Ideologies of Improvisation: Miles Davis’ music for Ascenseur pour l’échafaud

Perchard, Tom. 2011. 'Ideologies of Improvisation: Miles Davis’ music for Ascenseur pour l’échafaud'. In: Invited research seminar. University of York. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Of all the documents of jazz in post-war France, Louis Malle’s 1958 film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (or Lift to the Scaffold), with its soundtrack by Miles Davis, seems to loom largest in the popular imagination of the 21st-century. Here, overlaying the night-time Paris streets, is a cinematic attitude whose insouciance and texture speak of a famously innovative era in French film, and music of a timbre and dynamic that readily define a now-vintage American cool. But underneath all this are echoes, generally unheard nowadays, of two important contemporary intellectual discourses that informed Malle’s work: nihilist right-wing politics and realist film aesthetics. This paper addresses the making and reception of Ascenseur, investigating the ways that image and music are put in the service of those political and aesthetic ideas, and asking how those ideas have shaped contemporary understandings of this classic film and its soundtrack.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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23 November 2011Completed

Event Location:

University of York

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Date Deposited:

26 Mar 2013 07:40

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 10:00


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