kasimir Burgess, Fell
Youth on the March
From my perspective, I'm not sure where I would be without Luke Altmann's consultation on my own 2017 film Youth On the March, because the Henry Purcell classical score came from Altmann's own record collection.

I probed Luke about what it's like to sit and write every meticulous note of music by hand - only for others to eventually have the pleasure of playing it, scoring movies, his recent AACTA Awards "Best Score" nomination and being inspired to compose music as a child after viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey  (1969) on VHS.

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