Fairy Tale Live Music & Film: The Adventures of Prince Achmed


Join us for a magical fairy tale event on Sunday 3 December at 11am  — the intricate and enchanting 1926 silent film The Adventures of Prince Achmed will feature a live score performed on stage by music duo Dva — Linsey Pollak and Tunji Beier. Screening as part of the ‘Fairy Tale’ film program, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a journey through the tales of the Arabian nights by director Lotte Reiniger who crafted the film across three years. An ornate animation that is bathed in exquisite colour tinting, the story includes a flying horse, a wicked sorcerer and a brave prince.

Get tickets Live Music & Film
Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA
11.00am, Sunday 3 December 2023

Production still from The Adventures of Prince Achmed 1926 / Director: Lotte Reiniger / Images courtesy: British Film Institute, London

RELATED: Journey through the Fairy Tales exhibition with our weekly series

‘Fairy Tales’ Assistant Curator Sophie Hopmeier spoke with percussionist Tunji Beier about the forthcoming Live Music & Film event for The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

Sophie Hopmeier / Firstly, I’m intrigued to know what you both thought when you encountered ‘The Adventures of Prince Achmed’.

Tunji Beier / We were quite intrigued by the look and technique of the film. Although using traditional shadow puppetry it has a very contemporary feel to it.

Sophie Hopmeier / You and Linsey both mention that collaboration with other musicians is a part of music-making that lights you up and gives you joy. When we brief musicians about the process for creating a live score for a silent film, we often ask the musicians to think of the film or the filmmaker as a creative collaborator. The intention of this framing is to start musicians thinking about the film as a creative piece to listen and respond to, we find that creates a deeper, more nuanced engagement. How did you start to think about the music for this film when it’s not possible to have a conversation with the people who made it and it was produced almost 100 years ago?

Tunji Beier / The way we work is very much to respond to the images and story, we use improvisation to find tones and textures of music that we feel is right. Improvisation is our form of expression, initially just looking for combinations of instruments and sounds and then formalising it to go with the scenes of the film. Formalising in a very broad sense, we find a mood and a collection of sounds and then improvise from that point. We only mark scenes and what instruments or sounds we want in that scene, the rest is free. This way of performing helps us to keep it spontaneous, fresh and exciting.

Production still from The Adventures of Prince Achmed 1926 / Director: Lotte Reiniger / Images courtesy: British Film Institute, London

Sophie Hopmeier / ‘The Adventures of Prince Achmed’ reflects an interesting range of cultures. It is inspired by the stories of Arabian Nights, it is made by a German animator, Lotte Reininger, and the exquisite imagery is reminiscent of both Hans Christian Andersen’s paper cuts and the Indonesian tradition of shadow puppetry Wayang. Your performances draw from many different music traditions, I wondered if there were particular music styles that you felt suited this story, what were they and how do you blend them?

Tunji Beier / There have been some moments that lend themselves to a particular feel like the festival scene at the beginning of the film, here we are using an up-tempo Punjabi style groove with the Medieval Shawm — from the oboe family.

Sophie Hopmeier / Dva is a duo. I’d love to hear about the different musical sensibilities you each bring to the performance and what instruments or mood the audience might expect.

Tunji Beier / Dva’s music is unique in its own way. Our performances are fully improvised, not knowing what instrument will be picked up next, or who will start, or what time signature or key it might be in. Sometimes changing time signatures a few times in a piece of music. As we have been playing together for over 25 years it makes this kind of spontaneous playing possible. It is hard to define Dva’s music but we can say that Macedonia, India, West Africa and the Middle East play a big role in how we create our music. We often use drones and our music is mostly in modes (scales) from form the Middle East to India.

Dr Sophie Hopmeier is ‘Fairy Tales’ Assistant Curator and Assistant Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

Get tickets | Upcoming ‘Fairy Tales’ Live Music & Film

Live Music & Film: Claire 2001
11.00am, Sunday 3 March 2024 | TICKETED
Organist David Bailey will provide newly composed live accompaniment to the film on the Gallery’s 1929 Wurlitzer organ.
Live Music & Film: Häxan 1922
6.30pm, Friday 5 April 2024 | TICKETED
Post classical composer Madeleine Cocolas will provide newly composed live accompaniment to the film.

View the Fairy Tales Film Program

Production still from The Adventures of Prince Achmed 1926 / Director: Lotte Reiniger / Image courtesy: British Film Institute, London

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication ‘Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas or treats just for you, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.

The Australian Cinémathèque
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is the only Australian art gallery with purpose-built facilities dedicated to film and the moving image. The Australian Cinémathèque at GOMA provides an ongoing program of film and video that you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, offering a rich and diverse experience of the moving image, showcasing the work of influential filmmakers and international cinema, rare 35mm prints, recent restorations and silent films with live musical accompaniment by local musicians or on the Gallery’s Wurlitzer organ originally installed in Brisbane’s Regent Theatre in November 1929.