TABU (1931) by F.W.Murnau was the very first silent film that I performed a live soundtrack for, and it is still one one of my favourites and most popular.
Commissioned in 1995 by the Brunswick Music Festival in Melbourne, Australia
I have performed it all over the world at festivals, cinema clubs, art galleries, in folk clubs, university media departments and even in someones living room. I first saw TABU one afternoon on Italian t.v. At the time I was heavily involved in researching and playing Hawaiian music and the film seemed to be the perfect context for me to play some acoustic lap steel guitar licks.
In 1931 Murnau started filming TABU together with the legendary pioneering documentary film maker Robert Flaherty.
Flaherty had become known for his previous semi-documentary style of films Nanook Of The North and Moana. By 1931 both directors were both well known but both had experienced problems with Hollywood and the film business. They decided to collaborate, formed a production company, bought a sailing vessel and sailed to Tahiti to shoot TABU. However, they parted company during the shooting and it has since become known as Murnau’s film.
TABU is the story of a young Tahitian couple who fall in love but are prevented from pursuing the relationship by local customs. They run away to various adventures which include corrupt colonials, killer sharks, pearls …..and a very sad ending.
An “exotica” masterpiece…. it was the last film from Murnau as he was killed in a car crash one week before it was premiered in Berlin. It was also one of the very last silent films ever made (their were ‘talkies’ by 1931) and it remains a classic not only of the genre but of Murnau’s ability to tell a story just with pictures. As with most of his films there are very few storyboard inter-titles, the images alone being sufficient to convey the message.
Over the years I have enjoyed not only performing live music to this film but also the roads of discovery that it has taken me down as I researched its background and the lives of the people who were directly and indirectly involved in it. A wealth of stories…such as the cinematographer Floyd Crosby being called to participate as Murnau and Flaherty both bungle trying to do it themselves – and the fact that Floyd Crosby was David Crosby’s (of the group Crosby Stills and Nash) father and that he won an Oscar for his work on TABU. The first academy award for cinematography.
For more details about my soundtrack available on c.d. go to my HIPSHOT SOUNDTRACKS page.